Maria de Villota joins Marussia as test driver

2012 F1 season

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Maria de Villota, John Booth, 2012
Maria de Villota, John Booth, 2012

Marussia has announced Maria de Villota has joined the team as a test driver.

De Villota, daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, drove a Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard in France last year.

The 32-year-old raced in Spanish Formula Three from 2001 to 2005, recording a best finish of fifth. In the last three years she has raced in Superleague Formula for Atletico Madrid as well as in Spanish GT racing.

Team principal John Booth said de Villota will get to drive the team’s car later this year: “We are pleased to welcome Maria to our test driver programme, which will enable her to be integrated into a Formula One team environment and gain a vast amount of experience that will be useful to her career progression.

“We will also provide Maria with the opportunity to sample F1 machinery later in the year, further adding to her racing credentials”

De Villota said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula One team and gain important experience to help me progress my career, including the chance to drive the new car later in the year at the Abu Dhabi test.

“I will be joining the team trackside so I?m looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to Formula One racing.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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119 comments on “Maria de Villota joins Marussia as test driver”

  1. At the age of 32, isn’t it a bit late for her to get into F1 when the current trend is for very young drivers?

    1. For rookies that is.

    2. I don’t know how she had performed in lower categories as Wikipedia gives little information, but it’s good to have a female driver so close to F1, not for the sake of having one but because she must have at least some talent to be there. However I don’t think she’ll ever race, I doubt even if either Pic or Glock were unwell.

    3. not being sexist or anything but, they have other alternatives. even Buemi’s cousin has the youth and the experience to boot. also if you want someone with recent experience and youth why not Alguasari?

    4. Compared to who? Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton? I am aware that men and women are equal everywhere but in F1. All the women in out sport were at least 32 expect Giovanna Amati who was 28.

      Here a list

      So no, she is not old. She is perfect. And also she is gorgeous and she is my new favourite driver. I am waiting to have a poster of her in my bedroom!!! :)

  2. I think we can dismiss this as a publicity stunt. I don’t want to resurrect any old sexist bickering but this girl just isn’t F1 quality. She has competed in 133 races spread across Formula 3, Ferrari Challenge Europe, WTC, Spanish GTC GTA, Superstars Championship Italy, Euroseries 3000, Superleage, and FPA and only achieved 1 race win. If the boys have to win everything they enter to get into F1 (unless Daddy is paying of course) then so should the girls.

    1. Agreed. Simply put, there are more talented female drivers out there. However, as it is more than likely a publicity stunt/paid drive, then it doesn’t matter too much.

    2. Yeah, Virgin (now Marussia) has been chasing the tought of having a female driver on the team in some capacity all since Branson touched the team. Now they made it.

      That said, I think it’s good as this shows there are female drivers in the world, bound to help get rid of preoccupations against them.

      1. might be the first of many. Like you said, it’s raise people’s awareness that there are female drivers in the world of motor racing. It’ll encourage other girls to get involved, or stick with it if they are already involved.

        1. Flying Lobster 27
          8th March 2012, 14:29

          Sure it promotes the fact that women racers exist, but sincerely, I’d almost say “anyone but de Villota”. As said, she hasn’t impressed many in lower formulae. Elsewhere, there is a certain number of women who have climbed the ladder in to IndyCar normally: Legge, Patrick, Beatriz, de Silvestro all had to good results in F.Atlantic or Indy Lights, and were rightfully promoted to IndyCar. Any one of those looks better on paper compared to de Villota, even if Indy stars usually fail in F1 – and I think at least Danica Patrick would, as her best results have come on ovals.

          @BasCB: it’s “bound to help get rid of preoccupations against them”. Er if de Villota is as poor as her predecessor Amati, it isn’t.

          1. Well, @flying-lobster, you might be right about bad performance of de Villota potentially scaring away other teams from trying a driver. But that would be true only if there was any chance in the world anyone would actually expect her to perform on track or would give her an outing in a friday session or test day.

            The reality is, that teams sign test drivers for various purposes. Just look at the whole football team of Renault test drivers in the past years.
            She will be part of the team, and will probably be present at several races.

            And I am sure that when she gets her time in the car it will be properly used to show how forward looking Marussia is. And the team will make sure that the times won’t be abhorrent, at least to the outside world. Because its Good Promotion

    3. Talent seems to only be one of the credentials needed these days. Being related to a former F1 driver apparently also counts for something, though money is as huge today as it has ever been.

      However, this is a testing drive not a race drive. She’s driven a lot of stuff and has a fair bit of experience, maybe that makes her a good choice as a tester.

    4. Why did you say ‘girl’? I’m sure you wouldn’t say 32 year old boy.

      1. coefficient said, “If the boys have to win everything they enter to get into F1 (unless Daddy is paying of course) then so should the girls.” (emphasis mine)


    5. I think this is money-oriented. There is nothing in her career that suggests she is worthy of an F1 drive, but perhaps her time with Marussia will groom her.

    6. “I’m all for women in motorsport, but sadly this particular woman is clearly not up to the required standard.”

      This line of reasoning is standard in any male-dominated profession. The trick, of course, is to find some justification for applying it no matter who the ‘particular woman’ happens to be.

      The problem is that it shows no understanding of the massive obstacles women face trying to break into the male-dominated world of motorsport. The culture needs to change, everywhere, from the grass roots level to the very top. Getting more women into the top formulas can only help in the long-term.

      So maybe de Villota is unlikely to be successful, given her record. So what? Give her a chance. If she does well, it would be a brilliant thing.

  3. I knew it was only a matter of time before we had another female F1 driver, and I’m glad to see it. Not because there should be equality for the sake of it, but if she is talented enough to be in F1, then why not?

    Amidst come of the controversy that is always surrounding F1, I think that this can only do the sport some good. It may be a little strange for someone to join a team at the age of 32, but we’ve seen on countless occasions that young drivers aren’t necessarily the best, and some years ago, 30 was considered a driver’s peak age.

    I really hope that we see her in some practice sessions this year, and that it inspires new interest in the sport.

    1. but if she is talented enough to be in F1, then why not?

      She isn’t though. That’s the issue. And I say that as a woman.

      1. @KateM

        A refreshingly objective view of the matter. Good :)

  4. Does she need to have a superlicence? Or is that something she can work on during this year?

    I’m doubting if she will help women gain a spot in racing, because of the simple fact that we haven’t heard of her setting the racing world on fire with her performances.

    To add some perspective about ‘others-than-white-males-in-race-cars’: Nobody driving these cars is a slouch, but Kartikeyan and Hamilton are from a different league and I think this lady is more from the same league as Kartikeyan.

    At the end of the day I’ll be double minded: I think everybody should be in F1 on merit, but I make an exception for my fellow country men. So maybe I should do the same for women.

    1. As far as I remember, a test driver can gain their superlicences by doing some 500 km of testing in an F1 car.

    2. Superlicence is only needed for those testers driving on Fridays. Otherwise, anyone can do it (including, in theory, people with newly-minted National B licences).

    3. Kartikeyan can make rounds around this chick. She’s more like from the same league as Yoong. This whole thing is a joke.
      She’s there simply because she’s a woman and Marussia think that is good publicity along with some money.

      And i don’t even get why women “need” to gain a spot in racing, In most western countries women are very much equal now so no one is stopping them and their families from throwing money in karting and stuff so they can get there. They ain’t there because simply they ain’t many women that like racing and those who do haven’t been good enough.
      I don’t get this desperation of finding a woman. If a good woman driver that can follow the same foots as the other drivers appears then she’s welcome but other than that i don’t understand why we “must” find a woman.
      Acting so desperate for a female racer only resold in some low talented female getting a position that she would never have if she had balls between her legs.

      No, i don’t WANT a female driver but i have no problem accepting one. If none appears i care not, if it appears then i care as much as i care about any driver that shows talent.
      So stop looking for women. Just let the door open and may the capable one pass threw. If there isn’t any just go with your business.
      Drivers should simply be drivers, no female or male drivers. Just drivers.

  5. After looking at her records, she is not F1 material, I think this is a gender issue thing, i’m not opposing to female F1 drivers, being part of a minority i’m all for equality and diversity, but there are drivers more deserving of this role, If a women is to make to F1 she has to deserve it like every, other driver not because she is a women, that can be classed as sexist towards a man he can’t get the role because a women needs to be given it because of gender issues, cue the feminist……

  6. And in the same publicity stunt vein why not Ricardo Teixeira sure he DNQ’d in GP2 where you all drive the same car but the last time an African was longer ago than the last woman in F1.

    1. Ricardo Teixeira was actually a test driver for Caterham last year. He’s not actually Angolan, but Portuguese-Angolan (Angola was a Portuguese colony until 1975). He started racing under an Angola licence when he moved to Formula 2 in 2010, because Angolan state-owned oil company Sonangol was sponsoring him. The livery actually looked pretty good, too. When he raced for Trident in the 2009 GP2 and 2008-09 GP2 Asia series, Teixeira competed with a Portuguese licence.

  7. Karthikeyan is not as slow as you think. Given half a chance he could do a good job with a midfield team I think. He kept Liuzzi honest last year when given the opportunity and he was pretty exciting to watch at Jordan and scored 5 points back in the days when you only had 10 for a win instead of 25 and Jordan were abysmal.

    He has generally finsished in the top 5 in the other championships he has contested and won races. He drove an Audi R10 at Le Mans and finsihed 7th so I think he is a solid driver. Ok he’s no Hamilton or Alonso but he has much stronger results historicaly than Maria.

    Also, Williams praised his contribution as Test Driver so he probably gets unfair press which is inevevitable when you put yourself in the same arena as some of the sports absolute living legends. I still think he’d run rings around Maria in any car going on career stats alone.

    I would say Danica Patrick is more worthy of a shot at F1 but she’s too comfy in the states. Someone needs to dangle a Mclaren and a few million dollars to prise her out of her cushy little number as the darling of NASCAR/IRL.

    The current financial climate makes such gambles unimaginable and i dare say a top team would only consider it if they could run a 3rd car or test extensively.

    1. He kept Liuzzi honest last year

      No he didn’t.

      scored 5 points back in the days when you only had 10 for a win instead of 25 and Jordan were abysmal

      Because just 6 cars competed that race. It was hard not to score a point, really. AND he lost in the start to one of the Minardis AND he was beaten by his team mate who wasn’t a “champion” either.

      He isn’t fast. He’s racing because of TATA’s money… in the same way that de Villota joined Marussia, as a marketing move only.

    2. in fairness Karthikeyan got 5 points from a race in which 6 cars raced. tis like saying Monteiro was unbelievable for getting that Jordan on the podium.

    3. I agree. Does anyone remember when British F3 was shown on domestic TV? There were some pretty useful drivers when he did it, so to finish 3rd in 2000 is not a fluke.

      Maybe Danica will do a practice session at the US GP this year, but i doubt it will be McLaren as they will be (hopefully) fighting a championship.

    4. I think Simona De Silvestero would be a much better choice than Danica if people want to see a properly quick woman in an F1 car.

    5. Kept Liuzzi honest? Liuzzi out qualified him every race they were team mates for. Stop kidding yourself he’s racing because of TATA money and TATA money only.

      1. He might have been out-qualified but he hadn’t drove in F1 for 5 years and is not like Luizzi was a second faster or anything. So yes he has the seat because he pays but not just because he pays.
        If he was a lot slower than Luizzi even paying wouldn’t have gave him the seat. I doubt HRt will give me a seat even if i payed twice the money as Narain.
        His there because he pays and his reasonably good for F1 not simply because he pays. `

      2. Absolute rubbish, for someone who stepped into F1 machinery for the first time in about 6 years and with no testing he was remarkably close to Liuzzi who had been recently racing in F1. Liuzzi should have been miles down the road but he wasn’t. If anything Liuzzi was exposed as the kind of driver he is by Karthikeyan, ORDINARY!!!

        Also, you’re ignoring the the fact that the rest of Narain’s career, whilst not overwhelming has been pretty solid whereas Maria’s has been an unmitigated disaster bankrolled by Daddy.

        Narain is a cut above this girl, no doubt.

        Put you’re Liuzzi claws away, he had his chance several times. No harm in giving Narain a fair crack at it.

        The mentality of some people on this site is ridiculous. It’s clear that some people have taken an automatic dislike to Narain. He hasn’t had the opportuity to settle into a team and get up to speed so its not fair to slag him off. Most Rookies get a couple of consecutive years before the hammer falls, give him this season to see what he can do.

        1. Oh yes: Karthikeyan is way better than de Villota. But she is soooo bad that it doesn´t mean anything!!!

        2. @coefficient

          If someone compares Narain to de Villota, it’s probably because:

          a: they are biased against Narain (for whatever reason – perhaps his lack of efficient PR)

          b: they’ve never followed his career and have no absolutely no idea what they’re talking about

          Unfortunately, whatever proof you provide, this attitude isn’t gonna change and personally I don’t think it is worth arguing with such people about it. They just won’t change their mind.

          Narain did have some question marks in his motivation and wasn’t exactly someone who’d be noticed during his post-F3 years. So people pass judgements based on the little they see. The fact is he hasn’t had the right machinery to prove himself in F1 and he isn’t gonna get in the future too (unless something radical happens). So I’m afraid this attitude will stay forever.

        3. I just don’t understand how being outqualified by your team mate every single race means you kept your team mate honest.

          But that being the case then, I guess Webber and Massa kept Vettel and Alonso honest last year as well.

  8. I think that this is a pay to drive situation, probably bringing much needed money to MaRussia team.

    1. I just searched for videos of her on youtube.

      There is a video of her 2011 test with Lotus (then Renault). Featured fairly prominently in the video is the sponsor “iHola!”. It’s on her website too. I don’t know, but maybe that’s where the money is coming from.

    2. I doubt it, she’s not racing or even featuring during a GP weekend it seems!

  9. Right, de Villota is utterly useless. She shouldn’t be in an F1 car. This is not sexism – I think IndyCar’s Simona de Silverstro is very talented, as is 2010 Formula Renault BARC champion Alice Powell and plenty of others. They compete on their own merit, not because of their gender, and do so well.

    But de Villota has never, and I repeat never, been anything other than slow and, at times, dangerous in a racing car. She was useless in Superleague Formula, and the overall quality of that field was patchy. It was frightening watching her plummet down the field from reverse grid pole, or holding up cars lapping her, or driving out of the gravel and into another car.

    She’s undoubtedly paying big, big bucks for this seat. I’m just concerned that, with the way things are going, she’ll have a race seat next year.

    Because if she races in F1 she will set the female driver cause back years because she will fail to qualify in a Marussia. No question, she can’t do it. And then people will assume that all women are incapable of racing in F1, which isn’t true.

    I think I’ve made my feelings pretty clear but I will repeat: this is a bad thing for Formula One.

    1. I agree, particularly in the point she ruins it for other women racers who might come along in the future who actually will have talent.

    2. I think IndyCar’s Simona de Silverstro is very talented

      I think de Silvestro is perhaps the only female racing driver who could reasonably make a positive impact on Formula 1 right now.

      1. @Prisoner Monkeys

        I agree too! de Silvestro is the best of the current lot of women drivers not just in talent but also in attitude.

  10. This is a sad state of affairs. At least before when someone was getting a test in F1, no matter how much money they brought they still had substantial talent.

    There is no way De Villota would be anywhere near an F1 car with her credentials if she wasn’t a female and wasn’t bringing loads of cash.

  11. Oh no this beyond low! A perfect test driver would be Robert Wickens as they tested before. Of course money is involved but there must be other solutions rather than this desperate move! She has proved utterly useless i other categories ( She was completely out of her league in Superleague)
    Timo, the only quality driver get out of this team now!

  12. What bothers me most about these pay drivers (and sex is not even an issue here) is that these are taking opportunities from genuine young talented drivers with all the potential. Formula 1 should be moving away from being a rich persons play thing, by any standards de villota is a journeyman driver with little acheivements, if a team cannot exist without having to sell it’s test programme off then surely the whole ventures a waste of time. It’s so short sighted they are simply trying to exist in the moment from day to day, with no real eye on true future development or long term plans. And the worst thing is little consideration for the image of the sport they claime to “love”……..rant over!!

    1. In Marussia’s case, they run a pay second driver and pay reserve to help fun a proper talent in Glock. So I can kind of see what they’re working towards.

  13. Damoor Valentino
    7th March 2012, 18:20

    It’s all russian oil money behind her.

    1. Really? What Russian oil money?

      1. The one who comes from Russia based on oil incomes.

        1. And what connection does de Villota have to the Russians or to oil? Nikolai Fomeko might be the Russian in charge of Marussia, but he did not make his fortune buying up oil reserves during perestroika.

          No doubt there is money involved in this deal – but I very much doubt that it is coming from the Russian oil oligarchs. They tend to support their own first and foremost.

  14. If there are categories for women in Golf, Tennis and Football, then why not have a Women’s World Championship ??

    For example, each team could either run one of last year’s cars or one modified to current regs, and who is to say the quality of 12 female racers would be any worse than 24 male racers.

    That way they can be judged purely on thier racing skills and not thier looks and how much sponsorship they can attract.


    1. why not have a Women’s World Championship ??

      Because it isn’t needed.

      Motor racing isn’t a simple test of human strength or speed like weightlifting or the 100m sprint. It requires a blend of abilities both physical and mental.

      While the physiological differences between men and women make putting them side-by-side in some sports unrealistic, I don’t believe that’s the case in motor racing.

      So instead of copying the gender divide in other sports, motor racing should embrace the opportunity to be a truly mixed competition and put men and women on the same playing field.

      It’s the smart thing to do from a business point of view as well. There are a lot of female sports fans out there and potentially a lot more for a sport where women are seen to be competing as equals alongside men.

      1. I agree @keithcollantine, motorsport is one of the few sports where a gender divide is not required. It would be great to see a really talented femal driver make it into the sport, and preferably with at least a midfield team.

      2. It is indeed scientifically proven that women have superior reaction times when compared to men. In motor racing this is demonstrated by the inclusion of success of Women in Top-Level Drag-Racing in the US. For that motorsport form, reaction time is really the most important factor.

        Further, women to be smaller/lighter, this helps is weight distrobution, dont we hear frequent stories about this or that driver working to drop kilos to enable improvments of weight distrobution in the cars.

        If it were not such a mis-matched gender role, it could be said that women are actually better suited to auto racing then men are.

        1. … and I am pretty sure it’s been proven that racing drivers don’t have abnormally high reaction times so i doubt that is a feminine advantage.

          The simple fact is we’ll see a female driver in F1 when there is a one good enough. We see very few because at any given race meeting only .5% of competitors are female. The talent pool is sooooo tiny.

          My hunch is that Beitske Visser has what it takes but there aren’t many other female drivers at the moment who could get to F1 on merit. I am sure though with the right motivation and skill there is certainly a real possibility.

        2. @javlinsharp @AndrewTanner It’s quite the opposite actually. Women have higher reaction times and the majority aren’t good at vehicle control (ofcourse there are exceptions). Most road accidents involving women happen at lower speeds because of low reaction time and lack of control.
          Thats why most Airforces do not recruit ladies as fighter pilots.

          After analysing numerous road accidents in my city, I found out that “When men crash, Its because they are rash. When women crash, Its because they can’t control their vehicles”

          1. @malleshmagdum
            I think road accident causes are a lot more complicated than that, and I don’t think, what would be a rather small difference, if any exists at all, between the reaction times of typical men and woman have a significant effect on the issue at all.

            I disagree with you as well, even ignoring that reaction times are only a small aspect of the traits required by high-performing drivers. The argument that women’s lower weight is beneficial is still significantly secondary to them having the talent and physical ability to drive an F1 car competitively.

          2. The difference in reaction times between males and females is relatively minor – between one and four hundredths of a second, depending on reaction trigger (light, sound, touch ect).

            Gender reaction time difference to visual stimuli is typically around one to two hundredths of a second, a difference of around 4-10%.

            Dehydration has been found to accelerate male reaction times marginally, while cutting female reaction times by up to 5%. An important factor in an F1 cockpit.

            Curiously, female test pilots have been shown to react more quickly and predictably than their male counterparts while under stress. High levels of stress in male test pilots resulted in slowed reaction times, probably as a result of higher testosterone production. Female test pilots were also found to be more accurate on target tests than male test pilots while under stress.

          3. Ok,
            So since F1 drivers do not have significantly better reaction times than normal people, what is this “talent” you speak of?

            Is it Gender based? Can an F1 Driver be MADE? What does a man have that a woman does not have? What does an F1 driver have that non-F1 drivers dont have and is that Gender-specific?

            To blame the absence of women in motorsport on anything else but sociological influnces is nothing short of bigotry.

            Shall I play my own bigotry card and say that all Indian men are sexist? Doesnt feel good, does it?

            in case your wondering, I am a man and have no daughters.

      3. @keithcollantine Totally agree. Women are generally of a lighter build than men so it would actually beneficial as far as weight goes!

      4. Logic hasn’t ever stopped people splitting up competitions by sex though. Just a couple of examples:

        Horse riding
        Shooting (your weapon of choice really, guns or bow and arrow)

        I’m not saying it should be split up, just that logic has never stood in the way of that decision before and actually, racing seems to be pretty progressive in that respect.

        1. Most horse-riding competitions aren’t split on gender lines.

          Chess isn’t split on gender lines either.

          Where separate competitions have been organised in these sports it has been for reasons other than inherent ability.

          1. Oops about the horse-riding, bad example.

            But chess players are rated different by sex, regardless of whether they ever play each other or not.

            Anyway, the examples themselves weren’t really the point. The point is, logic has never really had any place in the decision on whether to separate by sex or not.

      5. Well said Keith. Completely agree.

        Another sport where women and men compete against each other is equestrian. There also, the mount and your ability to control it is the important thing, and physical differences not the deciding factor.

        I’m involved in radio control car racing, and it like all forms of motorsport has women and men competing on equal terms.

        The reasons we don’t see so many women competing in motorsport at the top level are cultural.

      6. What about the weight advantage a female would have? Would we end up with a complicated system of weight compensation or a minimum driver weight which would have to be made up with ballast for the women and trained down to for the men?

        1. But @coefficient, the same weight advantage is there for short, skinny drivers over tall big ones already, only perhhaps in a somewhat smaller degree (compare Vettel to Webber). That’s why there’s a minimum weight limit.

          F1 drivers aren’t all like jokeys in horse-racing, and even there the skinniest isn’t the one who wins; it depends on skill, the car/horse, some luck, and seeing/taking opportunity. Otherwise the championship wouldn’t be very interesting.

      7. Sounds great. So what can we do make it happen?

        Obviously, there are limits to what a blog can do. But Keith, you could certainly use the blog to highlight the achievements of women in lower formulas, and to criticize some of the more egregious examples of sexism in F1 — e.g., the pit lane girls. You do have some influence.

      8. Agree with you @keithcollantine, but I think it would make sense to have a junior level single seater series of, FRenault, F3 or F2 cars in which each team must field a male and a female driver. That would give the female drivers a lot more opportunity to assess themselves while teams can help polish their skill and racecraft.

        F1 or GP2 teams’ observers can gauge how the women are perfroming with respect to their male counterparts in the series. In fact this is probably the only way where many girls, who’d normally turn to other career lines after karting, can be made to try it out. A championship with ten teams could have ten female drivers from which at least two or three (if they’re good enough) could get a chance to move to higher levels such as WSR or GP2. This means that every year or evey two years there will be new female drivers ready to get into these feeder series (if sponsorship and talent permit).

        What such a junior level championship does is give the potentially talented girls out there a greater window of opportunity.

    2. “why not have a Women’s World Championship ??”

      Exactly, that is the only fair thing to do.

  15. I believe that this is great news. Welcome to the club, Maria!

    De Villota might not have the CV that one would expect from a promising F1 rookie but the same could be said about a lot of male drivers that have been participating in F1 as race or test drivers so far. And the ‘old’ age doesn’t matter too much. Allan McNish started his F1 career with Toyota when he was exactly the same age as de Villota now and we are having two drivers on the 2012 grid that are already over 40.

    While I have never wanted to see teams hiring female test drivers just because of PR reasons, everyone has to understand that there are female racers who have the potential to outperform many of the current F1 male drivers in the same equipment. I hope that de Villota’s deal with Marussia will help to open the door for these women.

    1. But de Villota does not have the ability to out-perform the current F1 grid: every one of them is fundamentally better than her. She is there on money alone, not talent, and that does nothing for the promotion of female racers.

      And to compare her with McNish does him a huge diservice.

      1. I didn’t intend to say that de Villota is as good as McNish, just said that 32 years of age ain’t enough reason to reject an F1 rookie.

        You might be right about her skills but I would compare this story with the one of Vitaly Petrov and Russia. While Vitaly hasn’t set the world alight and is mostly regarded as a pay driver, his presence in F1 has definitely increased the popularity of F1 in Russia.

        1. I’m sorry, I know you weren’t comparing her de Villota and McNish as drivers.

          The difference with Petrov is that he, whilst no world beater, had proven himself more than capable in GP2 (race wins, championship runner-up). She’s nowhere near that level. She’d get eaten alive in GP2, and it’s a poor quality field.

          I do take your point to a degree about increased visibility, but women watch F1 anyway – it’s a huge global sport. Those who do tend to be intelligent in their approach to it. For example, F1 in Spain it’s very popular anyway and I’m sure plenty of Spanish women cheer on Alonso (and non-Spaniards too). They don’t need Maria to tell them it exists. Moreover, if they pin their hopes on her they will be disappointed.

    2. I´ll agree that it will be interesting too see woman in F1, but I wpuld rather have a promising woman as driver than Villota, right now everyone knows is a commercial reason, trying to get sponsor…

      I will rather not have a woman driver at all…

    3. @Grits..I dont think the problem here is age…its ability. You cant compare Alan Mcnish to this lady!..McNish was a proven winner in Le Man and Sport Cars!

      If Seb Loeb switched over to F1 next season, he would be a 39 year old rookie..I wouldnt mind..hell nobody would!

      This looks like a PR stunt. People should reach F1 on merit, but hey, look at the drivers everywhere! I guess we should accept this, its a test role to say the least.

    4. Well, it seems to me that the old fashioned overlords of F1 just stick a crap female in the spotlight every now and then just to take credibility away from the idea of introducing female drivers.

      Giovanni Amati was the last one and she set the female cause back 20 years because she was slower than my granny. The only way to get F1 to take women seriously is to get a team like Mclaren to manufacture a female version of Lewis. If she then came into F1 and kicked butt we would have the impetus for other girls to be inspired and join the junior ranks.

      The problem is the lack of females on the ladder, there are thousands of boys and a handful of girls because generally boys are more interested in cars and racing, oily rags and spanners. This would change if there was a female winning at the top due to the same effect the Spice Girls had with their Girl Power.

      Sisters doing it for themselves and all those other Cliches!

      Bring it on I say!

      1. @coefficient I agree with your analogy about boys and spanners, but are you really suggesting the “influence” of the spice girls could have a bearing on formula1?!

        please do not let this happen. the thought of simon cowell anywhere near a race track or team makes me cringe. we’d have an X Factor team before we knew it, with a competition for one of the drives….


  16. A 32 year old woman joins as the reserve driver for the 12th(last) placed team, which is of course a marketing stunt, but fans still see the negative side of things. Its not as if she is the test driver for Williams or FI or any of the mid-field teams and robbing a drive from some of the ‘young talented drivers out there’. Honestly, how much would being a test driver for Marussia or HRT be of any help. I hardly doubt anyone would notice. If there are better women drivers, and i am sure there are, then i hope they atleast get a drive in a better team to show their talent. Till then it doesnt matter if Maria is “utterly useless”. Its not going to make any difference.

  17. Look, I’m a huge believer in bringing more women into traditionally male roles in motorsport, including race seats. When my site was active, we were outspoken cheerleaders on the subject. I believe one of the F1 circus’s biggest lost opportunities was letting Simona de Silvestro slip away to American racing, and if I had a few spare millions down the back of the sofa I’d be investing it in Alice Powell.

    But Maria de Villota has as much business being sat in an F1 car as I have. If you watched Superleague you’d have seen she was embarrassingly bad. Slow, stubborn when being lapped, and prone to hitting other cars. Some Superleague drivers were very good indeed, but the tail of the field was weak or inexperienced or both – and she was worse than the worst of them by quite a margin.

    Yesterday when the press release went out from Mark Blundell’s 2MB that they were representing her, it was a real shocker. This goes a long way to explaining it.

    But, please, no-one get the idea that this is the long-awaited and (for me at least) long hoped-for arrival of a female challenger in F1. She’s not up to the job. It’s not her age, it’s not her gender, it’s not even that money is certainly involved – it’s what she’s like behind the wheel.

    As the old saying goes, she couldn’t drive a nail into a plank of wood.

    1. Hear hear.

      1. Yeah, I only noticed afterwards that I’d written pretty much the same as you’d done earlier – great minds think alike :)

  18. Bring back Chanoch Nissany!

  19. I love how so many people on here are acting like the four horsemen of the apocalypse rode up and kicked their puppies over this. De Villota’s only doing son free practice runs and test driving, and if she brings some money to Marussia all the better for it. On top of this, far from ruining chances for female drivers coming in, if anything this proves that yes, they do have a place in the F1 Paddock, rather than feeling they have to go to the states because the environment in Europe just doesn’t offer them any opportunities. Say hat you will about De Villota’s ability – And I see that most already have – but this can do nothing but open doors

    So, thats a glass half full perspective. feel free to go back to decrying this news as the start of the End Times.

    1. Yes — well said!

    2. I think you overstate it a bit, but I agree that it isn’t so bad. Sure, she doesn’t seem to have a huge talent and the last we saw of that was with HRT in 2010, so it is valid to be worried about her, and not someone else getting a role. But Marussia can use the money, publicity for all.

      But the way this team works, next year they’ll have entirely different drivers (apart from poor Glock) pumping money into the team in an effort to get somewhere.

      I hope De Villota and Clos get something good out of it too for their money. And who knows if it will persuade a few people that feel a bond with them to take up, or keep pursuing motorsport, I hope so!

    3. I’m sorry but that is rubbish! Maria is god awful and the european girls that have sought refuge in the IRL etc aren’t good enough either. Basically, IRL is similar in quality to GP2 so if you aren’t winning it you aren’t good enough for F1. Katherine Legge and the American Danica Patrick are both seriously underwhelming in the American Categories. The idea that no top flight euro motorsport gives women an opportunity is true, but only because there hasn’t yet been a woman that could cut it. No-one deserves an F1 seat to be gifted, male or female. You’ve got to get results! Look at Lewis, he wouldn’t have got anywhere near a Mclaren unless he’d won every category he contested. What we really need is a female that has had the same nurturing on the junior ladder as Lewis that can make an explosive impact in F1. The culture would change overnight then but, as long as the F1 machine keeps making these ridiculous platitudes towards the idea of female drivers the idea will never attain credibility.

    4. I agree, as everyone in their right mind knows she will never do more than a few laps or some staight line running in the real car her real value is in being with the team, just as it is for quite a big share of the other so called “test-/3rd-drivers” who are in deals with F1 teams.

      Showing there’s a female driver in the paddock can only be considered as a (albeit small) step forward for F1.

  20. Cools news, there have been a few female F1 drivers in the past, most recently in the 70’s i think and with that haircut i think she’s come straight from there ;)

  21. I wonder what Villota will expect to get out of this deal. One day in the car at young driver’s test at the end of the year, and getting to hang around the F1 paddock sounds like a year of doing nothing.

    This will only get interesting if Pic or Glock for some reason can’t drive for a weekend, and Marussia decide to let her have a proper go. However, judging by the comments here so far, it sounds unlikely that she would qualify anyway.

    For me, this news only reminds me how nice it would to have a female championship contender on the grid. Will the next Jesse Button, Liana Hamilton, or Sebastiana Vettel stand up please?

  22. Another 30+, rookie yeah!

  23. I don’t know how to react this; having a woman racing driver in F1 is a great step but she isn’t cut out for F1 in my opinion however, it’s been such an abysmally long time since we had a female racing driver that having one in a minor role to boost publicity that this may be a good thing. Yes, talent has to come first but let’s face it this roles is pretty pointless. In the days of testing it would have meant more but it’s not really like she’s taking a seat from a potential young star because this seat doesn’t really mean anything at all. I’m not really for this kind of cynical promotion but this is an area of F1 that needs some serious work so it’s better than nothing I feel.

  24. “De Villota, daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, drove a Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard in France last year.”

    That reads totally different if you don’t know Paul Ricard is a circuit…… :-/

  25. People, forgive me for saying this, but I actually think this is a good thing?

    It works on a couple of levels. Lets start by being appearing intelligent.

    For the first time this century, as far as I can recall, there is a woman in a driving role in an F1 car. In a world where we are trying to promote equal opportunities both genders and chances to represent themselves, is this not a good thing? A woman in what is very much a man’s man’s sport. Granted there are probably more tallented and deserving up and coming women who deserve a chance more than Maria. But on the flip side, Maria’s appointment could be the first step on the path to there being a female competitor in the championship.

    It’s been said many times that a female would be ideal to have an F1 car. Generally they’re lighter and smaller, allowing for a lower centre of gravity meaning teams have more chance to play with ballast in the car to get the balance of a car spot on. Women are supposedly better at multi tasking too, which comes with the job description nowadays in F1!

    Furthermore, females maybe more drawn to the sport now for the above reasons? Or perhaps further down the line should a female achieve a full time seat.

    Are these not good reasons?

    Now, on a slightly different note. Maria is a very good looking woman. There, I said it. A pretty blonde in an F1 car, I’m not going to say no! We live in a very materialistic society, where looks count for a lot. This may attract more male viewers for this reason. Perhaps not a massive ammount, but it may help to increase the sprots coverage, reach and viewing figure.

    I appreciate that pretty much the only reason she has landed this role is because of her financial backing, but an offer like this would be impossible for a low budget team like Marussia to turn down. The marketting potential will help them no end.

    Just a few thoughts anyway.

    1. You raise some valid points. My worry is this: she gets a race deal and does dreadfully – and I believe, having watched her race, that she would do that. She’d be way, way off her male team-mate andprobably not qualify. People watching – particularly the fly-by-night fans you suggest would be attracted by such an inclusion on the grid – would take the view that women are rubbish at racing cars. Negative gender stereotypes would be reinforced etc etc and young female racers with talent would face an even more difficult time breaking into the sport. I think that’s a genuine scenario.

      A woman getting into F1 because she has money does nothing for female racing drivers unless she can back it up with pace in the car.

      1. So what about the men that get into F1 because of money? The cash cows of Maldonado, Karthikeyan, Chandok, d’AMbrosio and Pic (to name a few) havent contributed anything to the credibility of the sport.

        1. Probably should let Pic start at least one race before we write him off…

          1. Indeed! I’d also say that Maldonado is a GP2 champion; Pic, Chandhok and d’Ambrosio are GP2 race winners and Karthikeyan was a British F3 and Superleague race winner. That’s a lot more than de Villota has shown. I mean, it’s infinitely more.

            It’s also an entirely different issue. It’s not about the credibility of the sport, it’s about gender stereotypes/politics and the place of women in F1. If Karthikeyan is slow there’s no pre-existing belief to jump of that says ‘Indians are rubbish at driving’; if de Villota is useless there is a stereotype that some will see as validated.

          2. My expectations are so low, I think I’ve got a bit of vertigo from looking down.

  26. William Wilgus
    7th March 2012, 23:26

    I’m somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned that the skills required of a test driver are at least partially different than those required of a race driver.

  27. Even Yuji Ide CV look more promising!

  28. I was part of the tv team for some Superleague formula races back when de Villota was racing there & she was pretty useless.

    I remember an incident at Jarama where she spun at turn 1 & then decided to drive back onto the track directly infront of oncoming cars & caused a near head-on collision with Sebastien Bourdais who had no way of avoiding her.
    It was the most ridiculous thing i’ve ever seen & Bourdais was furious with not just the fact he’d been taken out but also because of the fact she went unpunished & was still allowed to race in the series.

    1. That would be this incident then:

      1. Bloody hell! That’s the sort of thing you do in video games not real life.

      2. That was a complete lack of skill (she looked like ‘oh, lets go, hope it works’).
        But just reminded of Sutil. I don’t remember which race it was, only it was for being a bit ‘weak headed’ instead of simple lack of skill, he spun and didn’t even look if there were people coming before darting back to the track, a crash being avoided by pure luck.

  29. Will she get to drive the car in the later part of the season in Practice session, & will they give her a ride on the race seat for a weekend or two?

    1. I think it will be something like doing a straight line test maybe, don’t expect much more than that @wasif1

  30. Mike the bike Schumacher (@mike-the-bike-schumacher)
    8th March 2012, 3:57

    pfffffft hahaha

  31. Well who would have thought that a ‘Virgin’ would be the first one to get a girl on-board :D :D

    1. @sumedh LOL!

  32. I have a feeling that she is a pay test driver.

    Not that I have anything against women in F1, if a woman is good enough and has proved that she deserves a seat she should enter.

  33. If someone wants to push women into F1 for marketing reasons, why not help them with a few supporting rules? Say, half a second in qualifying and minus 40 kilos car weight.

  34. Hope she would not be another Danica.

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