Susie Wolff, Williams FW33, Silverstone, 2012

Why the numbers are stacked against more women reaching F1

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Last year the FIA appointed Carmen Jorda, a supporter of separate championships for men and women, to its Women in Motorsport Commission. Her controversial views rignited the debate over equality in motor racing.

The fact very few women have reached the top of motor racing has been taken by some as proof they don’t belong there. More enlightened views are beginning to be heard, but as @DieterRencken explains the sheer weight of numbers means it could be years before we see more women in the top flight.

How women participate in motorsport is a delicate yet recurring theme which affects the sport far beyond just Formula 1.

Should they be restricted to their own categories as per most physical sports? Or, reflecting the trend in most aspects of modern society, should they be treated as equals and be permitted to compete against men in open competition?

There is a third option, one pursued by arguably the least physical but most cerebral of sports, namely chess. Here there is a competition for both genders (which has never been won by a woman) and one for women only. This arrangement might be said to discriminate against men; it could also be argued that having a single-sex competition devalues the ‘open’ championship.

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The equality in motorsport debate hit prominence in December after the inclusion (as a permanent seat) of the President of the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission (established in 2010) on the FIA World Motorsport Council. Thus Michèle Mouton, who competed against men on equal terms in world rallying during the eighties – regularly shading them – has input into global motorsport’s affairs on a par with that of the other 25 members.

Some progress has recently been made at last by the FIA, and not only at WMSC level. The FIA Senate, previously a men-only cabinet, now counts two women among its number. Formula One Management has increased its female tally at senior management level while F1 (and other) teams have long appointed on merit rather than gender, be the positions for engineers or management, including team principal.

Carmen Jorda, GP3, 2013
Jorda called for a separate womens’ championship
The WiMSC, though, recently received much unwelcome attention after F1 wannabe Carmen Jorda, token tester for Lotus F1 Team before its return to Renault ownership, spoke in favour of women-only categories. Her opinion was mistaken by some as being representative of FIA policy. In fact Jorda, nominated to WiMSC by Spain’s national motor club for a representative position, is just one of the commission’s 30 members.

This despite her comments on Twitter in October: “I believe a women’s F1 championship would give us the chance to achieve our dreams and compete on an equal footing – as in other sports,” having previously said “It’s not fair to be compared with men because we will never be on the same level.” Self-confidence surely is a prime ingredient for a race driver, no?

Saliently, though, Mouton has regularly spoken out in favour of open competition. And she should know, having for years had no option but to compete against men during WRC’s most brutal (and lethal) era. A shrinking violet the Frenchwoman most certainly was not, as hours of video footage attest.

Jorda’s comments received condemnation from, among others, numerous female racers. IndyCar competitor Pippa Mann, who recently set a ‘female first’ by averaging over 230mph on the Indianapolis oval, traded jibes with her on Twitter. Both are, of course, entitled to their views, but the debate raged across cyberspace, eliciting the usual swathes of pro/con comments.

Conveniently overlooked during what was to many a destructive spat is that the WMSC – not Jorda – holds final sway in such matters. The FIA is hardly likely to mandate for or against separate categories for men and women based on social media wrangles between two competitors.

That said, a London-based promoter has plans to stage a six-event women-only single-seater championship initially to be known as SHE (sic), but due for a name change if it gets the green light. The series would comprise five legs in Britain and one in the USA with the winner due to receive a F1 test.

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Although the promoter (perhaps optimistically) believes the series could rank second only to F1, the concept has understandably polarised opinion, with many questioning whether representative grids will even be achieved. It is not the first women-only initiative – recall the ill-fated Formula Women series launched in 2004, initially using Mazda RX8s, and later Caterhams. It stuttered along for four years before being canned.

Should SHE (or whatever) be launched, it would be analogous to the world chess model in that women only could compete, but would still be permitted to compete in open categories of motorsport. Thus Jorda could do SHE and Mann IndyCar, or whatever. ‘Unequal equality’ as they say, for men would be banned from SHE, but not vice versa…

Susie Wolff, Williams, Silverstone, 2015
Wolff last tested at Silverstone in 2015
However, the wider debate has gained further traction through the unstinting efforts of Dare to be Different, a campaign founded by Susie Wolff – DTM driver, occasional F1 tester and participant in four official grand prix practice sessions with Williams (led by Claire Williams, another trailblazing woman of motor racing) – who, on D2BD’s website, states “Our sport is performance-based, so gender is irrelevant.”

One of D2BD’s plans is to encourage girls to attend karting academies with a view to introducing them to the sport before feeding them into open grids, as Wolff explained during a Women in Motorsport Commission media discussion:

“I founded Dare to be Different which is just based in the UK just now, and we are getting young school girls to kart tracks. It’s not just about finding the next talented female racing driver; it’s about opening up all the different disciplines, all [of] the sport so these young girls understand that this preconception that motorsport is just for boys is wrong.

“There are many successful women and it’s about them understanding that the world is open for them, opportunities are there. We’ve got to give more young girls at a young age the best advice to the top because in this sport you’ve got to be good enough. It’s performance based, [if] you’re at the pinnacle of the sport you’re in Formula 1, and you’ve got to be good enough to perform.”

Still, such initiatives must address the core question: Why have so few women made it to F1? Of six to have participated in grand prix weekends only two – Maria Teresa de Filippis (three starts) and Lella Lombardi (12) – actually took to the grid of a world championship event, with the latter scoring a point, or, as fate had it, half a point after the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix was prematurely stopped due to an accident.

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These statistics are, of course, grist to misogynist mills. Yet they point to broader questions: Is gender irrelevant, as Susie believes, and both should compete together? Or if, as Jorda believes, women “will never be on the same level”, should F1 create women-only categories? The tiny number of women who have reached F1 appears to support Jorda’s position, so what factors might be at play which explain this?

Katherine Legge/Alvaro Parente/Trent Hindman/AJ Allmendinger, Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, Daytona 24 Hours, 2018
Katherine Legge was second in class at Daytona on Sunday
There is no doubt that driving race cars whose primary technology is aimed at increasing downforce to create cornering forces of 6g is as much a mental as physical exercise – as post-race images of F1 drivers prove – but does that imply women are genetically unable to cope? Wolff proved women have the fitness and athleticism to cope with modern F1 cars, while female marathon runners and endurance racers put to rest any doubts about stamina.

In a recent interview Mouton provided a fascinating insight into the physiological difference in performance between genders. She believes the genetic make-up of males is such that are more inclined towards risk, whereas females are naturally more cautious and prefer to build up to speed. However, she concluded that ultimately there should be little (or no) difference between them – as she proved during her stellar career.

Why, then, no female F1 starter for over 40 years if women can indeed compete on equal footings? If anything, from a promotional perspective, women hold advantages over men, if for no reason other than giving the sport better access to previously untapped markets. Accordingly, there must be some other reason.

The answer appears to lie in motorsport’s pyramid of junior categories and participants. The broader its base, the greater the numbers rising to the pinnacle. From a base of, say, 10,000 boys entering karting globally, only a hundred or so will eventually make it to full professionalism. From there a small handful of newcomers reach F1 each year: just two new names feature on the list of 2018 F1 drivers.

Although statistics vary across regions, Britain’s current under-16 boy/girl karting license split is 1,794/139. This meaning that from the start females are outnumbered by a factor of 14:1 in an activity where micro-percents are absolutely crucial. These sort of statistics apply across the world to lesser or greater extents.

Peer opportunities play a crucial role. During their pre-teen years more boys (than girls) are likely to have friends with access to karts, in turn enabling boys to “have a go” more readily than girls. Ditto the old stereotype of presenting pink dolls to girls and blue cars to boys as birthday gifts – while that prevails a lower percentage of boys will become ballet dancers than girls, their raw talents being equal.

As proof of the importance of friendships, consider that Force India’s Esteban Ocon claims credit for getting Pierre Gasly into motor racing: “When we were seven or eight our parents were friends and he [Pierre] was playing football while I was driving go-karts. My dad said to him to try my go-kart, and after that he quit football for racing.” Much same applied to the late Jules Bianchi and Charles Leclerc.

Of course such peer opportunities apply across both genders, but ultimately it comes down to numbers, i.e. the size of the pyramid base. Speaking to Hans Erik Naess, author of The Sociology of the World Rally Championship (2014), an scientific study of the social impact of the WRC, Mouton said:

“Either [gender] has the ability to be talented; that is not something specific to men. It is more that not enough women are trying, or not being given the same opportunity or equipment. I was lucky enough to be in teams where I always had the same car as my team mate, and this I’m sure has helped a lot and given me the extra motivation to reach a man’s level.”

Although not F1-specific, Mouton’s comments surely apply equally to F1. Thus the absence of women in F1 is not simply a gender or equality “thing” or physical or talent question, but an opportunity issue: The more parents encourage, permit even, their daughters to take up karting, the greater F1’s chances of eventually feting a female F1 world champion. Until parental mindsets change, the status quo is unlikely to shift markedly.

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines

Tomorrow on F1 Fanatic upcoming racer Jamie Chadwick will give her perspective on the challenges facing young female racing drivers.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 72 comments on “Why the numbers are stacked against more women reaching F1”

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      31st January 2018, 12:06

      This funding would be better spent on grassroots girls-in-karts initiatives

      1. Indeed, that was the argument Pippa Mann was also making. And she even has a (US based) initiative to do that.

        1. You are right on the mark.

    2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      31st January 2018, 12:20

      Jorda’s readiness to throw her entire gender under the bus to account for her personal lack of talent is pathetic.
      If this series did go ahead, I wonder what her excuse would be when she’s 12 seconds off DeSilvestro instead of Sorenson

      1. @fullcoursecaution does every other sport category you can think of throw the female gender under the bus because they’re keeping the competition segregated between the sexes?

        99% of sports have different categories for men and women. There’s nothing that shocking about her suggestion.

        That being said, given the fact that other sports mostly rely on physical ability, the segregation of genders is easy to justify. F1 however is more about skillfully handling a machine, so a mixed-sex competition is feasible. But still, this public outrage over her claim is rather absurd, given that nobody is up in arms about men and women competing only amongst themselves in virtually every other sport.

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          31st January 2018, 19:04

          @andrewf1
          After 3 seasons in GP3 with a highest finish of 13th, Carmen Jorda has shown that she is not superlicence material. However, several others have shown that the glass ceiling that Carmen suggests is holding her back is a lie.
          The outcry is that the suggestion that women cannot compete is coming from someone who is trying to blame her personal failure on her genetics, rather than her ineptitude, and that she is happy to pigeon-hole all other female racers to achieve that end.

          1. @fullcoursecaution

            we get it, you have great disdain for Carmen Jorda.

            From what I can tell, she never used her circumstance as a woman or her genes as an excuse for her performance. She made a general claim about women competing against men which would be perfectly valid when applied to almost every other known sport. Didn’t refer to her own performance or the lack of it – at all.

            But feel free to ignore all of that and just put words into her mouth to serve your contempt.

            1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
              31st January 2018, 22:08

              I’m not putting words into anyone’s mouth @andrewf1
              “It’s not fair to be compared with men because we will never be on the same level” is a direct quote, and one which Pippa Mann rightly takes exception to.
              Get off your high horse.

            2. The main thing you’re forgetting is that this is MOTORsport. Where as other sports are typically separated because of physical differences between men and women, in motorsport those differences are irrelevant as it’s how the squishy, organic thing sat in the cockpit handles the massively powerful machine they’re controlling that’s important.

            3. @Craig. The ‘physical’ differences between men and women are in fact relevant in motorsports.
              We start with the one we all know: strength, a woman (all things being equal) would need to be about 100kg to take on a 70kg man. Power seems no longer needed in today’s motorsports.
              But that’s not where it all ends physically, as I would advise a 100kg female to approach any man with extreme caution. Men have faster reaction times than women. Some of us may have noticed this in driving around in the streets – if a female driver is ahead of you, you need to make allowances for her reaction time in 9 out of 10 cases.
              As far as I know, reaction time (reflexes) is important in motorsports even as strength with modern cars is no longer key.

    3. Michael Brown (@)
      31st January 2018, 12:21

      Although not F1-specific, Mouton’s comments surely apply equally to F1. Thus the absence of women in F1 is not simply a gender or equality “thing” or physical or talent question, but an opportunity issue: The more parents encourage, permit even, their daughters to take up karting, the greater F1’s chances of eventually feting a female F1 world champion. Until parental mindsets change, the status quo is unlikely to shift markedly.

      My thoughts exactly. If they want to race, then let them race.

      However, I hope that “opportunity” is not misinterpreted so the result is a woman getting an F1 seat because they’re a woman to fulfill some kind of quota. I object to that like how I object to pay drivers – the seat wasn’t earned through merit.

      1. The quota that should be filled is each one of us, male car enthusiasts, talking about cars to a woman for each man we talk to about cars. THAT’s where the problem lies. It’s a societal issue, and fixing that sort of issue is way harder than implement any “quota” you seem so afraid of. No one is suggesting anything like that. It’d suck if it did get implemented, I agree, but if you’re getting all upset about the easy bit, the hard part is gonna be impossible.

    4. 6.7% is more than I expected for under 16 karting licenses.

      1. And its A LOT more than when I used to kart 10 years ago. I don’t remember ever racing against a female in Cadets, Jnr TKM or Snr TKM.

        I probably did once or twice but 6% would mean that it should have happened fairly regularly….

        I have seen more female racers though at all levels in the last few years but as the article says above, it’ll take time. Hopefully in a few years, 10% of under 16s with a karting license will be female. Then 20% and so on.

        There is always going to be a higher percentage of males in F1 – I imagine there is a higher percentage of male fans….. It’s about forcing a 50/50 spit – it’s about eliminating the barriers to entry for women and not treating them differently.

        Everyone should be judged on the same metric. If you need money, who brings the most? If you need performance, who brings the most? Gender shouldn’t come into it because it doesn’t have an impact on anything…

        1. @petebaldwin I agree that those 6,7% is relative to new generation while I would be surprise if it was even half of that when the current F1 drivers were driving kart.
          It makes no sense to sit a women into an F1 car for the sake of it if it’s just to have another backmarker. But allowing equal opportunity is what it is all about.

          Probably that it will take some cultural changes as well since girls parents are less likely to push their little girl with the same fierce as some boys parents.
          Actually a girls only championship could have some beneficial outcome in the sense that the younger girls could identify themselves with a hero or a women champion which could trigger the will of other to do the same.

    5. The sad reality of this world though is not everything is fair to everyone – between boys and girls, black and white, old and young, or left and right-handed.

      1. And that’s perfectly fine.

      2. I’d say the biggest divide might well be between rich and poor @siegfreyco, @damon.

    6. “Self-confidence surely is a prime ingredient for a race driver, no?”
      That cynical remark was uncalled for, Mr. Rencken. Her statement was grounded in reality (as opposed to your implied rejection of it), and if anything, that is what seems to require self-confidence in recent times.
      Women are no match for men in any known physical competition, nor in any intellectual type of competition, like chess you have brought up. But as another – and perhaps better – example of the latter, I would mention Rubik’s cube solving – which requires no institutional forms of training or participation, so the opportunities here are equal for all. And here obviously, the male record is also better than the female record. Thus, women have their own category here as well.

      I find it unnecessary to make a big fuss about a specific demographic not participating in a sport that only a marginal minority of it is interested in. And I mean the totality of what the sport is, which encompasses TV viewership, online participation, merchandise purchases etc.

      TBC

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        31st January 2018, 13:25

        “Women are no match for men in any known physical competition”

        Danica Patrick’s 7 Indycar podiums and Daytona 500 pole say otherwise

        1. @fullcoursecaution

          I’d rather go the other way around with this argument: Motorsport isn’t a physical competition. You need to be fit enough to withstand the forces within the car, yes, but fitness beyond that point doesn’t give you an advantage anymore. And, quite frankly, F1-drivers of the hybrid-era, especially those who had to slim down due to cars at the weight-limit, they don’t convincingly look fit enough for Group-B-Rallye (where we know a woman has one Rallyes of that era).

        2. Danica Patrick’s 7 Indycar podiums and Daytona 500 pole say otherwise

          They don’t prove, not disprove anything.
          I’ve seen a man with blue skin – Does it prove that people have blue skin? Come on, kid.

          1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
            31st January 2018, 14:37

            I’m not your kid, son.
            Your original generalisation didn’t have any conditions so save me the verbal gymnastics.
            If you really believe “women are no match for men in any known physical competition” then go punch Holly Holm and see what happens.

            1. “go punch Holly Holm and see what happens.”
              And what do you think should happen in a fight between a world champion kickboxer and me – non-athlete, and what does it prove?

              Next, you can find me a 12 year old weightlifting prodigy to prove kids are stronger than adults.

            2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
              31st January 2018, 14:47

              It proves your willing to add asterisks rather than stand over your initial assertion

            3. Do you understand basic statistical analysis, specifically the concept of a group mean and standard deviation?

          2. I’ve seen a man with blue skin – Does it prove that people have blue skin? Come on, kid.

            how is that relevant? I mean, a possible lie vs actual numbers?

            And what do you think should happen in a fight between a world champion kickboxer and me – non-athlete, and what does it prove?

            How is that relevant? Mouton would probably beat Tommy Suharto, who isn’t totally a non-athlete. Ditto for Danica Patrick and….probably Sean Gelael.

            (and ditto for any of them compared to me, but I’m a non-athlete so irrelevant :p)

        3. Physical competition = competition where physical attributes matter.

          Male javelin throwers throw a lot further than females.
          Male swimmers are much faster than women.
          Male runners are much faster than women.

          Etc.

          It could be argued that the only part women are at a disadvantage in racing, is in terms of the advantage physically that men have. The female equivalent of a Felipe Massa is probably a borderline midget, which probably won’t be able to handle an F1 car.

        4. Shayne Bradbury
          2nd February 2018, 7:26

          Ditto Molly Taylor. Molly was 2016 Australian Rally Champion. Not Women’s champion. Outright champion. Subaru’s lead driver.

      2. Women are no match for men in any known physical competition, nor in any intellectual type of competition, like chess you have brought up

        Do you actually believe that women are intellectually inferior to men, because that is basically what you are saying?

        1. @ijw1

          Do you actually believe that women are intellectually inferior to men, because that is basically what you are saying?

          It’s not a matter of belief, but evidence. Women are inferior intellectually in regards facets relevant for the kinds of competition seen in sports – from chess to logic puzzle’s. And that’s what it is. Don’t force your fragile feelings onto reality, because reality does not care.

          1. You could say the Chinese were intelectually superior to the rest of the world around the time of the Tang dynasty using your entire argument. Wouldn’t have made you right @damon

            So how strong is this evidence of yours to begin with? Answer that then talk conclusion to pull.

        2. @ijw1

          Scientific studies suggests that men more often have really, really low IQs and more often have really, really high IQs, while women are tend to have fewer extremes. A possible reason is that men have only one X chromosome, while women have two, which means that women have a spare, so random mutations have a smaller effect. Note that the average IQ seems practically identical for men and women.

          This disparity at the extremes can explain why the tiny fraction of exceptional men that are top-chess players are almost all men (and why there are far more homeless men than women, although pretty much no one cares about that gender disparity).

          It also has little meaning for the 99.9% of us that are not in these extremes.

      3. Sorry @damon, but that one i have to take exception to:

        Women are no match for men in any known physical competition, nor in any intellectual type of competition

        Now for the the physical part is probably true. That is the reason why there are seperated competitions in most sports that are mostly about physics. But F1 is not primarily a physical sport, even though the level of fitness needed certainly is on an incredibly high level, probably up there with astronouts and jet pilots. Regardless of gender, any person needs extensive training to reach that level of fitness and reaction skills. There IS a difference in physique, but nothing that cannot be overcome and more or less be balanced out. We are not talking about the average person but about talented and well trained professionals here.

        Where I really think you should go out and look around is the second part about women being “inferior intellectually“, because that is plain wrong. When one looks at the average population, there are differences between men and women in their performance in certain things (either gender being better at some and worse at others). There are also indications that there is a larger variance between intelligence in men than there is between women. Then there is strong evidence that our cultures LEARN us at a young age that indeed “brilliance” is more common in men than it is in girls, despite the evidence against it.

    7. I race short track asphalt every Friday night in the summer. It’s a series I feel most of you folks would thumb your nose at because we drive in circles. I live 40 min SW of Chicago and this is the only form or racing that’s available unless you’re a member of the rich elite.
      I race against a large and always growing number of female racers. Just like the guys, there are only a handful that really impress…the ones who have been doing this since a young age.

      F1 is a business before anything else, as are the rest of top tier racing series. The short track racing I do is not. We all know that businesses discriminate against women. Could it be the business side of Motorsport that keeps female talent from opportunity? Because in my real world experience gender has absolutely nothing to do with speed.

      I find it ironic that my hillbilly racing series is more inclusive than these big elitist European series.

      Money ruins racing for everyone but those with the biggest wallet, and sadly men still have the biggest wallets in this depressing world.

      1. Good point there Mark. There are probably millions and millions of talented racers, both male and female, who will never even get close to even trying it out because of not having the money to do do.

      2. @Mark

        We all know that businesses discriminate against women.

        No, we don’t, because there is not actually any hard evidence of this.

          1. To be fair at this rate we might as well pull Rushton’s works as evidence of HAM being genetically gifted or painting his skin.

          2. Ah yes. A link to a newspaper owned by the left wing. That’s probably totally objective…

      3. Mark, to that end, recently on the radio in the UK, they held an interview with a female journalist who had formerly worked in F1 as a journalist.

        She stated that, although it was a few years ago when she was in the sport, quite a sizeable chunk of the senior managers in most teams did seem to place financial concerns and marketability above talent when it came to female drivers. She recounted that she heard more than a few managers had seem some promising female drivers in junior series but, because the team bosses thought “they weren’t sexy enough”, they rejected them from their young driver programmes and ignored them.

        Now, naturally the problem is that proving such claims is going to be hard when it comes down to a confidential meeting where the other party could deny that claim. It is also quite possible that the situation has improved over time too – that said, when individuals such as Jorda are hired by teams seemingly on their appearance, it does make it harder to argue that those sorts of attitudes are not still present in the sport.

    8. It would be better to see more female racers, in all sports not just F1, but I think too many people are expecting a 50/50 split which I can’t ever see happening when you look at how interest in motorsports in general is more from men despite the fact there’s no barriers to stop anyone watching. Well, except pay TV…

      There’s a lot of talk recently about how bad gender stereotypes are but maybe there are some differences we just have to accept, after all how many of us were actually upset when we had cars instead of dolls or vice versa when we were young?

    9. I’m sick of this story “will (when) is there going to be a woman f1 driver?” that’s like saying when will there be a woman tennis player in the top 20 in the men’s side of the draw. Twice a year we get this stupid story and it seems we have started early this year, now lets wait for the “pay drivers are ruining F1” story that we get twice a year also when there’s nothing else going on.

      1. Absolutely right. I want to see the best 20 drivers in the world fight for the title, and that’s that. And I couldn’t care less if there aren’t any women, or coloured, or transgendered, or gender-fluid foxkin demiqueer princesses or attack helicopters among them.

      2. We have had women attempt f1, they just haven’t being good enough, nobody’s stopping them.

    10. Notably, the Dakar-Rallye has (or had?) another concept, sort of a mix between the chess-solution and how it is in most motorsports: They would have one rallye, but give extra prizes to the best woman. So Jutta Kleinschmidt got two prizes in 2001.

      One other thing to note about the karting-base being the problem is that this may be even truer now than it was in earlier years, as the professionalisation of motorsports neccessitates extensive karting all through childhood and youth to become a pro-driver. We already had more competitive female drivers in motorsports in the 80is/early 90s than we have today, be it Mouton, Kleinschmidt or Ellen Lohr, who was on the heels of the Schumacher/Frentzen/Wendlinger-trio in F3, and vastly more competitive in DTM than what we’ve seen from female drivers in more recent years. They all got into their motorsport-positions without nearly as much karting as todays F1-drivers all have.
      Now, the need for karting also means that girls/women being motivated isn’t enough; Karting means parents throwing big amounts of money at their kids hobby for over a decade. Normal earner families basically need to ditch all other hobbies for that. It’s difficult enough for a 4-8 year old boy to convince their parents to do that, now try that as a little girl.

    11. I have a niece in her teenage years who is karting at a respectable level, and I’m also a father of a little daughter who I want to grow up without ever being told she can’t do something because of her gender. If she ever decides that she’d like to try karting then I’ll move heaven and hell to make it happen. However, I think if I had to make the choice, and it was feasible, I’d sway towards having a female only F1 championship.

      Wherever possible I believe that people of any gender should be given the same opportunities, and Michèle Mouton competing and excelling in WRC is a great example of a motorsport championship where females are able to compete successfully against men, but F1 and WRC are hardly comparable.

      As demonstrated by the graph, there is a still a massive lack of females competing at grassroots and it will be a while before we have an abundance of exceptionally talented female drivers who could be considered as potential candidates for F1 seats. At the moment there are none, so why not follow the example set by the world of chess and allow women to compete in the same machinery in their own championship? If a female driver demonstrates pace worthy of the open F1 championship she could make the switch if she chose to. It might just be the very thing needed to entice more young females into motorsports…

    12. I am a bit worried about what kind of message is being sent when women drivers like jorda and wolff get access to f1 whereas the real talents like desilvestro were never given the opportunity. What makes me concerned is the image of these women who seem to be chosen purely on their looks and family relations.

      Jorda’s racing career has been absolutely abysmal when it comes to results. That kind of lack of performance should have never got her into f1. But there she was and is. Same with wolff whose racing results are almost equally bad. The only reason she is in f1 was because her husband was rich and high up in the mercedes organization and could get her a spot on williams. Some say saying this makes me misogynistic but maybe the facts are misogynistic in these two cases.

      What f1 and motorsport needs is more talented women drivers with good results. What f1 needs is truly talented young woman driver. Even if it was just friday practice sessions. De silvestro would have been perfect as nobody questions her skill or dedication and her racing record speaks for itself. In a positive manner. Even danica patrick would have been great. Both miles better than what we have got.

      So what does a young girl see when he looks at the two current examples? They see lack of talent, marrying into money and looks above all else. Be rich or be beautiful. Your race results don’t matter.

      But not hope is lost. F1 still has its women professionals. Claire williams has earned her place as have the hundreds of engineers and other personnel to be in f1. Michele more than proved her skills in rallying. In all top levels of motorsport we see more and more women earning their places. Only thing that can slow that down that progress is choosing more women with no race results and good looks over girls and women with real thirst for success and race results to prove it. I hope the jorda effect wears off quickly. I hope there are young girls out there somewhere who look at all this and think they can do it. Not think that they are not pretty enough so better do something else.

      1. @socksolid, the situation with de Silvestro doesn’t help affairs either, given the indication was that Sauber thought she did have the potential to be competitive in F1. Unfortunately, she also had fairly limited sponsorship and couldn’t raise enough money for a seat – which is why Sauber decided to cut its ties with her and hired Ericsson and Nasr instead.

    13. I think it’s a matter of interest and choice. The choice is there, but the interest isn’t. And I think that’s absolutely fine. I study mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester and I can say out of 200 mech students I can count all the girls on two hands. Now it’s not like there is any discrimination and women find it hard to get in to the uni, no, that’s not the case. It’s a matter of interest. Women are different from men and as a result, on the whole have different interests. If women don’t want to do engineering or karting or other male dominated things then why should we force them? Just like most men wouldn’t be interested in doing dance, ballet, sewing etc.

    14. Laurence can just write another $40 million check to Williams and put Lance’s sister in the other Williams seat.

    15. I’m probably stuck in the ’70s but I really feel there is nothing in a woman her way to become a F1 driver if she so wishes to work hard and pursue the dream, just as a boy would have to do. We’re acting like every little boy who picks up carting has become a professional driver whose been racking up title after title…, I don’t hear the ballet committee spending millions to get more men involved, and similarly if a man wanted to reach top level ballet he would have to work as hard as a female who’d want to reach the same level.

    16. It is not impossible for a woman to get near the top.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell%C3%A9_Nice#Racing_career
      Okay, she was young and pretty, and had loads of money behind her, but she is always conveniently overlooked..
      Nowadays, I think you have to start at a very young age,in karting. And that needs money and and investment of time and resources. And that may not be around for a girl who has real talent..

      1. Hellé Nice is a legend. Her’s is a template that needs copying. I think that todays decision by F1 oenership to adknowledge gender bias in sport is a step in the right direction, and will pay divendends eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.

      2. Ask Victoria Verstappen as she dropped racing (carts) when Max did enter F1. The reason was that she didn’t expected to got far in any series without constant pushing. And she has an family who would supported her to the top. Father, Mother and brother.

    17. I cannot help but think that the next big female racecar driving phenomenon is just around the next apex.

      1. Because you’re about to lap her?

    18. Naturally, with fewer drivers to choose from the chance that the best female driver will not even be discovered since she never even tried in her youth. This is normal for many sports where interest of the sport is skewed on way or the other. It is also harder to keep females active during the teens then males. Maybe because they develop faster than us and find other interests as they mature.

      In skeet shooting during the olympics (don’t remember if it was double trap) females competed with the males until (I think she was South Korean) grabbed the goldmedal and the next olympics they weren’t allowed to compete. Took another Olympic Games for them to get their own class.

      Maybe that is needed, to get a female to win drivers championship first so they get their own class.

    19. Can’t even let Grid Girls compete on the F1 grid anymore.

      1. It’s worth noting this article was published before the grid girls story broke on the same day. Just a coincidence!

    20. First, I think it is critical to support young women in motorsport, reduce barriers, and give equal access.

      But the numbers are worse for women than just having poor representation in carting. Biology is stacked against them.

      I’ve posted this study before. It isn’t the best, but it is useful. It basically shows that while the ranges of reaction times overlap, the averages are lower for women.

      So for a reaction time contest the average position for men would be higher, and it would be less likely for a given winner to be a women.

      That does not mean a women could not have the highest reaction time in a group. It does mean she would be a rarer talent.

      Fortunately for women racing isn’t just reaction times. But it has to be a critical indicator.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456887/

      1. The fact that the odds are stacked against women, due to overall amount of them trying, average reaction time, physical stamina, or whatever – is what makes the whole prospect intriguing!

        In a way, I’m sort of glad that Williams didn’t end up racing Wolff cause she probably could have made the grid and raced okay in what was maybe the easiest year to drive F1 of all. It would have diluted the achievement for what hopefully will be something well deserved for a really special talent that we all know can be out there. Maybe Silvestro could have been decent – but I don’t know. Other than that, I highly rated Desire Wilson as well. But someone will be found eventually – give it 5 years tops!

    21. It’s a tough issue. Partly because there is no villain preventing women from racing. The 6.7% female percentage in karting has to be as high or higher than any motoring-related pursuit in any other category. More than go offroading in Jeeps, more than tour Monterey in vintage cars (in the driver’s seat), more than autocross in parking lots, certainly more than in auto repair courses at trade schools. The highest I can imagine would be the Mazda Miata club with whom I occasionally meet – the last event had two women out of 20 cars. This in cars derided by a foolish and ignorant minority as ‘chick cars’.

      I’m not foolish enough to proclaim “Girls don’t want to race” but I never met one in my childhood. Would more do it if they were offered a ride in a kart at a young age? Definitely. I would’ve. So Susie and Pippa have the right idea. And Carmen’s an idiot. Yes the women would need to grow huge necks, just like Alonso and the other men, but how can she say those things with Michele as her boss?? They’re withstanding heat and G’s and doing fancy footwork, not chucking 7kg shots.

    22. I honestly don’t think F1 is a boys club – in the sense that it is actively stopping women getting in. It’s just a matter of talent (don’t talk to me about the physical side, they can easily handle that). So far, no women has been talented enough. Granted, you could say that about plenty of the men. But if the most powerful man in F1 right now can’t get his wife a seat, then it’s quite clear that talent, and not another factor is, the issue here.

    23. There was a small error in the data which has now been corrected. The actual percentage of female licence holders quotes is 7.2%, not 6.7%.

      1. So Keith, do you think that in a few years time 1 of every 14 british drivers that reach the top level of motorsport (F1, F2, Indycar, FE, WEC) will be female?

        I think it’s obvious Carmen Jorda is right and I don’t understand why that is so hard accept. At the time of her appointment I had some discussions on this BB, which covered pretty much everything, so instead of writing it all again, I’m going to quote myself.

        About the social factor:

        ***
        Motorsport started in 1894 with Paris-Rouen trial and quickly expanded from reliability runs into many different forms. Monoposto’s, sports cars, on-road and off-road, probably every form on four wheels has been tried. And for most of of the time there has been no formal restriction against women competing.
        Our motorsport history books, magazines and annuals are filled with thousands and thousands of men, all competing at the highest level. But women? Yes, there have been some, but if you try to name a few that competed on the highest level, how far would you come? Five, maybe ten? Against the number of men it’s neglictable.
        So we have 123 years of motorsport, where woman could have competed on a level playing field against men and it hasn’t happened. I realise there are social and cultural issues and prejudice as well, but where are the ones that slip through the mazes and defy all odds?

        ***
        Yes, there is a social or cultural aspect. But if this was the main reason for women’s lack of success in motorsport, where are the ones that broke through the glass ceiling. We’ve seen that happening in almost every other part of society. In motorsport I can name 1 woman that ever battled for major international title (Mouton in rallying) and a couple more that won (or almost won) big races, but the numbers are so low that they’re completely insignificant. So I think it’s safe to conclude that the cultural aspect is not the sole, not even the main reason that women are not competitive at the highest level.

        About the physical side:

        ***
        If we take fluid loss as a measure of stress on the human body, then we know that Grand Prix drivers often lose 1 to 2 kg in fluids during a race. This is roughly in the same league as the fluid loss of marathon runners. Now male and female marathon runners are completely equal. They run the same course and distance and when they win, they get the same gold medal. Yet no one expects the female winner to compete with male winner on time.

        So the physical side of motorracing is ignored. In some forms of motorsport this might be okay, but in Grand Prix racing it clearly is not. Women who think they can compete with men in endurance events under high physical stress should read up on biology and physics. Sure there will some women with physiology very close to that of men and they’ll have a better chance to compete, but they are the exception.
        In my view equality should not be limited to the exceptional few. I do not think equal and same are synonym. I don’t think that ackowledging physical differences between men and women reflect badly on women. I don’t know anything about marathon running, but I do know about cycling. And I know I admire Annemiek van Vleuten more than Nairo Quintana, although Quintana will probably be quicker up the Alpe d’Huez.

        ***
        Imagine a 60 kg woman powerlifting 240 kg. That’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?

        If a racecar corners or brakes with 4G, it means a load of 4 times the body weight is put on the drivers body. If the same 60 kg woman is driving this car, there’s a 240 kg load on her body.

        Newton taught us that it is exactly the same if you put a load on the world (woman lifting 240 kg) or if the world puts a load on you (woman cornering at 4G).

        Now I know there are some differences between those two situations, but the stress on the body is comparible.

        So yes, the physical side does matter.

        Not convinced? Just look at the reality of today. There are a few girls trying their hand at motor racing almost every year. They enter the lower formula, like F4 and F-Renault. Some of them, like Jorda, progress to F3/GP3. But there it stops. At that point most women quit racing or move sideways to GT’s. There are (almost) no women progressing to F2-level, let alone F1. The ones that do, I’ve called the exceptional few in the former post. So the logical conclusion is that at F3-levels of downforce the advantages of the male body become a dominant factor in race performance.

        About succesful female racers:

        ***
        Help me out here, what women are already successful in motorsport? And before you name the few that are competing, ask yourself if those drivers had been men, if you had ever heard of them.

        There is currently one name that stands out: Danica Patrick. If you look at her achievements in American motorsports, there is no other woman that even comes close. You could say her performances are of Fangio-Clark-Senna level in her gender.

        Now imagine a fictional driver with exactly the same resume and results as miss Patrick, a man, let’s call him Patrick Danica. How do you think mister Patrick Danica would be judged on this forum. Midfield in NASCAR, midfield in Indycars, with a single win. I guess he would be called an also-ran, handy driver, nothing special.

        Now if the female Senna is just an also-ran in a men’s racing world and you are serious about women competing in top-level motorsport, you cannot continue the status-quo.

        ***
        Well, the thing is, there are very few women who did better in single seater racing than Jorda. You name Alice Powell, whom I actually heard of, but I had to Google her to find out she’s not racing anymore. Now I hadn’t heard of Christina Nielsen and I don’t follow IMSA, so I don’t want to take anything away from her performances, but I do think that GT racing is semi-amateur sports. To illustrate, a 50-year old Dutch supermarket mogul raced at Le Mans earlier this, in what was his 3rd or so real motorrace, and he came 14th overall.

        Now you keep implying there currently is no level playing field, but that is only true for the ‘environmental’ factors. Jorda and Powell and Nielsen drive/drove exactly the same machinery as their opponents. Now your claim is that if the motorsport education and the overall treatment of women is the same as men, that women will compete on the same level. I think that’s an illusion for many forms of motorsport. I think Jorda’s opinion is along those lines and therefore she’s a welcome addition to the FIA commission that so far seemed to have spend their time on the equality of the exceptional few.

        ***

    24. So even a better step forward to remove grid girls, if that helps a bit to make parents forget prejudices.

    25. If the numbers are stacked against women reaching F1, then they are even more stacked against Black people reaching F1.

      Are we going to have that debate? Of course not. Point is, members of the female gender are not more important nor do they deserve more rights than other people.

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