Newly-signed Venturi Team Principal Susie Wolff is confident that December’s Riyadh E-Prix will be a step forward for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Wolff is the first female team principal in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship and her first race in the role will be the Season Five opener in the Saudi capital.
The staunchly conservative country has recently lifted its ban on women driving in one of a series of moves to increase women’s rights.
Saudi Arabia has a strict brand of Islamic law known as Wahhabism which states that men and women have to be kept separate in many situations and that women must wear veils to cover themselves.
It’s also the law in Saudi Arabia that every woman has to have a male guardian, usually a relative or her husband.
Wolff believes that racing in the Middle Eastern country will be a long-term help in progressing a more modern view on women’s roles in society.
“I remember being in Bahrain a few years ago for a Grand Prix and someone pointed across the water and said, ‘That is Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to even drive on the road’,” Wolff told e-racing365.
“Now they can, and what is more there will be an international race there this year with Formula E. I think this will help equal opportunities for future generations of girls and women.
“I think it is great that we can go there and be able to showcase Formula E and for Saudi Arabia to also show that changes are taking place in lots of different ways. I see it as a progressive and positive move.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ plan two years ago. One of the objectives of these plans was to “live without oil by 2020″.
Among the reforms announced were steps to diversify the economy, including investment in mineral mining and renewables. Within this, the participation of women in the workforce was promised to be increased.
Venturi Favoring Experience for Massa Team-Mate
Venturi is looking to cement its driver lineup with someone who carries race experience to partner recent signing Felipe Massa next season.
Wolff stated that familiarity with racing in Formula E will be a key factor in choosing a teammate for the long-time Formula 1 driver.
Maro Engel, Edoardo Mortara and Tom Dillmann are all believed to be in contention for the role, while Daniel Juncadella may also be considered.
Engel, Mortara and Juncadella are all Mercedes-affiliated drivers and one of them is also likely to be considered as a favorite to join the new HWA team.
“In Formula E, from I have seen so far, experience is a very important factor so this is where we are looking,” said Wolff.
“We will weigh up the best option for us but we won’t put a timeframe on it just yet as to when we will announce anything.
“The pool of drivers we can look at is strong, so I have no doubt that along with Felipe we will have a very strong team from that point of view.”
Venturi tested Porsche factory drivers Brendon Hartley and Gianmaria Bruni last summer shortly before the Kiwi was chosen to replace Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso in F1.
Hartley has been under pressure to keep his seat already this season and could be used by Porsche, with whom he is still a factory driver, to undertake races ahead of the German manufacturer’s entry at the end of 2019.
However, this currently appears to be an unlikely move as Venturi will supply powertrains to the Mercedes-affiliated HWA squad in the 2018-19 season.