Women on the F1 podium

Ginny Williams on the podium at the British GP 1986 © Sutton Motorsport Images
Ginny Williams on the podium at the British GP 1986 © Sutton Motorsport Images

While it is great to see Red Bull Racing putting Gill Jones, the team’s head of trackside electronics, on the podium in Bahrain, it is NOT the first time that a woman has been on the podium, receiving the trophy for the winning Constructor. Back in 1986, Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet finished 1-2 in the British GP at Brands Hatch. The race was held on July 13, four months after team boss Frank Williams was paralysed in a road accident in France and the his wife Ginny Williams was on the podium to receive the trophy on his behalf. Things were less organised in those days but anyone who remembers that day will recall what an emotional moment it was.

35 thoughts on “Women on the F1 podium

  1. Joe, good points. I thought it was curious that they put a woman on the podium in the politically and socially challenged Bahraini state? But I found the drivers comments especially odd, not least Vettel going on about is being nice having a woman on the podium, “Gill does our electronics… and looks after the boys!”. EH?!?

  2. I’m just glad that the chances of Flavio Briatore being up there are now zero.

    Now if we could only get them to shorten the German and Austrian anthems, or at least play more than 3 bars of God Save The Queen when a British driver in a British car wins.

  3. Joe, I think the really significant thing is the context: both temporal and socio-political. Putting a woman on the podium in ’86 in GB is great, but a bit of a yawner. Thatcher (for better or worse, was already a reality; Sally Ride and Sandra Day O’Conner had already rocked it in The States).

    BUT, putting a woman on the podium in Bahrain!? How many days after Stirling Moss and “Crumpet-Gate”?! With Bernie, in the face of social unrest and general oppression, lapping up the Bahraini oil money? I give RBR a lot of crap, but if they put as much thought into managing their drivers’ personalities as they did the decision to put Jones up there. . . .

  4. My cynical side did think it was a stunt in response to Sirling Moss’ recent comments. I wonder if Bernie had something to do with it. Have we ever had someone a “lowly” as a head of trackside electronics collecting the constructors trophy? Did she do some particularly good electronics that day?

    More shocking was the refusal of whoever handed over the trophy to shake her hand.

      1. “Have we ever had someone a “lowly” as a head of trackside electronics collecting the constructors trophy? Did she do some particularly good electronics that day?”

        Peter is right, there hasn’t been obscure team personnel roles up on the podium to accept constructor’s honors. The Top Dog Race engineers of the winning driver yes ofcourse have been, but not an electronics, logistics, trackside aerodynamicist, or any trackside mechanics for that matter.

        Her appointment to accept the trophy for sure was a political ploy especially in Bahrain, coupled with all the news about women in Formula 1 lately. There was much hidden agenda with her being up there, no doubt about it.

    1. While I don’t agree with it, isn’t one of the stricter interpretations of Islamic tenants that men don’t touch women in public? It’s probably a sign of progress that those guys didn’t up and walk off the stage. I’m sure they knew that they were being tweaked and played it cool.

      1. FYI: Orthodox Jews (and some Rabbi’s) are not supposed to shake women’s hands either so it just isn’t an Islamic ‘thing’.

  5. Hi Joe, FASTDAD here. I ordered Ginny Williams book “A Different Kind of Life” ( I also have your book, Grand Prix Saboteurs a very good book) from a book store in England. I’m in the Midwest in the States, took 6 weeks to receive it. Wow, what a brutally honest book Ginny Williams put together. It’s hard to imagine the emotions & difficulties she went through. She absolutely lays it all out there in the book. It leaves one to wonder how Frank Williams is getting along with out her. It also leaves many questions. Amazing person, Ginny Williams. Keep up the good work Joe.

    1. A few copies of Ginny’s book are coming up on that well known auction website. I was lucky enough to be in the grandstand opposite the photo that day – god i’m getting old. Remember, Keke having a smoke, sat against the track side of the pit wall before the restart and Gerhart pretending to throw Keke’s crash helmet into the crowd. Not a good day for Laffite but a good one for Nige.

  6. Shame that the man who presented the trophy didn’t want to congratulate her, he was more busy looking in the camera.

  7. Mrs. Williams was there because of who her husband was.
    Ms. Jones was there because of her accomplishments.
    Not the same thing.

    1. I disagree. Ginny Williams was a key figure in the history of Williams and deserves more respect than you have given her.

      1. I can see that I should have been more careful in my choice of words. Please forgive. I certainly never intended to dismiss Mrs Williams as a tag-along spouse. My only point is that Ms Jones was there because of her work as a professional, irrespective of what her personal relationships might be.

        I assume that Mrs. Williams would not have been there if not for her personal ties to the team owner. If I am correct about this, this does not dismiss the high regard in which she is held. I can imagine that spouses of some other owners would not have been welcomed in the same way Mrs Williams was. What little I know about her indicates that her character, temperament, and personal nature left quite an impression on those who knew her.

        I assume her contributions were more on the human side that the technical side. This is not to diminish her importance to the team, it is only to say that it’s not the same thing as having a woman there who fulfills a functional role for the team.

  8. In the US broadcast, one of our commentators immediately (either David Hobbs or Steve Matchett) noted that, while great to see, that Ginny Williams had been on/accepted the trophy long ago. Not the biggest deal, but it’s pretty pathetic that news outlets around the world, from Reuters to someguysblog.info, all got their facts wrong. Well, splashy headlines have long been valued more than getting the facts right.

  9. Woman on the rostrum !

    What everyone has forgot is that back in 1930′s
    a Czech lady, Elizabeth Junek, has competed in GP races in her husband’s Bugatti (she was faster then him 🙂
    She come 2nd in a Targa Florio, just about the most long and dangerous race / circuit there ever was…!
    How about that Sir Sterling Moss ?
    Compared to that, current F1 is a walk in a park.
    one time F3 driver

  10. Woman on the rostrum !

    What everyone has forgot is that back in 1930′s
    a Czech lady, Elizabeth Junek, has competed in GP races in her husband’s Bugatti (she was faster then him 🙂
    She come 2nd in a Targa Florio, just about the longest and most dangerous race / circuit there ever was…!
    Compared to that, current F1 is a walk in a park.

    How about that Sir Sterling Moss ?
    one time F3 driver

    1. The pre-World Championship era was not really under discussion. One day I will relate the story of meeting Junek when I was reporting at Brno, in the days when there was still an Iron Curtain…

      1. The ‘discussion’ in the press is: Are women (and Mrs Wolf in particular) capable of competing in F1. Mrs Junek is a proof that at least one could compete with the top men.
        Please DO tell us of meeting her.
        I believe there is a book about her, I will try to get hold of it.

        1. Right, there is, or rather was, a Czech book which is a compilation of 11 authors commenting or reporting on Elisabeth Junek.
          It’s currently not available from booksellers 😦

  11. Joe
    Am in hospital at moment. When I get home I will check. I have a tinge of suspicion that it could be the presentation of 100 bottles of change by Viscountess Lady (Bubbles) Rothermere because the chap in the glasses is sales director of Daily Mail. Forgive me if I’m wrong.
    Best regards

  12. The good ‘ol days – when the winning driver got to kiss the Beauty Queen… Guess we’re not that liberated anymore. Now, what happens if a female driver makes it to Formula 1 and that female driver finishes in the top 3… What countries/cultures are going to have a problem with that scenario?

  13. This was the first F1 race I attended! The ‘first’ start was aborted as Mansell’s car suffered what I believe was a broken cv joint and hardly got off the line, causing a huge crash through the rest of the field. Hence a restart, which he went onto win in the then ‘back-up’ car. Remember it like yesterday! Love the your site Joe – read it everyday.

  14. I thought we regularly saw women on the podium handing out the trophies? I hope I’m not solely thinking of all the pit babes who line the way to the podium. Didn’t really stand out to me as anything out of the ordinary – but was good to see her there accepting the team trophy. RB electronics must have a hard job trying to work in the spaces Newey allocates them.. I was more surprised to see how many women work in F1 when seeing snippets of team’s workplaces and that was a delightful surprise.

    There’s no doubting that Ginny was integral to the team, going off what Joe has written – indeed the team was only successful from 1979 onwards. So that’s 10 years of toil and struggling to survive financially before that point.

    We almost saw Peter/Monisha on the podium last year, but I doubt we’ll see Monisha or Claire this year. Hopefully 2014 onwards!

    1. Also – Red Bull have won half the races in this current rule set – not surprising to think that all the department heads have probably been up there by now – along with all the management and chief mechanics!

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