With less than a month to go until the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix, the principal of the Venturi team, Susie Wolff has said the epic racing event in the Kingdom will serve as a showcase on how live events can return to the sporting calendar.
Wolff, famed in her career of becoming the first female driver in 22 years to drive a Formula One car at the renowned UK track in Silverstone in 2014, years later took on a new challenge – the world of Formula E - as the principal for the Venturi racing team.
Now a leading figure for the emerging world of electric race cars, Wolff says being a pivotal part of a world-famous event that also has sustainability at its core is gratifying.
Wolff added she is “extremely excited” about the countdown to the season opener in Riyadh – especially after a year where the coronavirus pandemic saw sporting events come to a standstill.
“What is so gratifying about Formula E is that we find ourselves racing with a clear purpose,” Wolff told Al Arabiya English.
“To create a more sustainable environment brings an element of real purpose to the race circuit.”
“We are going through a pivotal time in the automotive industry and to be part of that, with racing at the forefront of new technology, makes it that extra.”
After a year where coronavirus-induced lockdowns and border closures forced the cancellation of global sporting events, Wolff said getting back to racing is “something we are all hugely looking forward to.”
“We are all eager to get going again – the adrenalin that comes with racing and being there in-person is something you can not match.”
However, COVID-19 has brought challenges to the sport, which is a city-based, single-seater electric car motor racing championship.
As Wolff puts it, a race in urban city centers, rather than self-contained racetracks, is far logistically difficult to organize in the midst of a global pandemic than traditional motor racing events.
That being said, Wolff is confident about the success of her team at the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix, on February 26 and 27, which count as the first two rounds of the 2020/2021 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
“First and foremost, it has been so encouraging how motivated Saudi people have been to put on a sporting spectacle in past seasons of Formula E,” she said.
“My first time at Formula E in Saudi was also my first time in the country – it was fantastic.”
With night races a new fixture at this years’ event, Wolff said she is especially looking forward to seeing how Venturi Racing performs.
Wolff joined the team, founded in 2013 by Venturi Automobiles owner Gildo Pallanca Pastor and Hollywood heavyweight Leonardo DiCaprio, in 2018 as Team Principal.
“We have big ambitions for team; when I joined I could see potential and I believe this Formula E season we will see great progress.”
“While the pandemic threw us all a curveball, we have a new driver line-up and in Riyadh the clear ambition is very much to score points in every race – although podium is always the ideal goal.”
2021, says Wolff, will hold great promise for the world championship.
“This year we are super excited about the night races; when you have the lights reflecting off the car and the atmosphere that comes with av evening event it creates such a different spectacle.”
Whilst Wolff is expecting to see a “more restrained” event this year, due to social distances and crowd limitations, she is still expectant of a “fantastic event” – and one, she says, that will hopefully usher in a more live sporting events in 2021.
“When you think back of past events in Paris, in New York..the crowds and passion and adrenalin made for such brilliant events."
"I just hope in 2021 we can get that back and return to a sense of normality. We look forward to starting that in Saudi.”
Whilst in Riyadh, Wolff is also hopeful to meet rising Saudi racing talent, such as Reema Juffali, a Saudi Arabian professional racing care driver in Formula 4 and the first Saudi woman to hold a racing license, Wolff has helped mentor Juffali in the past.
“I try and be as helpful as I can – and help them avoid the same mistakes I did. One of my biggest passions is to help inspire a new generation and see more female success – both on and off the track."
"Of course, the advantage of motor racing is you are wearing a helmet - so actually you dont see the gender of the driver. Just the talent "