Susie Wolff joined Formula E as team principal of Venturi in 2018/19 season. Although they only stood in 8th of the overall teams championship, the team still managed to get a first win in their history plus two podiums in such a competitive series. How was Susie’s fresh year going?
First year as team principal of Venturi, did you expect such results at the beginning of season 5?
I think at the beginning of season 5, it was my first year in the role, and we had highest of expectations of ourselves, but we knew we’re going to confront big challenges, because Formula E is just so competitive. We were without a doubt very proud of getting our first victory. First victory for any team is very special moment. Then, backing that up with more podium result, particularly our home race in Monaco, was something that was important for us as a team, because it allowed the confidence to build, allowed us to gain momentum, we just need to keep running on with that progress, we need to find more consistency, but if I go racing, I go racing to win, so for me it was very important to have that success.
Will Porsche and Mercedes change the game?
I expect it to be more competitive, I don’t underestimate the challenge at all. I think with Porsche and Mercedes joining, who had a lot of motorsports experience from the past, they had a lot of success from the past, they had very good people, I think we’ll see it become even tougher at the fight to the front. But I think one of the key asset to Formula E is the fact that you can still win even if you’re not a big manufacturer. We saw in last year, nine races, nine different winners, so many variables, and that’s for us what makes Formula E so special.
How’s it going with pre-season testing?
I think what we’ve seen so far is very very close, I think you’ll see because it’s second year of Gen2 car, you’ll see more consistency from some teams, I think the teams that we saw last year being very strong will again be very strong. But I do think there will be upset and many variables, which will sometimes bring shock winners.
Young drivers such as Nyck de Vries and Max Guenther, they seem to choose Formula E over other series after Formula 2, what does this mean?
I think the fact that in Formula E, we have 10 manufacturers now. It’s certainly, coming from a racing driver in the past, to align yourself with a manufacturer is a dream for a young driver. Because if I would have the option for racing for Mercedes-Benz or Porsche or whatever the category may be, that’s a huge honor for a racing driver. So I think it’s clear for me that, because of the level of the championship and the fact that it’s gaining so much attraction, and the fact that we have ten manufacturers representing in the paddock, it means it’s clear that it’s going to be a very very good option for upcoming young drivers.
I think Formula E still has some work to do on gathering global audience, but I certainly see so much momentum within Formula E, people are much more aware of it than any motorsport, there’s definitely a will from young drivers to be competing at this level. I think it’s only going to get more and more as the championship progresses.
Why did D2BD choose Formula E to host their track events? Will you bring the events to China one day?
I would love to do an event in China if there was any possibility. My organization Dare to Be Different has now merged with FIA’s Girls on Track, which is one global organization, and we do lots of events around Formula E, and that’s where I really have to thank Formula E, who’s been very very forward thinking, wanting to make sure that the sport is diverse, inspiring younger generations, they’ve been very supportive. That’s one of the reasons, I think, Formula E is seen as a much diverse platform, maybe compared to other platforms.
What process do you need to go through to bring D2BD/GOT to Sanya?
Now that we’re an FIA organization, for us it’s very important to connect with the local ASN, to build an event, and make sure it has a last impact, because we don’t want to just turn up at the race track, do a big event and have no last impact, on the audience or to the young girls you bring to the race track. So we would need to connect with the local ASN, the governing body of Chinese motorsport, and try to work together to make sure we could put an event on, get girls to race track, allow them to experience motorsport, but also make sure that it has last impact, and they could then also use that event to keep momentum going.
As team principal, have you ever encountered a mental breakdown of any driver?
Being an ex-driver is very beneficial in this role, because I know what it’s like, be in the position of a driver and I also had now experienced what it’s like on the other side. For me, that gives me a really good understanding for the position and also when I hear the comments from the drivers I can imagine and understand where they’re coming from. Now representing the team, I need to sometimes get the point across and do it in such way the drivers can understand where it’s coming from. And I’m incredibly lucky to have two great drivers, Edo and Felipe, they’ve certainly shown that they’re absolute team players and that helps so far.
Do you think it’s easier for women to have empathy so it’s easier for them to emotionally connect with the team?
You know, my husband has done really good job and he’s not female, I think it comes down more to the individual than actually the gender.