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Wolff circles ever closer to the heart of the Grand Prix action

SUSIE WOLFF has been chasing her Grand Prix dream for so long it seemed she was destined for no more than cameo roles in the highest realm of motor sport.

But yesterday the 31-year-old Oban-born Scot, who now lives in Austria, edged a little closer to making her long-held ambitions a reality when the Williams team confirmed she will be involved in practice sessions at two Formula One races this season.

That means Wolff will become the first woman for 22 years - since Italy's Giovanna Amati tried and failed to qualify with Brabham in 1992 - to be an integral part of the action in the pit and paddock.

The news should not be regarded as providing Wolff with a fast track into a Sunday drive, given Felipe Nasr is the team's test and reserve back-up to Felipe Massa and Valtteri Botta, but there is hope that Wolff's determination to shatter the glass ceiling has broken a few panes.

Wolff revealed that she will participate in free practice at the British and German Grands Prix at Silverstone and Hockenheim in the build-up to the main events on July 6 and 20.

She has grown frustrated with the constant references to her gender: "Once I'm in the car and I've put my helmet on, it is only the results which matter and nothing else."

However, she did accept that her impressive performance during a test at Silverstone last summer had helped change perceptions in what remains a testosterone-charged environment.

"I've been driving karts and cars and I have loved being part of the sport for more than 15 years, so this is always what I have been aiming towards," said Wolff, nee Stoddart. "Every interview I do, I always get asked about whether females can make it in F1, and you get used to that angle of questioning, but I am a pretty down-to-earth person.

"I appreciate some people will respond it is just a marketing ploy, but anybody who knows Frank and Claire Williams [the latter is deputy principal of the team] will realise they would never to let me near an F1 car if they didn't think I was good enough and didn't believe I could help improve what they were doing.

"It's all about the times you produce and the hard work you have put in. I wasn't sure if my chance would come because there are lots of talented drivers out there.

"I look at Paul Di Resta and wonder why he isn't in F1 this year: he did a good job last season, but they [Force India] looked for someone else. It's tough. You have to deal with that pressure."

Wolff has no illusions about the scrutiny everyone at Williams will be under in the weeks ahead - the championship commences on March 16 in Australia - following a 2013 campaign in which nearly everything that could go wrong duly did so.

But she has grown accustomed to dealing with adversity and using setbacks as motivational tools.

"It's an important year for everybody, because we had a terrible season last time around and we recognise we have to turn things round," said Wolff, who flies to Los Angles today, as a precursor to travelling to Bahrain next week and jetting to Australia.

"It's obviously a busy time and it will be exciting to be involved in practice at Silverstone and Hockenheim because I know both of these circuits well. But the main thing is to get our team heading in the right direction again, because we want to be challenging for big points and podiums and that just didn't happen last year."

Some of the "Mad Men" persuasion may have convinced themselves that sex sells cars. It's best not to head down that avenue in the company of Wolff.

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