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Family or F1? Female driver chooses the track - for now

By Sheena McKenzie, for CNN
May 11, 2012 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Female F1 test driver Maria de Villota admits she'd like a family one day
  • As a youngster the Spaniard joined racing father Emilio on the track
  • Her first taste of racing was as a five-year-old beating her brother go-karting
  • She admits she has had to work hard to compete with men

(CNN) -- For any professional woman, finding the right balance between work and family is never any easy task.

And when your office job is racing Formula One cars for a living, the leap between the daily grind and bouncing baby feels even wider.

It's a juggling act Maria de Villota will one day tackle -- she's just got a few things to do on the track first.

De Villota became the first female driver in Formula One in 20 years after joining Russian team Marussia in March in a testing role.

She now works alongside Marussia's newly-formed lineup of German veteran Timo Glock and French rookie Charles Pic, and plans to get behind the wheel during the 2012 season.

Former Formula One test driver Maria de Villota passed away aged 33. "It is presumed to be death by natural causes," a National Police spokeswoman said Friday. Former Formula One test driver Maria de Villota passed away aged 33. "It is presumed to be death by natural causes," a National Police spokeswoman said Friday.
Maria de Villota: 1980-2013
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F1 family: The De Villotas F1 family: The De Villotas
Susie Wolff, 29, joined Williams F1 as a development driver in April. Susie Wolff, 29, joined Williams F1 as a development driver in April.
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Divina Galica made her Formula One debut at the 1976 British Grand Prix. Despite entering three grands prix, the British driver did not qualify for a race. Divina Galica made her Formula One debut at the 1976 British Grand Prix. Despite entering three grands prix, the British driver did not qualify for a race.
Divina Galica
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The 32-year-old Spaniard admitted it's been a hard slog to get there -- and she's not going to give it up for a baby anytime soon.

"My family is huge and we are all the time together. Of course I would like to have the same thing for me. If you have a baby, I don't know how my body, my mind, is going to react," she told CNN.

"If one day I do make that decision I'll make sure that all my racing goals are achieved. I need to make sure of what I'm thinking -- which is being competitive and not about a little kid waiting at home for me."

But de Villota is proof that kids and the track can mix, having grown up the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota.

"He was a driver in the late '70s, early '80s and I used to go to see him race. I remember the moment when he would tell me, 'Please hold my helmet.' It was really good having that chance being beside him," she said.

"I think he didn't want me to be a racing driver but in the end I just wanted to be like him."

Considering her racing family, it's no surprise De Villota took to the track at an early age -- an experience that gave her a taste of her dream job.

"My racing career started in Madrid, where I was born, in a go-kart track," she said.

"I remember it was Christmas time and my brother had a go-kart and I had my first drive that day. I was around five and I just went all the way into the front.

I think he didn't want me to be a racing driver but in the end I just wanted to be like him
Maria de Villota on father Emilio

"He was crying and saying, 'You're crazy, I'm not going to share with you anymore.' "

De Villota is the first woman to be part of the elite motorsport since Italy's Giovanni Amati entered three grands prix for Brabham in 1992, but failed to qualify for a race.

Just weeks after De Villota signed with Marussia, 29-year-old Briton Susie Wolff joined Williams as a test driver.

Wolff is just the seventh female F1 driver in the 60-year history of the sport and her recruitment, along with De Villota, was seen as an important step forward in the gender divide.

It hasn't been an easy ride, though.

"Being a woman didn't stop me. I realized I could do it and I could do it good," De Villota said.

"Endurance has been tough because we're not as strong as men. I had to work really hard in order to make sure I could be strong enough to be driving Formula One."

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