Can women be competitive in F1?

The news that Simona de Silvestro is hoping to land a seat in Formula 1 in 2015 is great news for the sport. The Swiss girl has done a great job in IndyCar in recent years and, of all the women racing at the moment, she probably has the best credentials, although one might argue that Danica Patrick still has a better record as she won an IndyCar race a few years back, before moving off to NASCAR. The key difference between the two is that De Silvestro finished on the podium in a street race, rather than on an oval. This means that she is competitive at a track where ability and physical strength are both important. It is often said that Patrick could not compete on street tracks because she was not strong enough. The question of whether she is good enough for F1 is yet to be addressed but it will be interesting to watch. Last year, her KV Technologies team-mate in Indycar, Tony Kanaan, said: “Simona brought a lot of spark and light into the team. I enjoy working with her. I have no problem teaching her whatever I can. I like to see this young girl that wants to do well, because that’s her opportunity. That obviously pushes me to my limit. I’m going to admit that she’s extremely fast. I said that even before she was my teammate, so I’m not trying to make any excuses.”
Kanaan is a former IndyCar champion and won the Indy 500 last year, so that is quite a recommendation.

Women Speed Queens in all women's race at Brooklands todayCan a woman make it in Formula 1? It is a fascinating question. Women have been racing from the very start of the sport. There were quite a lot at Brooklands, such as the colliery heiress Eileen Fountain (right), who became famous first as Mrs WB Scott and then later, after she remarried, as Mrs EM Thomas. In European terms the two best known were Eliška Khásová and Mariette Hélène
Delangle, known as Elizabeth Junek and “Helle Nice” respectively. Junek finished fourth on the Targa Florio and won her class in the German Grand Prix, a sports car race that year, in 1927. The following year she led the Targa Florio, ahead of the likes of Louis Chiron, Giuseppe Campari and Alberto Divo. Mechanical trouble meant she finished fifth. Helle Nice was anight club dancer and good time girl who managed to talk her way into racing and did well until a disastrous accident in Brazil in 1936.

After the World Championship began in 1950 the first woman to try to qualify for a Grand Prix was Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis. She took part in three races in 1958 and 1959 (failing to qualify for two others). She was never really on the pace of the men but she set the standard for those that followed.

The next was Lella Lombardi more than 15 years later. She competed in 12 races between 1974 and 1976 for the March, RAM and Williams teams. She finished sixth in the Spanish GP in 1975, but was awarded only half a point because the race did not go the full distance. She was the last to qualify for a race, the other three being Divina Galica, Desiré Wilson and Giovanna Amati. Wilson was unfortunate. She won three victories in the British F1 Championship, against some decent opposition, but failed to qualify for the British GP in 1980. Statistically that is the whole story, but it is often forgotten that she took part in the 1981 South African GP, qualifying 16th of 19 and ran competitively in the midfield before retiring. The race was later declared to be an non-championship race and so she lost that claim to fame.

Giovanna Amati made it into the top 10 on several occasions in Formula 3000 but never managed to qualify the Brabham F1 car on the three occasions she tried in 1992.

Some believe that women will never make it in F1 because of the need for considerable strength but others are not really convinced by that argument. Michele Mouton, the head of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, who won four World Rally Championship events in 1982 and finished runner-up in the title, not to mention winning the 1985 Pikes Peak hill climb, setting a new record, is not so sure. I interviewed her a couple of years ago on the subject and she said the following: “Can a girl get to Formula One? Certainly. If it is the right girl, with the right skills and the right opportunities,” she said. “Women do not often get a chance with a top car; they do not get sufficient testing. You need all of that but I am sure that a girl can do that. The big question is whether a woman can win in Formula 1 and I am not sure about that. That is a different question. Men and women are different. We are not built the same way and I think the biggest difference is in terms of emotions and sensibilities. I never had a problem going at top speed with a 300 ft drop right next to my car, but on a race track when you are doing 300 kmh down a straight you feel more exposed, or at least I did. I think that women have a stronger sense of self-preservation than men. It is an instinct that is more developed in the woman than in the man. And I think that is important when you come to the last tenth of a second. A woman can work up to the top level but men will just do it. Boom. Flat out. I hope that I am wrong in my analysis and that it is not really like that, but that is what I think.”

There is no question that F1 would love to have a competitive woman driver, which would be a huge promotional advantage, but the sport knows that if that is to happen the woman must earn her spurs.

Is Simona the one to do it?

208 thoughts on “Can women be competitive in F1?

        1. Get real. Girl is applied to many ages. You are stuck on PC that you miss the point. The point is: is she good enough, not whether she is called girl, woman or female.

            1. Yet more PC drivel… Get into the real world. If women/girls are good enough for F1 then they will prove it. I hope they do. I want to see it happen. How does this make me patronising? I just hate nanny state policemen, who have their heads stuck up their rear ends thinking that by using different words they are somehow sensitive new age guys. Such bull…

        2. We had a black world champion in 2008. He’s called Lewis Hamilton, he still races too, you should look him up, I think he has Twitter! :-p

          1. Oh god, now you’ve done it! You should have said “non-reflective”. All the screaming political correctionists and going to be up in arms…

            BTW, this response is something called humour. That is when one says something and other people smile or even laugh.

            [No sweet cuddly animals were killed or disfigured in the making if this comment.]

            1. Joe, I’m surprised by the number of bleeding hearts which occupy an opinionated blog. I appreciate your forthright rumblings, free from the constraints of any kind of commercial influence. But From now on, to save the feelings of the more sensitive readers, perhaps refer to all women in Motor sport as “Goddess whose stature and age are above the humble denomination of girl/woman/lady or otherwise.”

              Also when referring to any driver, please reference each ones cup size, so it’s not seen as sexist when discussing the goddess drivers please.

              I believe Sergio Perez has the biggest Bra at the moment and that put him out of favour in Woking!

  1. Just read the wiki entry for Helle Nice, a racer I’d not heard of before. What a remarkable and tragic life. Thank you, sir, for today’s history lesson.

  2. Driver weight is becoming increasingly important in F1’s current era. Marcus Ericsson recently commented that “Three kilograms around a lap is a tenth of a second”.

    That emerging emphasis could really benefit female drivers when teams factor all driver parameters into the equation which decides who gets to drive their racing cars.

  3. With respect to Michele Mouton, her claims about women are hardly founded in “analysis”. That is just her gut opinion and I highly doubt anything resembling analysis went into it.

    Quite honestly, her statements bears a disturbing resemblance to things that were said before Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball.

    Time and time again, women have shown the ability to perform the same tasks as men, even when people like Mouton said their “analysis” proved they couldn’t, so why are we still even debating this?

    1. @RonnyRocket
      I think Michele Mouton is right. I’ve heard this argument before too, that women are more cautious and, as Mouton said, have a stronger self preservation or a “gotta be careful” instinct.

      But if what Mouton says is true, women would need to compete in a separate top league motorsports competition like they do in the other sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer, athletics, etc. I mean, if it does get proven that there is a significant difference between men and women when it comes to their inbuilt mental framework or instinct what’s the point of expecting to see them compete with and win against men? It does not seem to make sense for me.

      On the other hand, I do want to see women race in top flight racing cars such as F1, IndyCars and sports prototypes. Why not have a separate championship for women. Now I am just presenting a theory…I know there are financial issues involved plus the question that would there be enough capable women drivers to fill the grid?

      But separate top level racing championships for women would certainly more and more women to the sport. People say that women are successful in every sport, then why not motorsport? That’s a grossly invalid and irrelevant argument because in other sports women compete in a separate league with other women, not against men. That’s how they are successful. Even golf is played that way. Then why do we expect men and women to compete in the same league as men in motorsport?

        1. Maybe, but it was said by the most successful female motorsport driver in history… You’d think she might have given it a fair bit of thought.

        2. From a separate world, there have been arguments that if there were more women working in banking and finance, the 2007-09 banking crisis may not have happened. Of course, due to women being naturally more risk averse.

          Banks are now making concerted efforts to get more women onto the trading floor – not to boost “diversity” stats, but because in the long term they believe it will make them safer and boost their bottom line.

          There will always be outliers and exceptions to the rule, just like not every man is a testosterone-fueled meat head. But generally, I think it is fair to say women take less risks, and I’m sure there would be a strong amount of research supporting this.

          So I think there will always be *less* women in motorsport, but currently it is more down to

          1. Whoops!

            So I think there will always be *less* women in motorsport, but currently it is more down to cultural bias towards discouraging girls and women from an interest in motorsport. This will change, and we will see more female interest, but it will likely happen slowly.

      1. Sportswomen are more cautious? Go watch women compete in the skeleton and then tell me they’re cautious or haven’t the balls.

      2. That is very interesting re a female Motorsport class. I had never thought of it that way and the more you think about it the more it makes sense. But like you said, the numbers would be hard to fill so perhaps something like formula e for girls. *ducks for cover.

        1. @Simon R

          Thanks for that response. I had been wondering why people never talked about this and was waiting so long for someone to respond to my comment… 🙂 Maybe the reason Joe suggested in his reply is why there have not been any developments in this women;s league concept…

          Besides, the FIM Motocross Championship has a separate championship for women, or at least it did back in 2011…(haven’t been following it now).

    2. Watch the downhill ski racers, the “females” are not holding anything back, there is no lack of courage or commitment.

  4. Given the same opportunitys to develop skills and a reasonable car I think a woman could be successful in F1.
    Women may not have the peak strength of a man but studies show woman may have better endurance.

  5. Michele’s “…the last tenth of a second…” comment is telling. Without, I trust, being simplistic (and certainly not sexist), it seems that the males’ risk taking instinct is, normally, greater than that of females.

    Perhaps the key word here is ‘normally’. I hope so. I would love to see Simona de Silvestro operating at the very highest level in Formula One.

  6. It would be good for F1 if we could get back to a business model where the best drivers are in all or most of the seats, be they men or women, as opposed to those with the largest financial backing.

    It would also help if an F1 driver had actually won an automobile race before making it to the top, unlike say Danica Patrick who had not won a single automobile race of any type, in any category, including years in Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic, prior to her elevation to Indy Car.

    I hope we do get a woman in F1, but I hope it is for the right reasons and not just “marketing”.

    1. I think that you are somewhat naive to think that seats were always awarded purely on talent – the history of the pay driver in the sport is extremely extensive and goes right back to the very start of the sport.

      Asides from that, at what arbitrary point do you define a driver to be talented enough to make it into F1?

      1. I hedged with “most” for precisely the reason you cite. At what arbitrary point? I’ll start with having won an automobile race in a junior category.

  7. Compete? That’s a subjective term. Can they best men like the vet? No. Evolution has created them for different things. However There are women who race in far more demanding sports than F1. Jenny timmouth is one who races superbikes at the BSB and will be racing at the TT this year. Riding a superbike round the TT is perhaps the most demanding job in Motorsport. Perhaps maybe a sidecar at the TT might actually be worse, again there are women that both ride and passenger on the F2’s at the TT and on short circuits on the monster F1 sidecars. And that is without doubt the most demanding job in sport. Being a passenger of a F1 sidecar takes massive massive strength And endurance. But it is a few very very special women who can. In general the man is prepared to risk more, is stronger and more aggressive. It would be great for the sport tho!!!! I sexy bird being there and maybe battering the egos if a few!!!! Brill!!!!

    1. Possibly ‘new F1’ is more about gentleness than guts…
      I think that last tenth is now in the brain, not in the balls…

    2. I doubt that racing at the TT is as physically demanding as driving an F1 car. Bikes have no downforce and just can’t exert the same cornering and braking forces as cars, let alone F1 cars. F1 drivers may work sitting (almost lying!) down, but they’re pulling 4-5g for large parts of each lap in cockpit temperatures of up to 50C.

      My wife, lovely as she is, is not particularly big or strong, and she spent 2 years as a F1 sidecar passenger albeit it at a lower level of racing.

  8. Absolutely zero reason why they can’t be. I’m disappointed at Mouton’s statement, to be honest.

    There are plenty of women out there that are physically better conditioned, mentally stronger, and mentally sharper than a lot of the drivers on the F1 grid, they’re just are in different sports and careers. There are female Red Arrows pilots! I’m constantly astonished this is even a topic of debate.

    Fine, men may be *more likely* to have these qualities, but they don’t have a monopoly on them.

    1. Enjoy watching the women’s hockey @ the olympics and women’s football. I’ll stick with the mens version thanks. The male physique allows a different type of performance you may prefer the female version. The relevance of this comment is that difference you may observe in these sports is very likely to be present in the high g force environment of F1.

      1. I’m not convinced by that argument. They’re not comparable sports to F1.

        As for a working in an extreme high g-force environment: when supplied with the same equipment as men, US military research has shown that women can endure the same G-Forces, for the same length of time, as men: “There was no significant gender differences in 5-9G simulated air combat manoeuvre endurance times [or tolerance]”.

        Given that girls perform just as well in junior karting, it’s obviously not a mental aptitude / reaction-time issue either. It’s simply because there are less participants outside junior levels…

        1. Upper body strength, men naturally possess it while a woman carries more of her strength in the legs (narrow shoulders, less arm strength) . A gruelling dehydrating high g force grand prix – i.e Singapore where the men are almost passing out would in my opinion be something to consider here. (Jets are a lot cooler environments)

          Joe’s question was can a woman be competitive in F1, not can a woman simply drive an F1 car – furthermore I could be wrong here but I think his overall point is can women in general compete in F1 not is there one woman on the planet that could. I think it’s going to be a hell of a long time before theres a female F1 champion and that is due to performance not any kind of discriminatory excuse making.

          1. Power steering and no servo assisted brakes although assisted by g-force. Surely this levels the playing field then….

    2. Or, more accurately, there was one female Red Arrows pilot who quit because she was unable to cope with the loss of two colleagues in quick succession. She now flies a desk.

  9. There is a very interesting TFL podcast in which Peter Windsor talks about this very topic with Luca Baldiserri (head of young driver program @ Ferrari) and his point is that women will never be able to be as good a racing driver as a men because of their ‘natural’ ability to give birth whereby it is important to stress that he makes his point in a non-sexist manner

  10. Are you bored Joe? because this one will run and run…

    Ok I can’t resist – of course sooner or later we will surely have a competitive F1 female driver – I accept Micheles comments about them perhaps being more ultimately ‘sensible’ than the boys but perhaps that may be changing with the younger generation as she is from another (born 1951) era – and she’s done ok??

  11. I think that if we are to have a truly competitive female driver, or even multiple competitive female drivers across various championships, then more needs to be done to encourage women to get into motor-sport in the first place – as there would be if a nation was trying to get its citizens represented. One of the major factors holding the sport back in terms of its representation of gender is not so much the limitations of women – either physical or psychological – but rather the fact that the pool of female racing drivers is so much smaller compared to the male.

    If we think of how many drivers in general make it to F1 – and then think of how many drivers in general are women – then it is hardly surprising that females in F1 are few and far between and competitive females even more so (think of the small proportion of men who have made it into F1 and then gone on to be winners/podium finishers!).

    Do I think that there’s been a female driver who is clearly equal any of the great men of F1? I can’t be sure. But I see no reason why there couldn’t be one if the number of women coming into motor-sport increases drastically and the cream is allowed to rise to the top. Of course we might get lucky and get a female Senna from a small sample – but this seems unlikely.

  12. I’d expect a woman would be able to compete in the current F1 where drivers aren’t on the limit much. The necks are looking kind of scrawny these days, and who will ever forget Lewis Hamilton radioing that he couldn’t drive any slower. Let’s see what a woman can do, already.

  13. I hope Simona makes it. I think she is the best female racer out there.
    I watched Simona win at Trois Rivieres in the Atlantic series. Danica should have won a Nationwide race here in Montreal as well if some idiot hadn’t thrown his shoe on the track.

  14. Stirling Moss’ sister as well I believe in Rallying, I don’t see why not as recently brute strength has been replaced more with core strength and stamina strength etc and modern techniques could help this. Also being intrinsically lighter (I’m assuming) may offset any minor advantages men get. I know it’s motogp but I believe there is a woman rookie who did very well for herself in 1st year of moto3.

  15. It’s simple. If they can drive/race fast enough they can make it subject to the same caveats as the men ie budget etc.

  16. A massive part in women not being in F1 and having a very low percentage in other disciplines is down to women simply not being interested. From racing in karts you just have to look at the male/female ratio, there aren’t really any barriers at this level. If you do a season you will race against hundreds of males and perhaps 1 or 2 females so the odds are if out of 100 people you race one has a real talent that could go far, there is a 98% chance they will be male just based on the numbers so it is hardly any wonder. I just think most women aren’t interested in racing.

    1. It’s hardly their fault for not being interested in racing.

      It’s increasingly the case that participating in kart racing from childhood is important – and that means parents will have to put more girls in karts before we start getting a decent pool of female racing drivers. At that age it’s more up to the parents than the kids. Even for girls who get into racing later in life, it usually seems to be because of a parent’s interest and encouragement. In other words, the #1 thing holding back women in racing is parents not considering racing as a possibility.

      1. There are plenty of girls in karting. The problem comes at about 13-15 when they get pressure from families and society to be more girly.

  17. Don’t buy either the strength or “self preservation” arguments. There are numerous climbers, including free climbers, who take huge risks, have enormous self confidence, fitness and strength. F1 does not require or indeed can cope with power lifter sized people. It’s perfectly conceivable, as always with sport it needs more grass roots involvement. From a cynical business point if view, a woman driver would bring sponsorship ££. Nothing wrong with that, plenty of good but not great drivers hat a chance because of the funding they can attract. I look forward to seeing more women drivers.

    1. We were always sold the ‘strength’ argument. We were told as fact that women simply couldn’t cope with the G forces. I remember Murray Walker [a hero of mine] putting that view forcefully to a TV audience in the 1990s.

      It is time this was scientifically proven one way or another, maybe with the help of the FIA. I guess those women who are serious about driving professionally in motorsport would not object…..

      I wonder can Suzi Wolff beat De Silvestro to a drive?

      1. @Off Track
        Here’s one way to find that out. Have an F3 championship for women that races on the same tracks and has the same number of races as the European F3 Championship. Let the championship run on for a few years. Then compare the lap times and overall performance of the top three women and the top three men of the respective championships for each of the years. We’ll know for sure whether women can compete on the same level as men.

        This experiment could be continued to other championships such as Formula Renault 3.5 or GP2, if the financial and other obligations are met. This would settle the argument once and for all…

      2. “We were told as fact that women simply couldn’t cope with the G forces.”

        It’s nonsense. That claim has been scientifically disproven (by the US military in 1998). Women can cope just as well. Murray’s statement may have been based on earlier flawed studies where the women were wearing ill-fitting equipment designed for men.

        I posted this link elsewhere on this thread, but to restate: “There was no significant gender differences in 5-9G simulated air combat manoeuvre endurance times [or tolerance]“. Full paper here, if you’re curious:

  18. “I never had a problem going at top speed with a 300 ft drop right next to my car, but on a race track when you are doing 300 kmh down a straight you feel more exposed, or at least I did. ”
    Now that is odd, I’d far rather be on a racetrack, but its not a “women don’t mind heights” thing because the few I know are not happy up a step ladder. No, it’s confidence in one’s ability to be in absolute control, knowing exactly how the car will react on all surfaces.

    But being a woman in racing must give the possibility to be noticed whereas a man of equal driving talent in the same position would go unnoticed. Once in a team, the woman would be swamped with endorsement opportunities, we shall see what Simona pops up advertising.

    But it’s not just about driving any more, its the ability to run to a pre-calculated program of fuel management, tyre management, engine care etc, as well as winning the race and handling the Press, working with the team the sim and so on.

  19. Joe, this is great news ! Simona is pretty, articulated and TALENTED. I’ve been karting for a while and had the opportunity to come across some awesome woman kart racers and always wandered why any of them didn’t want to push all the way to the top. I find Mrs. Mouton comment highly interesting… at the same time I think time is ripe for the emergence of a woman driver to make it in a substantial way. It all comes down to “how bad you really want it”.
    Formula 1 is about Physical endurance. Hydraulics is used abundantly in this modern era, making it “easier” than in the Jody Sheckter/Nigel Mansell (those guys were built) era and before !
    It is my opinion, now is perhaps the right time window. Simona just might be the one.

  20. I don’t remember the younger male drivers entering F1 being referred to as boys. so why the references to her (from various sources) as a girl?

    1. Because one needs to describe her somehow. I refer to woman of all ages as girls and no-one complains. I get that all the super-over-sensitive types want to be holier than thou but I see no reason why.

      1. Would it be ok to describe Lewis Hamilton “somehow” as long as no one complains about it?

        Or actually more accurately when people did complain about it you’d just tell them that “no-one complains”…..

      2. People are so over sensitive about this. Woman, boy, girl, man, lady are not the same thing. Equality doesn’t equate to interchangeability.

              1. Like it Joe, “PC” will first stop, then destroy the world. Those who get offended wouldn’t survive 5 mins working in F1 !

              2. Not that I would, but it’s nice to know you wouldn’t be offended if I called you a boy 🙂 I’d argue that this is in fact your house, the world being the internet, unless you were referring to F1 in which case it’s our world.

                I agree with you regarding F1 being a meritocracy which ignores gender. It, along with a few other sports, has that luxury as for the majority of the team strength is irrelevant and for the drivers size and ultimate strength is not the ideal. I think far more sports should mix the genders in competition but in most sports though it would be too biased to allow women/girls/ladies/females to compete against men. I presume sport is your world, one where equality cannot mean interchangeability.

                  1. Well I’m glad you agree on the point I made, that this is your house. I don’t see how you went from that to surmising that I might not like it. I love it, as you well know. I’m not even disagreeing with you, I said that I think your use of ‘girl’ is perfectly fine. Now as David Cameron once said ‘Calm down dear’ 🙂

                    Incidentally although your blog is indeed your house the comments section is the common area in the shared building. If you don’t like it I suggest you buy the freehold and lock everyone out by locking the comments section. If you are getting this tetchy with someone who is agreeing with you it might be time. Shame as I think it’s very interesting not only like today, when I agree with everything you’ve written but also when I don’t. Personally I never have a problem when I have a different opinion to someone else. It makes life interesting after all. I’ve just found out even that is not as interesting as when someone is arguing with you for agreeing with them 🙂

                    1. Not too condescending. Is the happy face providing the content for your commentary? they’re only good for so many free passes.

        1. Don’t be a silly boy, the difference between Girl/Woman is hardly uber(sic) PC.

          Just common courtesy and respect for a clearly talented and successful professional sportswoman.

          As I said just because you or the blogger doesn’t find it offensive doesn’t mean it isn’t and Insisting on continuing to do so when it’s pointed out is just plain argumentative…. As pointed out would it be ok to describe LH “somehow” else if the writer didn’t find it offensive?

            1. “my rules”

              Circa 1953.

              You need a new rules book. You may have noticed that the rest of the F1 press isn’t referring to her as a girl or LH as a >… fill in the blank because you don’t find it offensive…<

              1. there is no comparison between reffering to a younger female as a girl and Lewis as a blank, it is not the same thing at all. If you had bothered to read the original post in it’s entirety you would have noticed that Michele Mouton uses the terms Women and girl interchangeably, they mean the same thing.

      3. Joe I made a comment about political correction and the way f1 is going with PC , I said no one cares about the environment when it comes to F1 all we want is screaming f1 engine not the PC crap we have now . And you ripped the sh$t out of me .

        1. It is not about the words. It is about the attitude. Simona is good. How good we have to see but it really does not matter if she is miss, ms, mrs or oi you, if she can do the job…

  21. It will only happen when it suits the sponsors! But, that cannot happen until enough women feature strongly at the top of a DTM or GP2 Championship.

  22. I was fortunate enough to interview Simona last year at an IndyCar test. She’s a lovely young woman and will easily handle the media and sponsor duties. As for the driving, her “management” essentially placed her at KV Racing, a much smaller team compared to the “big three” of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti Autosport. Although KV won the Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan, the team was inconsistent for much of the year. One area of perpetual weakness was its engineering deparatment. As a result, Simona’s true potential is still not known. However, it is worth nothing that IndyCars have no power steering, and, as a result, her strength should not be an issue.

    1. I do know that what I saw of her IndyCar races, I don’t doubt she will have the right attitude to win, and she is certainly highly talented. Would be nice to see her get a chance to prove that in F1.

      Wasn’t part of the reason why Rubens Barrichello parted with KV racing also that lack of engineering, by the way?

  23. If Ms de Silvestro is successful in F1 will she get to be referred to by you as a woman rather than a girl?

    I very much doubt you’d refer to a 25 year old male professional racing driver with similar racing resume as a boy.

    1. If she is a successful F1 driver she will be referred to as Simona. All the other rubbish that people worry about before someone is established disappears. End of story. Danica is Danica.

      1. That doesn’t really answer the question.

        I guess we can at least be thankful you didn’t refer to “Lady racing drivers”?… Or maybe you did an I missed it.

        It’s very disrespectful of a successful professional sports woman in a sport dominated by men. I doubt Simona would enjoy being referred to in such terms as a “girl”?

          1. Careful, you may blow someones mind. The PC brigade will be checking the handbook on that one.

    2. I really despair of political correctness nowadays, i notice Rob you refer to her as Ms have you checked that is how she wants to be called? She might prefer Miss? Just lighten up and get a life, trust me it goes quick enough without you worrying over whether she is called a girl or a woman, and as Joe said if she is successful she will be called Simona.

    3. Forget the PC side of this everyone; girls and boys are children. Men and women are adults. If someone who didn’t know me called me a boy I’d be miffed.

      1. Thanks for making rules on my blog… You should award yourself a humanitarian medal for saving the world. In the meantime, down here in the real world, me and the boys are getting together for a few beers and the girls are out shopping…

        1. Exactly. “The boys put in a late night repairing the car, the girls got tired of waiting and went back to the hotel”. I would never use men or women in a sentence like that.

        2. I was responding to Rob, not you Joe. You make your blog rules but you invite comment. If you read my comment you would see I say that if someone I didn’t know called me boy I wouldn’t like it. If I want to go out with the boys I’m going out for a beer with people I know; get the difference?

  24. It’s interesting that Michele Mouton concentrated on the mental rather than the physical differences between men and women. Is there anything to corroborate or refute this in other dangerous sports? For example, there are plenty of women willing to take part in downhill skiing and bobsled which are also high-speed events. But the men’s and women’s events are run separately; would the women be competitive against the men, or do the physical differences in weight and strength make that too unequal? I can imagine that a heavier individual might slide downhill faster than a lighter one, and men are generally heavier than women.

    Is the dearth of women in motorsports purely cultural? Meaning that it’s due to girls and women being discouraged because it’s perceived to be something for boys only. I was involved with club-level motorcycle racing for a couple of years and I can only think of three female participants, one of whom was a sidecar passenger. Also, at that level you usually have to be your own mechanic, or have a mechanically-minded friend, and that is another area which has historically been male-dominated. Going back to my winter sports examples above, all that you need to get going at a basic level is fairly easy to take care of, at least compared to a motor vehicle.

    This one could run and run!

  25. If Michele Mouton could kick ___ in the WRC … which she did , almost winning the World Championship . If Pat Moss could go head to head with the big boys back in the day .. which she did in spades . Then certainly .. a women can be both competitive as well as a potential winner in F1 . Thing is .. they were both women with proven talent and an extensive track record way before the prime drives were given to them

    Problem is …. as long as the women being placed in F1 seats are getting those rides based on Publicity and Marketing potential .. rather than their actual ability to DRIVE an F1 car … as is the case with Ms. de Silvestro … then no …. no woman can nor will ever so much as hope to succeed in the sport . All to a number being ‘ used ‘ to further the sponsorship potential of the team in question

    Now if the powers that be [ teams etc ] would pick a woman who actually ‘ earned ‘ the ride with her skills , abilities and racing CV … rather than the size of her checkbook /bustline or looks …

    Well … we can dream now …. can’t we ?

    BTW .. Danica Patrick isn’t so much an individual as she is the example/formula everyone’s following these days when it comes to women racers . Find a reasonably ok looking female desperate for media attention who’s image you can control from beginning to end … plaster her with make up provided by Sherwin Williams … make darn sure her mug is in the news at least once a week … to heck with whether she wins or not .. and call it good

    All bets being .. Ms Silvestro fits the formula …. to an absolute tee .. seeing as how NO ONE has heard so much as a mention of her up till now

    1. You haven’t heard a mention of her up until now ? Do you follow racing at all ? Simona is no Danica that’s for sure,she has more ba…s than some of the drivers she has raced against,including some with a lot more experience. She doesn’t winge and moan,just gets on with the job. I don’t think Sherwin/Williams is one of her sponsors either.

    2. “All bets being .. Ms Silvestro fits the formula …. to an absolute tee .. seeing as how NO ONE has heard so much as a mention of her up till now”

      No one…except the people that realize that F1 is not the only motorsport series.

  26. I have heard Indy drivers express the sentiment that Danica had an “unfair” advantage in weight. The lighter you are the more the engineers can shift the weight around to balance the car which we all know is a positive for setup. Unfair does not seem to be something they say about small stature male racers so it always seemed a pitiful excuse to me. But given that woman on average are smaller and lighter this could be an advantage for any woman willing to take on the demands of a fitness regime that matches current F1 standards. And it can be done for sure. The problem is many men try to progress for F1, far fewer woman do, so the pool of candidates that have the required driving skills, physical stature, commitment, drive, ambition to reach the same level that the HAND FULL of men achieve, is TINY! Odd say one day someone will and in the current era with weight and size an issue as the rules stand, could be competitive. Just the odds are not high with a small pool of candidates. If RBR set out in the young driver program to make it happen and increase the pool size….. it becomes more likely, but still not certain because of the limited number of drivers and slow turnover of existing drivers and limited testing these days.

  27. I very much doubt you’d refer to a 25 year old male professional racing driver with similar racing resume as a boy.

    I hear that kind of slang all the time in sports, work, and other areas of life. Football managers saying things like “I’ve got a good group of lads”. At work “any of you boys (some in their 50s) going for a drink after?”

    The posters upset at your use of “girl” are just parroting the mass media that conditions unthinking people into taking offence at certain verbal “microaggressions”. IOW they’re brainwashed.

    As for Simona I hope it works out for her. Not only does she seem more talented than Danica she’s also more real as a person – though I’m sure a few years being connected to F1 can cure that!

    1. “I hear that kind of slang all the time in sports, work, and other areas of life.”

      – Nailed it,

      “At work “any of you boys (some in their 50s) going for a drink after?”

      Are the ‘Men’ able to recover from that verbal abuse and actually join you for a drink? There is hope people, stay strong!

    1. Tilly Shilling, RAE scientist. For whom the Weatherspoons pub in Farnborough is named.

      Many were the RAF pilot saved by “Miss Shilling’s orifice”.

  28. I’m not sure strength is the main issue. F1 drivers are in extremely good shape, but they are not muscle-bound galoots like in rugby or US football. It seems plausible that a woman could have the upper-body strength and neck muscles to withstand g-forces, etc. It was not that long ago that women were considered physically unfit to fly fighter jets, but now many do, and just as well as the men. Michele’s comment about “self-preservation” raises more complex questions. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but while I think it is possible that women ON AVERAGE might be more risk averse than men ON AVERAGE because of their evolutionary past, that absolutely does not prevent a PARTICULAR woman from being just as fearless as any man. Beware of scientific arguments that justify keeping entire categories of people in their “place”. And good luck to Simona, she may be just what F1 needs.

    1. I agree with what you say, but must pick a small nit. In an aircraft the G forces are (generally) vertically through the cockpit, since the plane rolls while turning. In a race car the G forces are lateral and push the driver sideways, putting huge loads on the neck while attempting to keep the head upright. Different thing.

      Yes, just because on average something is true does not mean in each particular case the average is true.

    1. She won because she was slow enough to get better fuel mileage,not fast enough to go head to head with the fast guys. I’m not sure that is the stuff F1 is quite ready for in a girl.I think Simona could do a better job than that.

      1. Have you read the 2014 engine regs? 100 litres to finish the race isn’t enough unless you use your brain and save fuel!

  29. Dear Joe,

    I’m concerned about how much prominence you’ve given Michele Mouton’s opinion. It’s just one opinion, and she admits it’s a personal one based on her own feelings and experience. It may be worth mentioning, but giving so much column space to just one opinion looks biased.

    Perhaps an interview with someone who’s less pessimistic about women in F1 might add balance to the story? Or can no-one be found to give a more positive view? That might be a story in itself.

    And, do the F1 circus still feel that the sport needs gridgirls (derogatory both in their employment and in the use of the term “girls”, not women).

      1. Michelle was in Group B rallying? About as rough and tough as you can find. There was a programme on the Beeb** about Group B last year, it gets aired every once in a while, she did pretty well in that series and retired when Group B finally got out of control and was banned.

        Very nice lady and certainly stood out amongst the guys at the time.

        ** “Madness on Wheels: Rallying’s Craziest Years”, BBC4.

  30. Given that F1 drivers are getting smaller and lighter (in general) women tend to be of equivalent strength amongst athletes at the curve of smaller body weights. The physical strength of F1 drivers is over egged – they are closer to jockeys with a mixture of strength, muscular endurance and power to weight ratio. Women physically can adapt to that if they elite athletes. The other advantage is women tend to hold their muscular endurance for several years more than men so women could theoretically compete into their 40s without the same decline seen in top class men (cognitive decline is a murkier matter).

    The fact that there are women flying as test pilots, combat pilots and astronaut pilots you do have to wonder if there’s still too much outdated information skewing the picture.

    Yes women have advantages and disadvantages in the sport of motor acing but as you may have seen at the Winter Olympics recently extreme snow sports once banned women and now they are outperforming the male tricks of even 4 years ago. Yes generally the men have progressed even further but taking into account the time competitors have had Olympic coaching and funding the progression amongst female athletes is far faster.

  31. If they cannot handle being referred to as a girl on occasion its doubtful their racing careers would have progressed at all. The journey to F1 requires toughness and the career casualty rate is so high these days it begs the article – Can men survive in F1?

    The sport itself is borderline unsustainable with its skewed economics and this carries right through to the drivers being bled and a revolving door.

    She better have a heavy purse, regardless. On the question of adequate physicality to compete, its a question of physics – mother nature did not get the memo on discrimination and made the sexes different. Perhaps a deluge from the pc. Brigade can change this?

      1. Sideways Happy faces, you all out of the yellow ones? You know a comment is relevant when it’s more about getting the last word rather than adding a worthwhile point – good to keep in mind when attending a blog – especially if nit picking the host.

        1. No surprise that you also failed to understand my point. Seems like the apple analogy carries through, here’s a yellow one for you 🙂

  32. I think the biggest issue for a professional sportswoman in F1 would be having to put up with the sexism in motor sport – not the blatant sexism you might find in the locker room of your local rugby club, but… oh, yes i do mean that.

    1. In my opinion, F1 is not very sexist. If someone does the job better than someone else they get promoted… It is very simple. Women are welcome and encouraged. If you mean that the sport still has grid girls, then you are really looking only at the surface.

      1. That’s good for F1, but what about all of the lower formulae through which (most) drivers have to progress to get to F1?

  33. Hopefully she’ll be able to break the barrier and be able to eliminate all the generalizations that get thrown around when it comes to woman drivers. Given enough mental and physical preparation, any woman could make it up to F1 in this day in age. I firmly believe that it comes down to money, commitment, and opportunities rather than the type of gender that the driver is.
    Best of luck to her.

        1. There is absolutely no evidence to support his claim. No-one else made any similar claims. It is a strange story.

  34. @andrew, yes take 200 men and 200 women at random and on average the men will be stronger. F1 does not require supreme strength and fitness, there is plenty of overlap between the two populations. could women suceed in F1? of course.

    as for the ‘girls’ or ‘women’ thing, i wonder what the driver herself prefers? personally I’d take her advice.

  35. No reason a talented woman can’t get to the top same as the men. I got told I was sexist for thinking Giovanna Amati wouldn’t set the world alight, but she was an average F3000 driver who (apparently) brought money to a flailing Brabham team. Much like many, many male drivers then and in the intervening 20 odd years. But I’d still prefer an F1 where talent ruled (regardless of sex) and money didn’t.

  36. In noting Silvestro’s class as a driver, a by the numbers comparison with her 2013 teammate Tony Kanaan is in order.

    Kanaan is a 15 race winner in the series, including the Indy 500 last season . He was the series’ 2004 season champion as well.

    Last season Silvestro bested Kanaan in 9 or 19 races, including 6 of the last 7. Very solid. By season’s end she was only 35 points back of Kanaan in a series that awards 50 points for victory, 40 for 2nd and 35 for 3rd, etc.

    The more you look into her the more there is to like, making this story a very encouraging one to follow.

    Thanks Joe.

  37. Just an observation on the use of girl/woman – boys/men. Sometimes one can be too PC. How often have you heard Vettel thanking the “boys” for their wonderful work. No one’s calling him out on that!

    1. I think the general rule without becoming a bigot or a PC slavemat is simply to use what the individual uses themselves. Vettel has referred to himself as a boy racer and didn’t feel he was a ‘man’ until around his second championship year. There are plenty of women who find it offensive to be called ‘girls’ – there are also a large number who adopt ‘girl’ as their own term. Susie Wolff has said before she was driving for ‘her and the other girls’ so I presume she has no problem with it.

      Besides I think most people forgive men of Joes vintage a few throwback terms that those of us of ‘less experience’ might avoid 😉 (or perhaps we’re just holier than thou PC shallow morons…;)

      1. Could not agree more with the last sentence. I am 52 which I consider to be young and open to ideas that are worth adopting. My Dad at 81 is less open to change. Perhaps in 30 years I will fit your description, but I am sure I will still dislike sanctimonious people who have nothing more to worry about than being politically-correct.

      2. Joe’s vintage? That would actually be an attempt at ageism except it’s hard to stop laughing when you apply it to a guy that experiences how many different cultures a year for twenty something years? Real world experience vs. Internet theorizing, no brainer.

  38. Simona is the best female open wheel driver I’ve seen in the modern era. I never heard any commentary attributed to fellow drivers other than of pure respect for her abilities- her colleagues know she has speed. This is a big loss for IndyCar but no top tier team ever gave her a ride and that was a mistake. I don’t know if she is frontrunner F1 material, but I have little doubt that she at least deserves a shot and could prove to be solid. I’m very excited by her affiliation with Sauber. That was a great move on their part.

  39. I for one would love to see a decent female F1 racer if only to stop so many stupid comments which are, in many cases, guesswork borne of lack of factual knowledge. It pains me when people are so negative about Simona’s or Danica’s achievements – there are many many more male racers (boys, lads, men, chaps, whatevers…) who have lesser results but are not denigrated in the same way.

    1. Please enlighten us on all of Danica’s “achievements”. I will save you the effort of typing “fuel mileage victory at Motegi, 2008”. Please proceed; I’m looking forward to the long list…

        1. I have no respect for someone that was elevated to Indy Car w/o ever having won a single automobile race of any type in any category. Pole at Daytona? That is laughable. My grandmother could win the pole at Daytona in the right car.

  40. Joe, 1 thing I have never understood (given the female presence in motorsport seems to generate a lot of fan interest and controversy) is why don’t the FIA start a women’s only series? Auto GP style wings and slicks categorie with the view of winning a test in F1 fr the championship. It would be way more interestiung than the majority of the other categories out there now.

    1. Surely that emphasises the notion that women are not capable of competing with men. I have seem some great women racers but as Michele Mouton said, it needs to be the right one, just as Spain had to wait for an Alonso…

      1. That’s right Joe needs to be the right one and if we have a series to find the most talented one, it may be better for the cause to generate publicity, funding and perpetuate the notion of a woman winning the prize of an F1 Test or seat given success in such a series. It gives them a real chance to break in. A series like this may motivate families to keep going when their girls hit 14-15 as there is a substantial reward or motivation for continuing.
        As an F1 fan I would definitely love to see such a series. I think the sport is crying out for females but as long as we cannot develop the talent they will never get there hence we are locked into a connundrum. A dedicated series could change that.

  41. Dear Joe

    I noticed in the past, when the name of Alice Powell is mentioned, there is lots of syndical comments. To earn spurs, whether the driver is male or female, they need a million or two in spare cash just to buy the spurs. It is not until a driver gets to F1, and the veneer of lots of cash is removed, does the investor knows what they are backing, and the true fans know what they have.

    When Alice was 16, Max Chilton at 17 already had a year in JICA karting under his belt, and by the end of the season, she was only 2 points adrift of him and finished mid field. This was at a time when karting had lots of good drivers. When she did Formula Renault with Manor, only a few points separated her from team mates Josh Hill and Jordan King, who had a lot more seat time. These 2 drivers also had seasons doing Toyota New Zealand. The following year, they both finished 2nd and 3rd in Formula Renault NEC. Alice did not have budget and finished 1st in BARC Renault. When she did GP3, she missed the pre-season testing because of budget and had a top 8 finish, in spite of big changes in the team and low budget. In 2013, because of Budget, she did F3 Cup. Her car kept breaking down, and she had to borrow different cars, over three of the weekends, and she still managed to finish second. She has done odd guest races. In the Radical Cup series, she had never driven a Radical, until a few hours before qualifying and put the car on pole for both races. She won both races with several seconds to spare, and broke the track record at Snetteron that weekend. She did a guest race in Palmer Audi, mid way through the season, and had a seventh place finish. She still holds the track record for Super Gearbox Karting at Kimbolton. She has lots of fans, but none of them have money.


      1. If her name were Alice Chilton, she would be in F1. Max didn’t have to find any money, Joe. As a friend of mine that works for a certain motorsport team that shall remain nameless said when Max got his drive this year, “Daddy’s check must’ve cleared.”

  42. Comments after reading the threads…
    As another noted, Indy cars do not have power steering. If Simona (and Danica for that matter) can wrestle one of these beasts (heavier than an F1 car) around a road course, I believe the question of physical strength is moot when it comes to F1.
    While the discussion goes on about the differences in men and women, as another noted, the question is whether THIS woman can do the job. Go back and look at Simona’s practice crash at Indy (2011) when the car broke at 220+and was destroyed. She climbed in the backup car and went back out. This, after a crash at Texas the year before when an inept safety crew was so slow in getting her out the car that she suffered burns to her right hand. As for Danica… Indy qualifying is a test of putting the car absolutely on the edge for 4 laps. She had a big loose moment coming out of turn 2 on her first lap, caught it and went on to post following laps fast enough to give her the pole had it not been for the wiggle on the first lap. She later was upset with her team owner, Bobby Rahal, because she wanted to withdraw the time (4th) and go back out for another pole run. He chose to play it smart and hold the 4th place.
    Both of these young women have what it takes to compete. Whether the talent is there to excel is the question. I, for one, hope she gets a fair shot at a race seat to show what she can do.
    Thanks Joe…

    1. Just to clarify on the power steering comparison, yes F1 has power steering, but it also has 4G’s of load through corners which i do not believe indycar generates as much downforce. It’s the downforce and resilience of head, neck muscles as well as arms that will be a big differentiator for F1. A lot of training is needed to gain this strength and resilience. Can a female train to the same levels for head, neck and arm strength?

      1. When its about training, there is just no reason why one person would not be able to train and another person would be able to. That said, I do not believe that the stress on the neck on the faster ovals is that much less than in F1, I would not see that as the biggest problem to overcome, its just endless hours of training every F1 aspiring driver has to put into it.

  43. The issue with a woman on the grid is simple. A race car driver is a typical Macho role. Whenever Macho stereotypes are attached to things you get two main issues. Firstly, you must actually be pretty Macho. If you aren’t Macho then you are often ostracised. Remember Hakkinen crying in a bush? The commentator stopped short of saying “he’s blabbing like a baby the big girl” but Murray wanted too! Secondly, it becomes a shield. A Macho facade is a pretty good guard behind which you can hide insecurities. Therefore, everyone adopts the same facade so opponents can’t use it against them. In the flip side, two Macho males competing will always egg each other on to try harder work faster etc.

    I have no doubt that the right woman could achieve at the highest level of Formula 1. But purely because she wouldn’t arrive with the macho bravado rubbish that surrounds most drivers these days, she would have to use different ways of protecting herself against mind games that the other drivers and teams play on and off the track. Of the current drivers, the two who have the least Macho approach are probably Hamilton and Grosjean. Both drivers that are very talented but can also let their sensitivities lead them into mistakes. It’s also the fact that they can tune into their emotions better than others that has provided them with inspiration for some of their great drives.

  44. Simona is a fast proven driver and a classy person . She is just what F1 needs to reboot its downward trend. I might even watch again.

  45. Actually under the current regulations women should be at an advantage in F1, considering they are generally lighter than men. The question is, though, do women have the physical strength that is necessary to compete at the highest level in F1?

    1. Too many people are brainwashed that women have a better chance of locating an investor or sponsor. Until there is a change in business attitudes, we will never see a female in F1 or a perfume firm on the side of an F1 car. In real life, any chance of UK women getting sponsorship are killed off, because over the decades potential investors have it rammed down their throats that women lacking stamina, physical strength, etc, to the point females never come on their radar. In Europe, it costs females hundreds of thousands of pounds, just to get seat time, alone. The chances of a UK talented female having a spare million quid in their back pocket is 1,000,000 to one, ie that is the real reason where there are no females in F1. Women have a better chance in the USA, as the US is more open minded. If a UK female does not have personal business connections, they are “dead ducks”. Does anybody honestly believe that if Danika Patrick raced and lived in the UK she would be still earning $10m per annum? Danika is a good driver but she is racing because she increased TV viewings by 10%, in spite of running well down the order. Although Susie Wollf is a good driver, she cannot afford the price of a drive. Drivers are not natural born businessman or woman. A genuine female talent would be a big boost for fans and the sport, but they would still need to bring millions to F1, because revenues from increased TV rating will disappear down the “black hole” into the pockets of the F1 hierarchy. The only people who can change this are the fans.


        1. I do not know what message is meant to be conveyed with comments of “la Danica”. Surely one cannot be intimating that Danica would get something like a WSR or GP2 free drive based on her ability, because she is a female!

          Even a mediocre UK driver will win a championship, if he/she gets a decent car and spend four or five seasons in the same class. Danika is nearly 32 years old, and has umpteen million dollars spent on her image and thousands of hours of seat time thrown at her in the US. The reality is that naturally she will be inundated with cash, even if she posed beside a UK car.

          At age 18 Danica’s best result was 25th In UK Formula Ford (near the bottom of the championship), before she returned to the US.

          After a below than average career in karting and after finishing 20th in Formula Renault Italy, Simona had to head for the USA. She and Danica are good drivers but they have had buckets of seat time to hone their skill, which they never would have had if they both stayed in Europe. The only people who can get buckets of seat time in Europe are ones with buckets of cash: hence why so many Euro fans are disillusioned with F1, Villeneuve’s frustration, etc.

          Another good female driver that we never hear about is Joni Wiman, and she has also had to go to the USA to get seat time, where she has built a reputation for herself in GRC Lites.

          Comparing results at a specific age of a driver (as well as the team that they raced with) is about the only way to evaluate talent. Apart from these two methods, if one really wants to evaluate talent, male or female, then in my view, it must be done on the basis of a European backdrop, where it is genuinely tough.


            1. You are obviously referring to Danica’s second place finish in the Formula Ford Festival. She was with the then well known Haywood Team, there were 29 entries, and she had a FF season under her belt. However, she shone because she beat “hot shot” drivers like Gary Catt, Stephen Colbert, Adam Carroll, and “hats off” to Danica for that result.

              Alice Powell, at aged 19, had never raced a Formula Ford, and did a one off race at the Festival. There were 118 entries that weekend and she finished 12th. She beat the previous Festival winner, Joey Foster, in a car owned and run by the scarcely known Brian Souley.

              Drivers with top go kart teams have a head start, when they get to cars. In a nutshell, talent is gauged by age, team quality, comparison with team mates and the strength of field during a particular year. Since all of these vary from year to year, it is very difficult to make a decision on talent. The other factor that has played a part in that evaluation process is the recession, and given the global scene, UK drivers have suffered badly. Future talent, male or female, is likely to be found in Eastern Bloc countries and the Far East.


                1. Apart from driver passion or ability, there is a huge element of luck/bad luck in raising money. Moreover, extra circuits around the globe means there are more and bigger foreign cheque books chasing an F1 drive, eg overseas drivers can test and race single seaters at 14 years old, quite often there is a big element of national pride in “up and coming foreign drivers” and more will get to F1 at a younger age. UK fan passion is being “snuffed-out” by this unstoppable process. Although Alice Powell was a girl, until a few weeks ago, she is effectively past her “sell by” date. I may be wrong, but it is unlikely that a decent UK female single seater driver will come for another 10 to 15 years, but nothing will happen, if they do not have a business connection or good luck.

                  There is far less cash even in the USA, eg Conor Daly the USA’s only realistic F1 prospect could only raise budget for one or two GP2 races, last year. If Alice was a US citizen, 5 or 6 years ago, she may have got money, but not any more. Until the UK’s F1 supremos stop looking at their £M bank balances and develop a national pride (as in most other sports), little will happen for UK males or females. The root of the problem is that they do not see it as a sport.

                  Many many years ago, I read a karting article which I kept. In a round about way, it effectively predicted the current discontent of UK F1 fans. It is not appropriate to print it here, but I will do so when the occasion merit’s it.


  46. Small point, Joe, but it must be said: Ms de Silvestro is no more a “girl” than Mr. Vettel is a “boy”. They both are 25 years old. They both are professional race drivers. By calling her a girl, you diminish her. I know you are not meaning to be exclusive, but when women are tied to the term “girl” they are cast as less than a mature adult.
    Just my 2-cents. Words do matter.
    Michael in Seattle

    1. In your mind, maybe, but not in mine. People are so hung up on words in the PC-crazed world that they miss the point. The only point of any value in these conversations is whether or not she is good enough to be a Formula 1 driver. If she is then she is an F1 driver, rather than a racing driver. Girl is just a synonym… look in any dictionary.

      an adult human female.
      synonyms: lady, girl, member of the fair/gentle sex, female… and so on all the way to matron, dowager; lass, chick, biddy, popsy, broad, dame, maid, damsel and wench.

      In fact, if you stop and think about it, all the PC Plods out there are actually pretty insulting because they think that we have to call females “women” because otherwise they will be upset and start weeping. In a world of equality you earn your place. There is no “ladies first” and there is no reason to open a door for a woman. That is the downside of equality. I cannot say I take it that far but that is the reality.

      1. I actually know some women (adult human females) that object when I open the door to them. Since then I made a point of it, to ask them to open it for me, or just shut it behind me, while holding it for just about everyone else (female, male, adult, child etc.) 🙂

  47. Not many women can cut it in motorsport but once upon a time a “girly” called Susy Raganelli actually won a World Title! She whupped some Swedish bloke called Ronnie Peterson into third.

    No one seems to have remembered the 1966 World Kart Champion!

    By the same token, anyone who had to outbrake Desire Wilson to earn their supper, could have gone very hungry – and she was racing 400bhp+ cars that had serious grip and high G forces!

    1. There are plenty of examples. People never remember Jutta Kleinschmidt either. Smart and tough as nails. Masters in Physics. Competed on Dakar on bikes from 1988 – 1993. In 1992 she broke her ankle when she fell on the 1992 Paris – Cape Town. Rode on to the finish. Switched to cars in 1994. Won the event in 2001,

      1. Kleinschmitt is a good example. She’s probably smarter than Senna, Prost and Mansell together. But would she have the physical and mental strength to take on those three racers in F1 while going side by side into a corner? Probably not. Especially Senna was tough as noone else (save Schumacher perhaps) in a wheel to wheel combat. He would never gave way easily. His many collisions with the likes of Rosberg, Mansell, Prost or Berger (amongst others) are testimony to that claim. Could you imagine a girl like Silvestro sticking it up to someone like Senna or Schumacher? I can’t.

          1. Yes, but to drive the way Senna has done, you need a certain mental strength, a kind of devil-may-care attitude. You hardly find that kind of attitude with females.

              1. I know plenty of women, but I never met one with the relentless mindset of a Ayrton Senna. It takes a Mansel-like or Schumacher-like character to defeat a racer in the class of a Senna. I can’t see the same dedication to aggressive racing in a woman. That’s very difficult. And that’s why I think a woman gives way when some guy attacks in a Senna-style manner, move out of the way or we crash. A woman would rather move out of the way than crash. Some tough guy like Mansell, though, would never move out of the way, he would rather crash.

        1. There are Naval aviators in the US Navy and Marine Corps who are female. If you have ever flown off or on to an aircraft carrier, you know that it requires huge courage, much less engage in combat. Having been an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, I don’t believe it is wise to have women in infantry billets, but they can fly a jet fighter as well as a male.

  48. “Helle Nice was a night club dancer and good time girl who managed to talk her way into racing and did well until a disastrous accident in Brazil”… Sounds like your 3rd book Joe! 🙂

  49. If she can bring the money Sauber needs, she’s perfectly entitled to get a drive. I’d rather see that than have the team sell a pup to Hulkenberg again…..

  50. Women will be competitive in F1 when they are allowed to be, ask Desiree Wilson. The tendency has been to give them the old nail from the back of the garage then complain that they are not good enough. Women who compete on a level playing field in, for instance, 3 Day Eventing; a sport which requires all sorts of physical abilities along with judgment and decision making; are fully competitive, the will to win is not lacking; the problem is the cost of investing in the possibility in the face of the masculine mind-set. Michèle Mouton was a world class rally driver, on a par with the men of that generation, Rohrl, Mikkola and Waldergard; none of them slouches.

      1. Hadn’t realised that beating those drivers in several World Championship rallies made her an inferior driver…

        1. Walter won the Rally Monte Carlo with 4 different makes. He also was the first Driver to win the title more than once. Michele never won the titel, nor the Rallye Monte Carlo. How can you compare her to a trully great Driver like Röhrl?

  51. Joe
    Sometimes your responses seem just blunt to others comments and I will admit they annoy me at times hence not commentting often.
    However this PC issue is p..ssing me of. I have just told Mrs DD the detail who also thinks it is a load of cr@p. Called her girl and she she thought it great, what is the matter with this world. I read your blog to keep informed with F1 especially as BBC / SKY etc websites are sh@t and days behind. any chance we can get back to some news and views

  52. I think it will be interesting how other drivers race against her, in terms of added pressure. Will we see drivers trying to pull off hairy moves, such as overtaking her through eau rouge, or would they rather not risk crashing off a lady? Would there be any difference at all? Could this work in her advantage? How was the situation in the 30’s? Did any lady drivers get killed in races, if so what was the public reaction?

  53. The strength argument doesn’t convince me. Do you think that it didn’t take strength for Michelle Mouton to hustle that 4WD Audi around dirt roads? What about Cristobel Carlisle racing saloons in the 60s – built like tanks and no power steering. Danica Patrick competing in NASCAR?

    However although less so than it was once was, it’s still a man’s man’s man’s man’s world. A woman F1 driver would find it hard to be viewed as anything more than a marketing gimmick.

    South Africa (where I live) is a good case study. There are still coughings and splutterings anytime a non-white player breaks into the national cricket side. “Window dressing” etc etc. This after Hashim Amla hit the number one ranking for test cricket batsmen, Herschelle Gibbs became one of the best opening bats in the game and Makhya Ntini took over 300 Test wickets and also get the best over bowling figures for a South African.

    Perceptions are slow to change, and perceptions will make it very hard for a female F1 driver to be taken seriously. She’ll have to do much more than a male equivalent to get respect.

    It would be fun to have a Saudi Grand Prix with a female driver participating. So whilst I think the problem of skewed perceptions would remain, a woman F1 driver who competes at a respectable level could be a potent role model.

  54. On the matter of the use of words and names to be used, it’s worth noting that several of the complainers about the use of boy/girl come either from the US or other countries.

    In the UK boy/girl are used regularly to adress adults of any age. No US-english- speaking person would do that (boy in particular has a very negative connotation associated to it’s use towards black people). No one that has been taught English as a second language would use boy/girl in the way the brits do (unless having lived in the UK).

    Sometimes is not about pc-ness but about (miss)understanding the message.

    As people engaging in a public conversation with strangers, we could all allow ourselves and others a bit of space.

  55. At the end of the day (to coin a phrase :-)) the great thing is that this has happened. Regardless of the terminology used to describe her, or of the view that it’s a marketing gimmick, I personally welcome this development and really hope she gets some decent time in a real car – and a seat in something reasonable (like a Sauber) in 2015.

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