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Quick Femme: Vivian Siu Turns into First Feminine Components 4 Driver to Full the Macau Grand Prix

Quick Femme: Vivian Siu Turns into First Feminine Components 4 Driver to Full the Macau Grand Prix

After a successful run at the Macau Grand Prix, Vivian Siu tells us how she went from full-time banker to becoming the first female Formula 4 driver ever to complete the race.

A year ago, Vivian Siu was a full-time banker at UBS, looking for a new hobby to keep herself entertained during what little hours she had off work. Three months ago, she became the first female driver to ever complete the Macau Grand Prix in the Formula 4 category, driving upwards of 200km/h around one of the most challenging circuits on the motorsports calendar. So how did she do it?

For a start, she’s been passionate about cars ever since she was an infant. “Everything with a steering wheel, I’d just run towards, even before I could talk,” she tells me with a grin. “I loved listening to the sound of engines so much I’d even sit in the front of minibuses as a kid. I used to sit in the back of my dad’s car, and I’d tell him ‘Come on, you’re being overtaken by other cars!’”

Despite this, becoming a racer remained a faraway dream for her, not only because of motorsport’s niche status in Hong Kong and the expense involved, but also because there’s very little room for women in a largely male-dominated domain.

“I never really thought I’d be a racer,” she admits. “It felt unreachable. When I said I wanted to be a racer, it was like a kid saying they wanted to be an astronaut. It was always in the back of my head, but it was something so far off that I never thought I’d be able to execute.”

But after living what she calls an unconventional life where she’s become comfortable being uncomfortable, she took a leap of faith and decided to try karting out on weekends just across the border when she had time off from her job at UBS.

“I only began looking into racing after I started working, because then I had the funds to do it,” she explains. “I wanted to explore a new hobby, so I went to a karting track in Shenzhen. There was a bunch of guys there from a racing team called T-1, and we connected immediately. They offered to teach me how to drive and invited me to all their events, and that’s how it all started.”

Unfortunately, shortly after she dipped her toe into the sport, Covid arrived and borders closed, leaving her with no access to the kart tracks and her new racing friends. Once the borders re-opened at long last in 2023, she dived straight back in.

“I rushed back to the track to resume karting,” Siu says. “Eventually, T-1 invited me to a Formula 4 experience day, and I said, ‘Why not?’ The expectation was to just cruise around and take it easy, since it was my first time in a formula [open-wheel] car, but after three sessions, they were shocked at how well I did. A month later, I had my first Formula 4 race.”

After joining the Chinese F4 Championship, she went on to compete in the F4 South East Asia Championship, participation in which being a prerequisite to admittance to the Macau Grand Prix. On just her third race weekend in the category, Siu stood on the podium twice and took home a personal best of 17 points, quickly climbing the ranks through sheer talent.

Then came Macau, the big moment she’d been waiting for and, unsurprisingly, the pressure was immense. “There’s no room for error on a street circuit,” Siu tells me. “You brake a little too hard or you step on the throttle too early and you’re in the wall. I’ve never been under that much pressure before.”

As it turned out, the 2023 Macau’s F4 Grand Prix boasted the most female contestants in the event’s history, with F1 Academy prodigy Bianca Bustamante and Formula Regional Japan champion Miki Koyama lining up alongside Siu. Both professionals, the two other drivers have extensive racing experience and properly financed teams, so understandably Siu felt out of place. 

“I’ve spoken to both of them, and they’ve been doing this since they were three years old,” Siu says, laughing. “They’re professional racers, while I have a full-time desk job. To be in the same race with them was already amazing enough.”

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Holding on to this try-my-best attitude, Siu slammed the throttle as the lights turned green and roared away. Koyama had an exceptional start with Bustamante behind, but as they turned into the Lisboa corner, the Japanese racer lost her rear grip and ended up against the barrier. With little time to react, Bustamante ran into the back of her competitor’s car, resulting in a DNF for both drivers on lap one.

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As the old Formula 1 adage goes, “to finish first, first you must finish,” and Siu’s ability to remain calm and consistent set her apart from her more experienced peers. After 12 clean circumnavigations of the circuit that saw her time improving lap after lap, the Hong Kong racer crossed the finish line to become the first woman to complete
a formula race in Macau in the event’s 70-year history.

“It was a moment of disbelief for me,” she confesses. “The entire year just seems like a dream. I’m still trying to process it all.”

With a handful of successful races now under her belt, Siu hopes to continue pursuing the dream, though she’s fully aware of her age and the late start she had. Sponsorship is also an issue, especially in a city like Hong Kong, where motorsport remains a niche. But regardless of whether she’ll get to jump back into the cramped seat of a Formula 4 car any time soon, Siu hopes to raise more awareness and drive greater interest in racing, especially among women. 

“I want to introduce motor racing to more women in Asia and make the sport more accessible,” she says. “Yes, the F1 Academy is doing a great job in the West, but Asia is still quite behind on this. Honestly, I find it quite shocking that the first ever woman to race in Chinese F4 was me – and I didn’t even grow up racing! Shouldn’t it be someone from that world?” 

Source: Prestige Online

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