Scotland's Susie Wolff is poised to make history by becoming the Williams F1 team's test and reserve driver for the 2013 grand prix season.
The 29-year-old from Oban, who has been involved in motor sport since she used to beat the boys as a teenager growing up in the west of Scotland, took the wheel of an F1 vehicle for the first time last Wednesday at Silverstone, and Herald Sport understands she impressed her employers enough to gain elevation to what is effectively the third seat at Williams, behind their principal drivers, Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna.
Wolff, who was born Susie Stoddart in December 1982, departed the DTM Series last weekend, but has never made any secret of her conviction that she could progress where no British woman has ever gone before by joining the F1 ranks. Her recent test was carried out under extra pressure, because it followed the terrible injury sustained by Spain's Maria de Villota, who lost her right eye during a testing session at Duxbury Airfield in July. However, Wolff, who has recently been working as a development driver for Williams, demonstrated she can thrive in the spotlight and also carry out the sport's PR duties with aplomb.
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"After the publicity, which surrounded Maria's accident, there's no doubt I felt an extra need to go out there, do a good job, and show her accident was a freak, one-off and it shouldn't generalise women in motor sport," said Wolff.
"It was very important for me to do it for both of us [her and De Villota] and show everybody that women can drive F1 cars successfully. And I think I did."
Female drivers have recorded positive results in several branches of motoring in recent seasons, with America's Danica Patrick winning an IndyCar race in 2008, before finishing third at the Indy 500 the following year. But F1 has proved a very tough nut to crack and no women have participated in a grand prix since Italy's Lella Lombardi in 1976. Wolff, though, now has the opportunity to prove her mettle as she prepares for an intensive winter's fitness training.