There are 7 billion people in this world, and there just 22 grand prix drivers. Out of the 22, there isn’t one female racing driver. This does make you think, why aren’t there any women Formula One racers?
Sexism in motorsport is not new, in fact, it’s it is as old as the sport itself. In a male dominated field of sport such as racing, women, as a group haven’t made their mark yet. And in F1, there has been just one female racing driver to have scored a single point – Lella Lombardi, an Italian racer who raced for March-Ford in 1974 – 75, scored half a point after finishing a good 7th position at the Spanish Grand Prix of 1975.
Though the breakthrough for a woman was first given to Maria Teresa de Filippis way back in 1958, she failed to impress as much as Lombardi did. But yet, Maria, the former Maserati driver will be remembered as a pioneer for women in motorsport because of her courage and strength to venture into a sport like Formula One in the age when women were trained to do nothing else but housekeep.
In the recent past, Maria di Villota tested Marussia’s car but unfortunately an accident ended not only her formula one test, but also her motorsport career. That accident saw her lose her right eye but she is still actively participating in the encouragement of women in motorsport.
Today though, we have one more woman driver in Formula One – Susie Wolff, testing for Williams. She made her official test debut at Silverstone this July while testing Pirelli’s new tire allocations. Fighting the prejudices of those who believe women will never make it to F1, Susie posted a competitive laptime of 1.35.09, just 0.4s shy of Juncadella’s time with the same car. Her schedule for the upcoming races and seasons is up in the air, but hopefully we’re set to see a female racer in Formula One in the near future.
Coming to why we never see a woman racing driver in higher levels of motor racing like F1, or even MotoGP, is simply because they haven’t yet been given a chance – contradicting what Sir Stirling Moss said, which caused a lot of eruptions from the women racing drivers including Wolff.
“I think they have the strength, but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel,” said the 16 time winner, Moss to BBC Radio.
The ultimate reasoning would be the inability of women to compete. That is probably why we don’t see many succeeding in this category of sport. But yet, there are women who’ve completely proved otherwise of what Moss stated. Danica Patrick, is an IndyCar race winner, fighting wheel-to-wheel against all the men in her category. She is also a 2013 Daytona 500 pole-sitter, which heightened her respect in motorsport.
Thanks to drivers like Susie Wolff and Danica Patrick, who proved that women are no lesser than men, very slowly, companies like Red Bull have added a female driver to their driver development program. Beitske Visser, the new girl in the team has already won 2 races from her ADAC formula masters series.
The only clear, valid disadvantage that women have against men is the sponsorship. “Why would a male brand choose to use a female to target their male audience?” Zoe Wenham, the 18 year old 2012 GT4 runner up, and already a 2 time winner this year said.
On the 11th of December 2009, at the World Motor Sport Council of the FIA, the creation of a Women in Motorsport Commission was voted through under the presidency of Jean Todt. The Women and Motorsport aims to encourage and promote more women in the field of racing thereby creating a sports culture.
Today, we have women at all different positions in various fields. Even in F1, there is Monisha Kaltenborn, who is currently the team principal of Sauber. And Claire Williams, who will soon be taking over the Williams team. Steadily women are entering into the actual field of play- racing and their opportunities are widening, so in the next decade or in the near future, let’s hope to see a woman racing driver making the headlines.
When it comes to racing, it doesn’t matter if a driver has long hair or short, blue eyes or green – everybody is equal under the helmet. And Sir Stirling, that may make you take back your words.