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Wolff drives women forwards with full Formula One test

By Sarah Holt, for CNN
July 21, 2013 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Susie Wolff moved another step closer to her dream of driving in Formula One after a successful day's testing for Williams
Susie Wolff moved another step closer to her dream of driving in Formula One after a successful day's testing for Williams
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Susie Wolff makes full Formula One debut for Williams team at Silverstone test
  • The 30-year-old is the first female to take part in a meaningful run in an F1 car in more than 20 years
  • Wolff was three seconds off the pace of Sebastian Vettel's leading lap time for Red Bull
  • Drivers happy new Pirelli tires tested at Silverstone are safe

(CNN) -- Susie Wolff says she will keep fighting to win a place on the Formula One grid -- but she won't rely on her sexuality to get there.

Wolff took a big step forward as she spent a full day testing a Williams F1 car at Silverstone. It was the first meaningful running by a female driver in 20 years.

"Some say I seem very reluctant to play the female card but ultimately a race team is only going to put the best driver they can in a race car," said Wolff.

"It was important to show that I have the performance. I'm really pleased.

"I'm not going to say 'give me the [seat] right now because I'm a girl and I was fast enough.' I've got to keep fighting hard."

The 30-year-old Scot, who started karting at the age of eight, completed 89 laps of the challenging British Grand Prix circuit.

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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Read: Leading woman Susie Wolff

Wolff was the ninth fastest of 16 drivers running at Silverstone Friday.

Her best lap of one minute 35.093 seconds was 2.199 seconds slower than the fastest time set over the three-day test by Red Bull's world champion Sebastian Vettel.

It is difficult to read into testing but to put Wolff's time into context the leading Williams car was also just over two seconds slower than Vettel during qualifying at the last race in Germany.

Wolff was watched late on in the test by her husband Toto Wolff, who is a minority shareholder in the Williams team and director of the Mercedes F1 team.

Experienced Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who was on track at the same time as Wolff, praised her impressive full track debut.

"She was pretty quick," said the Brazilian. "I was very happy for her when I saw her lap times.

"It would be good for a team to push Susie in driving at the races and it would be very interesting for everybody to have her in Formula 1."

Read: Ecclestone wants Patrick to lead F1 revolution

Wolff, who ended her career in the German Touring Car Championships [DTM) to join the Williams team as a development driver in 2012, said her main aim was to earn the right to drive again for the team, not to earn acceptance in the male-dominated sport.

"For me it's not about getting praise, it's not about caring what the other drivers think," she said.

"It's most important that the team are happy because if they're happy I'm going to get more chances.

"Many people said they were crazy and why would they waste a day on me but they took that chance and I was happy that I could do a good job.

"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think this was possible and I believe in myself.

"After a tough end to my DTM career many people assumed I was always at the back and just wasn't quick enough but I have showed that was possibly an unfair judgment."

F1 experts at Silverstone were impressed with Wolff's debut and were pleased to see a positive performance by a female racer.

Spaniard Maria de Villota, who was signed as a development driver by the Marussia team in 2012, lost her right eye in an accident on her first run in the team's race car.

Of the five women to join F1 before Wolff and De Villota, only two have ever qualified to start a race. The most prolific of these was Italian Lella Lombardi, who started 12 grands prix in the 1970s.

Lombardi made history while driving with March at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, becoming the only woman to register a point-scoring finish in a grand prix.

Tire test

The Silverstone test doubled up as an opportunity to evaluate new drivers and for many of the regular race drivers to trial the new Pirelli tires which will be introduced at the next grand prix in Hungary.

F1's sole tire supplier had been under pressure to find a safer solution after a series of tire blowouts wreaked havoc during June's British round of the world championship.

Read: F1 drivers threaten boycott over driver safety

The new tires blend 2012's more solid construction with this season's softer compounds and, after three days of testing, both Pirelli and the drivers believe a safe compromise has been found.

"The consistency and safety of the tires is better," said Massa. "Nothing has happened here in terms of the punctures that we have seen and that is the most important thing."

Vettel added: "We have had three days with different drivers in different cars and no failures. That's good."

Pirelli expect the new tires will provide an "interesting mix of race strategies" although many of the drivers at the Silverstone test are predicting the new rubber will mean fewer pit-stops are made during the race.

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