The World Endurance Championship (WEC) mixed some history with change at the 6 Hours of Silverstone last weekend. Announcing that the cars would make a “Le Mans” start for the entire WEC season, WEC CEO Gerard Neveu also had another announcement to make:
“From Silverstone next week, you will see that for any race we will do – no grid girls like in the past. For me that is the past. The condition of women is a little bit different now.”
Bernie Ecclestone, on the other hand, seemed to have drawn his inspiration from a chocolate ad campaign with his announcement for Formula 1. “It’s not for girls”
New Lotus cash supplier Carmen Jorda (above) was even rolled out for some quotes supporting the notion that a separate series should be introduced exclusively for women.
“Nowadays you see women competing in their own championships in most sports: football, tennis, skiing, you name it. In none of these championships are men and women competing against each other. So the question is: Why not have a F1 world championship for women?” Jorda also claimed that women would never beat men in F1 “because of the physical issue.”
Where to start on this…
1) Yes there are men and women categories in other sports. Other more physical sports. At 17, Max Verstappen has proven that age is no barrier to Formula 1. Power steering has probably eased the transition. If age is no barrier then why should sex be a barrier? If anything surely there is some advantage to be gained in a sport where weight is more critical than strength.
2) Formula 1 is struggling to keep enough cars on the grid as it is. The notion of a Women’s Formula 1 Championship is a falsehood. The money isn’t there for something like that to exist.
3) The restriction in the Super Licence points system means that as it stands now the current female aspirants would only be granted a licence under exceptional circumstances Appendix L, for drivers that do not meet the normal criteria. The drivers would then have to complete 300k of testing in a current car. It wouldn’t be a Women’s Formula 1 Championship. It would be GP2 for women only. An interest generating novelty. A side act to the main event, where women weren’t allowed.
Motorsport is a male dominated arena. It is not however a male exclusive arena. Nor should it ever be. Not at a time when so many women now work throughout the industry. Attempt, on social media, to say that Motorsport should celebrate the fact that it is a sport where, in theory at least, men and women can compete equally and you’ll find plenty of detractors.
You’ll also find some female racing drivers airing an opinion on the matter that is at odds with that of Carmen Jorda. Women who compete against men on a regular basis and want nothing more than the opportunity to make it to the top. Two of those are F3 driver for Carlin Tatiana Calderon and VLN Endurance racer Michela Cerruti.
When even the drivers are calling #bullshit on the idea it may be time to think of something else.
In an era where pay drivers are ever more important to Formula 1 teams, the window of opportunity for talented drivers becomes even smaller. If Formula 1 was genuine in its suggestion that a platform was needed for women then surely a Red Bull style driver academy should be set up to ensure that talented female drivers received the coaching and opportunity needed to make it to Formula 1.
Failing that, they could always just look to the United States for inspiration, and no I don’t mean Danica Patrick in NASCAR. (They couldn’t afford her) I mean the driver who finished fourth driving for Andretti Autosport in Indy Car last time out. Simona de Silvestro.
I really do hope that Michael Andretti secures the funding required to get Simona back in the car and even more so I hope that there are people out there willing to give her and others more than a token test drive. (Yes Sauber & Lotus, I’m looking at you)
There are women out there who are capable of competing in a modern Formula 1 car. All they need is financial backing and the right opportunity.
No separate class required.
Until next time,