Ladies around the world occasionally pause to ask the question; where are the female racing drivers? Formula One is one of the world’s leading sports, and there are participants and fans all over the planet, including no shortage of women – so why are we seeing such a lack actually racing? During the race over the Easter weekend, which I watched with my F1-addicted mechanic father, I pondered the topic aloud, only to be met with his own question “are women allowed to race?”
I can’t help but wonder if he had known the answer to this question when I was a child whether I would be racing alongside the men today, rather than sitting at a desk. The short answer is yes. In fact the F1 has no gender specifications in terms of become a championship driver and instead focuses on the license requirement (the FIA Super License). So long as you receive the Super License (accomplished by placing well in the Indy Racing League, GP2 series or one of the F3 championships) and are able to complete 300km of testing.
All you really need to worry about as a female driver is finding a team that will put you in their car. While it is true that equality is the standard thing for us in the modern world, the fact of the matter is that people will still doubt what has never succeeded. This means, as a female racing driver, it can be very difficult to find sponsors and teams that will take your efforts seriously. Even if you do, success is not promised. In more than sixty years there have been a grand total of five women racers that have made it to the point of entering a grand prix. Only three of which have qualified for the race.
There hasn’t been a female racer in the grand prix since 1992, when Amati failed to qualify in an MRD BT60B. However, while there have continued to be a variety of rumours surrounding how she came to participate in the race and whether or not she should have been able to compete in the qualifying, it is worth noting that Damon Hill raced in the same vehicle and struggled to qualify. This did lead to the general understanding that this was a relatively poor vehicle for the race.
Now, we have a new hope for a female racing driver. Why? This July we will see, for the first time in my lifetime, a woman participating the in the qualifying for the German Grand Prix, as well as at Silverstone. Get ready to say hello to Susie Wolff; the 31 year old female driver who will be receiving my full support this summer, and I certainly hope this will proceed better than previous years.
So why has it been so long? What has changed? Actually – it probably isn’t fair to blame anyone for the lack of female racers, except ourselves. All championship racers took an interest in driving and racing at a young age, some of them participated in rally races and other formulas during their earlier years, but a majority participated in karting championships as early as ten years old. Most of the female F1 drivers from the past came from wealthy families, where they could afford to participate in these activities from an early age. Most women don’t take much of an interest in racing or driving when they’re young — and most are not particularly mechanically aware, which can make the process more difficult — however this is something that we are all hoping will change.
Perhaps we will be listing Susie’s name alongside that of Lella Lombardi, who is currently the only woman to record a top-six finish in F1 after driving in the grand prix in 1976.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the lack of female driver in F1 and please, please share with us some of the fantastic women who race in other motorsport divisions.
Author Bio: Kate Critchlow is a young, but enthusiastic writer – passionate about automotive industries and racing. Kate currently writes for MJ Auto Salvage.