In a male dominated field like motorsports, seeing women being part of the teams is pivotal. While more and more of them are in Communications and PR, having a female F1 Race Engineer is still an exception. Ruth Buscombe is one of them.
Her passion for motorsport comes from her father, a McLaren fan. At 11, her dreams of being a princess changed, in favour of racing.
“I went from wanting to be a princess to wanting to be a Formula One engineer, there was no happy middle.”
She loved solving math problems at school and when she realised one could do math in sport and competition, that was it. This doesn’t mean it was easy. People were always questioning if she really wanted to be an engineer, a career that always was and still is dominated by men. For her it was fundamental to know that her math teacher’s daughter was studying engineering at Cambridge. Representation is important.
“She was my hero — I was like ‘if she can do it then I can do it'”
Later on, she went to study Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering at Cambridge University. She graduated with distinction with a dissertation about DRS, written in conjunction with the FIA and supervised by Tony Purnell, the ex Jaguar TP.
Being an Engineer at Ferrari, Haas and Alfa Romeo
Right after the end of her brilliant academic career, Ruth Buscombe started working in Ferrari as Simulations Development Engineer. This means she was involved in the development of vehicle performance simulation tools. Two years later she stepped up, becoming Race Strategist for Felipe Massa and then Kimi Raikkonen.
After a short spell as Trackside Strategy Engineer for Haas, in 2016 she went to Sauber to be Head of Race Engineer.
With time, Ruth Buscombe became one of the recognisable figures of the paddock, joining the Dare to be Different campaign and the FIA Girls on Track as ambassador. Both of the initatives aim at showing young girls that there’s a place for them in F1.
Where is she going now?
At the end of the 2023 season, Ruth announced she was leaving Sauber, ready for the next chapter.
Of course many people are wondering what team she’ll join next.
The most consistent rumor wants her to be back racing with Ferrari. This could mean she could work again with Fred Vasseur, who has been Team Principal of Sauber until last year.
The Italian team is going through a renovation project with the Frenchman overseeing everything, and he has already left Race Strategist Inaki Rueda at home in favour of Ravin Jain.
Also, many hope to have Charles Leclerc as first driver of Ferrari, which is why people are hoping to see Buscombe on the pitwall. She worked with the Monegasque in his rookie season, back in 2018.
There are few women working in F1 and even fewer are engineers like Ruth Buscombe.
This is why initiatives like Girls On Track or Dare to Be Different are so important. We need to change the role of women in the so-called male-dominated industries and show their work to the world.
During the 2023 season, there were no women representing teams on the podiums. Watching a woman up there, drenched in champagne, with a trophy on her hands is incredibly powerful. Because we know there are a lot of incredible women contributing to the success of this or that team but they stay behind the scenes.
We need to see them upfront, celebrating, taking decisions. Showing everyone, young girls especially, that F1 can be a place for them, too.