International Women’s Day took on special meaning for Maria de Villota as she was hired by the Marussia F1 Team on Thursday as one of its test drivers.
De Villota is the only woman currently listed as a driver in Formula 1 and becomes only the sixth woman driver in the history of grand-prix racing, although only two ever started an actual race. However, she is not a stranger to Formula 1 racing circles by any means. An accomplished racer in her own right, the 32-year-old Spaniard is the daughter of former F1 pilot Emilio de Villota. She has also spent time in a Formula 1 car, having logged some 300 kilometres in the cockpit for Team Lotus, now the Caterham F1 team.
“I am very happy to be joining the Marussia F1 Team test driver program,” she is quoted in the team-issued release, adding that it will offer her the opportunity to “gain important experience to help me progress my career.”
De Villota is not shy about saying her goal is race in the world championship, but states she is looking forward to working with Marussia, formerly Virgin Racing, drivers Timo Glock and Charles Pic at the Australian Grand Prix, the opening race of the Formula 1 season. “I will be joining the team trackside so I’m looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend (in Melbourne) and this can only help my future ambition to step up to Formula One racing.”
De Villota has previously raced in Spanish Formula Three, the 24 Hours of Daytona, Euroseries 3000 and the Superleague Formula championship.
When announcing de Villota’s hiring, Marussia stated the test pilot will have an opportunity to drive the team’s Formula 1 car, which will prove immensely helpful for de Villota.
“We are pleased to welcome Maria to our test driver program,” said team principal John Booth. “We will also provide Maria with the opportunity to sample F1 machinery later in the year, further adding to her racing credentials.”
De Villota is not the first woman to crack the male-dominated sport of motor racing, in general, and Formula 1, in specific. Preceeding de Villota into Formula 1 Grand Prix events are South Africa’s Desire Wilson, Britain’s Divina Galica and Italians Giovanna Amati, Maria Teresa de Filippis and Lella Lombardi, whose sixth place at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix is not only the best finish by a woman driver in the racing series, it is also the only time a woman driver has finished in the top six positions.