Here at Inside Electric, we wanted to publish a special piece about some of the incredible female talent in the FIA Formula E pit lane and paddock, on this ‘International Women’s Day’. We wanted to shout from the rooftops about the phenomenal calibre of women who choose to work in the all-electric motorsport series and who thrive in environments which have previously been notably dominated by men.
Inside Electric was founded by a collection of both men and women, however, 60% of our team are women; quite a unique position in the current landscape of motorsport publications. We even opened our podcast series with two female hosts, something that was unintentional but certainly helps us stand out from the crowd.
It must be said though, both for us at Inside Electric, and for females working in motorsport, we are here because we are passionate and love what we do – not because of our gender.
But today, we celebrate the women in the community for their achievements and for continuing to inspire us.
So, shall we start at the very beginning? How about the very first Formula E race?
KATHERINE LEGGE and MICHELA CERRUTI
These two racing drivers made history when they competed in Formula E’s inaugural race, back in 2014 at the Beijing E-Prix. Cerruti, who is Italian and raced for Trulli, and Legge who is British and represented Amlin Aguri, took part in six Formula E races between each other. Although their respective Formula E careers were short-lived, during the time they were racing in the early stages of Formula E they helped remind us that motorsport is a place in which men and women can be equals on the racetrack.
Cerruti’s Formula E career was hindered with two retirements out of the four Formula E races she competed in, and announced her departure from Formula E just days before the 2015 Miami E-Prix.
Legge partnered both Takuma Sato and Antonio Felix da Costa during her short Formula E career, but has since returned to the Formula E circus through the championship’s support series, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY. She made history last season when she won in Mexico City, not only being the first woman to win a race in the eTROPHY but the first woman to win a race at a Formula E weekend.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO
Now a development driver with the Porsche Formula E team, de Silvestro is someone who really made waves in Formula E. She became the third, and most recent, women to have a race seat in Formula E and impressed everyone as soon as she jumped into the car. De Silvestro also remains the only women to have scored points in Formula E.
Nicknamed “the Iron Maiden”, de Silvestro even managed to out-qualify the two-time Formula E drivers’ champion Jean-Eric Vergne in her second-ever Formula E race. No mean feat as Vergne is often hailed as a master at qualifying. As well as being team-mates to Vergne for the final two races of the first Formula E season, de Silvestro also partnered Robin Frijns at Amlin Andretti Formula E for the 2015/16 season. She would go on to complete an entire season, something which no women had done before in Formula E.
There had been talks that de Silvestro would return to Formula E for the third season, but she decided to invest her time and opportunities with Andretti’s IndyCar programme. She has always continued to have one foot firmly in the door of Formula E as an official test driver with Venturi for the 2018/19, as a representative of Formula E sponsor Julius Baer or most recently as a development driver with Porsche.
If you are familiar with motorsport, you will likely know who Susie Wolff is. Before she worked her way to the role of team principal and shareholder at Venturi, she smashed down barriers as a racing driver in championships like DTM and F1. Back in 2014, Wolff became the first woman to participate in an F1 weekend since 1992, working closely with Williams as their development driver up until her retirement from racing at the end of 2015.
In Formula E, Wolff’s signing with Venturi made her the first female team principal in Formula E’s history. Originally her contact with the team came about because they wanted her to race for Venturi but Wolff still had ties and loyalties with F1 and so naturally prioritised that over Formula E. However, after taking time to enjoy retirement, Wolff returned to motorsport as the team principal at Venturi. The team, based in Monaco, had variable success before Wolff joined the Venturi, but her long-term approach and wanting to gain consistency as a race team reaped its rewards as she helped guide them to their first-ever Formula E victory at the hands of Edoardo Mortara at the 2019 Hong Kong E-Prix.
“If what I am doing can inspire others, then of course, I see that as something very positive. But, it’s up to me to do this job well.” Wolff told me ahead of Venturi’s 2018/19 campaign.
“I am very passionate about making sure that this sport is diverse and making sure that we have enough talented young women and girls coming into the sport because I think as long as you are good at what you do, your gender is irrelevant. Put yourself out there to show what you are made of and the opportunities will come. There are so many people who talk about motorsport being such a male-dominated environment, and it is, but someone has got to do something about that for it to change.”
Johnson is one of motorsport’s brightest and best photographers, who back in January was announced as the winner of the Motorsport UK Young Photographer of the Year 2019. When Johnson won this highly-respected award, she also became the first woman to do so. During her time within Formula E, she has proved herself as one of the best photographers in the game and sees her working closely with teams such as Mahindra Racing.
As well as Formula E, Johnson has also photographed World Endurance Championship Events and the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
She continues to challenge what is possible within photography and isn’t afraid to try new and different things to what she knows, always looking outside the box. Her attitude towards her craft is inspiring and inspires everyone that is around her to be better at what they do.
As Formula E’s pitlane reporter, Shields is someone whose knowledge of the championship is second to none. Her fun but professional way of working has been the backbone of Formula E’s global media coverage and she is respected and adored throughout the entire paddock.
Shields became the first female member of the media to drive the Formula E race car and has continued to throw herself in the deep end to bring the best quality of content for the championship time after time.
Away from Formula E, Shields is a trusted presenter for both television shows and live events. From FIA events, F1 car launches, to the GQ Car Awards, she is one of the best motorsport presenters around and always brings a burst of sunshine to whatever project she works on.
This list wouldn’t be complete without our very own Hazel Southwell. She became the first female journalist in Formula E to have a full-time pass and has continued to cement herself as one of the best journalists in the all-electric championship. Her knowledge and passion for Formula E, as well as her understanding of what goes on underneath all the carbon fibre and her empathy and honest relationships with drivers and team personnel, make her a real inspiration, both for us here at Inside Electric but beyond.
Southwell also took on a starring role in the Formula E documentary that premiered last year, and continues to work closely with the championship featuring in their new ‘Access All Areas’ Documentary series on their YouTube Channel.
She remains a familiar and friendly face in the paddock and her mission to bring a fresh and open take on Formula E does not go unnoticed. It is this coverage that has gained her a loving and loyal following.
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As well as the incredible women who have been featured in this article, Formula E, and motorsport in general, are home to a huge and growing number of women who continue to inspire those around them – not because of their gender, but because they are brilliant at what they do.
There are so many other people we would have loved to have included in this feature, from our very own photographer Rebecca Jodgalweit, to the press officers, producers, engineers, technicians, hospitality, commentators, content creators; the list is endless. Maybe that is a podcast for another day.
But for now, the whole team would like to say ‘thank you‘ to all the women who have broken down barriers, supported one another, inspired others and made the world a better place. Happy International Women’s Day.
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