Spotlight on our staff on International Women's Day
On March 8th, Sauber Motorsport joins the world in celebrating International Women’s Day: we do so by sharing the stories of five of our female employees who, in different roles, contribute every day to the growth and the success of our company.
Tatiana Calderón, test driver
“I have always dreamed to become the best I could be and to reach the highest level of motorsport, Formula One. “
Tatiana traces the beginning of her passion for motorsport to the tender age of nine, when she started doing karting alongside her sister Paula after finishing school. Ever since, the dream has been to become a Formula One driver, following in the footsteps of her fellow Colombian, Juan Pablo Montoya. The former Williams and McLaren man represented an idol for Tatiana, but when her career took her to Europe in 2012, it was racer Susie Wolff who caught the youngster’s eye. Susie was living proof for Tatiana that a career in the racing world was possible for women as well.
“I never thought that my gender could get in the way of my racing. I love what I do, I am an extremely competitive person, I want to improve myself every day, and I want to fight for my goals and dreams – and being a girl has nothing to do with it. That is what I do every day. I always keep believing in myself.“
“Girls and women can achieve everything they set their mind to it, if they want it strongly enough – in every aspect of life, not only in sports or racing. So long as you do anything to make it happen, go out there and fight for your goals and dreams.”
Marialisa Ponzeveroni, Head of Aerodynamic Performance
“Whatever you do in life, you have to do it with passion.”
Marialisa comes from a family of engineers – her father runs a company in his job as a civil engineer and her grandfather was an engineer as well. With this heritage running in the family, she felt a career in the field was almost a given – and yet, a love of fluid dynamic physics developed in high school led her to aerodynamics as her choice for university. Marialisa, however, is not the only woman blazing a trail in motorsport in her family. Her grandmother would have studied engineering as well had a course been available in her native Sardinia, and her scientific mind was accompanied by prowess behind the wheel – she raced FIAT 500 Topolinos in the 30s.
Passing away when Marialisa was 13, her grandmother left her a bracelet in her will, a family heirloom destined to make an impression on the young girl. It featured two gold coins – the first a prize from a motor race, the second a Swiss coin. It is almost as fate was leading Marialisa to work in motorsport for a Swiss-based team…
“My mom is an inspiration for me: she is a strong and independent person who takes life in a positive way and likes to laugh a lot. I also really admire Robert Kubica, not just for his driving skills but for his strength and determination to come back to Formula One after his accident.”
Ruth Buscombe – Senior Strategy Engineer
“F1 drivers don’t care if a woman or a chipmunk calls the shots.”
Ruth strikes an immediately recognisable figure on the pit wall of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN. The British engineer was introduced to the sport by her father and states she “wanted to be a Formula One engineer ever since she realised she couldn’t be a princess!”
Dreams of tiaras and gowns banished from her thoughts, she pursued a career in motorsport with single-minded clarity, graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering and following up with a Masters course specializing in the role of F1’s drag reduction systems. In itself, that was a challenge made even more daunting by being a girl.
“Every role model in motorsport was a man. At school, I had teachers trying to dissuade me from doing engineering – not because I wasn’t good at it, but because they were questioning whether I really wanted to be doing a men’s job.”
Having joined Sauber after stints at Ferrari and Haas, Ruth is thriving in her position, calling the strategy shots from the pit wall during races.
“No one at Sauber cares whether you are a man or a woman: all we care is working as a team and getting the best possible result.”
Lucia Conconi, Head of Vehicle Performance
“I am the black sheep of my family”
“I was the black sheep of my family”, says Lucia laughing, pointing out that nobody in her family ever did anything related with motorsport; “but now I am working in this world, they are showing some more interest in this topic.”
Lucia got addicted to cars since she was a kid: she remembers seeing a Lamborghini parked on the road and being fascinated by the Italian car’s shapes. The love for supercars led her to studying Aerodynamics and to finally discovering motorsport. The fast pace of the Formula One environment is what really draws her to this job – the quick changes that keep her on her toes. “During the season, the car changes so much and you do so much development, so quickly – it’s always different and challenging in a different way.”
Lucia never let her gender come in the way of her passion. She remembers the wise words of a professor while in university – “He said: ‘look, men also face problems here in university.’ This opened my eyes and let me realise I shouldn’t think in terms of gender, but just focus on following my passion. It is not easy for anybody; the obstacles are part of your journey.”
Anita Audemars-Zimmerli, HR and CEO Assistant
One of the most admired figures in the company, Anita will celebrate her 25th year working for the Sauber Group in 2020. Back when she started, the ranks of employees in Hinwil were much thinner: when she saw the job announcement as accountant assistant at Sauber Group, she applied. Motorsports had never been one of her hobbies, but over the years this has changed – the Sauber Group became her second home. As natural in a very small team and in those times, she had to deal with many duties and roles, including team support: long and unsociable hours that she would spend with her children at the team factory.
Travelling with the test team as a timekeeper, she became almost like a mother to the travelling crew and to many of the young drivers that made it through the ranks at Sauber – names like Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, and a certain Kimi Räikkönen among others…
Throughout these years, Anita forged many important bonds with the leading names within the team and is now working closely with Team Principal, Fred Vasseur. However, fondest memory is of Peter Sauber, a man she describes as “The General” – a strict but good-natured and generous person, who would support his crew and demand the best from them at the same time.