Avoid language which may discourage women from entering motorsport – Vettel

2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel warned against discouraging women from entering motorsport after Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said he doesn’t expect a female driver to join the series within the next five years.

Domenicali said F1 is trying to “see what we can do in order to improve the system” to encourage more women to enter motor sport and “you will see soon some action.”

However he added that “realistically speaking” the F1 grid is likely to remain all-male for the time being. “I don’t see, unless something that will be like a sort of meteor coming into the earth, a girl in F1 in the next five years. That is very unlikely.”

Vettel, who held a go-kart race for female competitors ahead of last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, said Domenicali’s statement was unfortunate because it could serve to discourage women from attempting to enter motor racing.

“I know Stefano and I think it is – I haven’t read, exactly – a very unlucky choice of words,” said the Aston Martin driver.

“Because it’s statements like that I guess women or girls are probably confronted with when they grow up and sharing their dreams, sitting at breakfast saying ‘I want to become a racing driver’. And then the father might have just read exactly that statement and making it clear to her that ‘but you do like other things, why not focus on other things?’ And then maybe they do focus on other things and drop racing or the idea.

“So it’s important that we don’t say these things because there’s [bright] sparks everywhere.”

No woman has attempted to qualify for an F1 race since Giovanna Amati 30 years ago. Vettel is confident women can compete on an equal footing with men in F1 and hopes to encourage more to pursue motor racing careers.

“I don’t see a reason why we can’t have a woman on the grid,” he said. “I think the challenges we are facing, they can be faced by women.

“So I do the opposite, I encourage every girl at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table to speak up. And we can prove Stefano in this regard wrong and all these people wrong that say that certain things can’t be done by you because you are a girl or a woman. I think this sort of stereotype thinking is slowly disappearing, but has to disappear completely.”

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2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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34 comments on “Avoid language which may discourage women from entering motorsport – Vettel”

  1. Good response.

  2. Why is this an article?

    Domenicali is absolutely correct – it is extremely unlikely that any woman (or girl, if she chooses to call herself that – I know plenty of adults who do) is going to end up in an F1 race seat within 5 years. I expect it will take a lot longer than 5 years, if it ever happens.

    Not because ‘men’ are preventing them from doing so in any way, but because no female has had the skills, talent, commitment and/or finances to make it happen – and isn’t looking likely to for quite a while.
    Good luck to them, for sure. I think most of us would like to see it happen – but it simply isn’t likely, and casually referring to young women as ‘girls’ or not isn’t going to change that.

    1. I think your comment hits the nail on the head. Except not for the point you’re trying to make. Your comment just underlined what Vettel was trying to say…

      1. baasbas +1

      2. Really? How so?
        That using the term ‘girl’ does actually disincentivise otherwise driven individuals?

        Vettel gives the example that it’s not the person involved that becomes demotivated, but those around them.
        If that’s what that person is willing to give into, then they were never going to succeed anyway. You need a stronger mental approach than that to overcome yourself, never mind other people.
        Ask any professional/elite sportsperson (male, female or otherwise) who’s reached the top of their field if they’d agree with people who tell them they can’t do something….

        1. I’ll tell you how so. Read all of it please.
          OK let’s go through it.
          “Not because ‘men’ are preventing them from doing so in any way,”. Factually incorrect.
          Men are preventing women entering the top tiers of motorsport. Individual men? No, probably not in almost all cases. This is a multidimensional thing but the main aspect is the background and environment of general prejudice towards women in the sport for no good reason. You have just expressed it in its purest form.
          “but because no female has had the skills, talent, commitment and/or finances to make it happen”. Factually incorrect.
          And don’t start with the ‘well if any were good enough they’d already be there’ rubbish because they’re not there because of the first point: That toxic environment that systematically discourages women from pursuing the top tiers. This is the thing that must change. Women have the talent, ability, skills, commitment, money, and all the other factors required. There is no question about any of that. At all. Pretending this is not so is not helping.
          “and isn’t looking likely to for quite a while.” This unfortunately is probably true due to the inertia of the above. It takes effort to change this and not a whole lot of effort it being expended by F1 or other motorsport organisations to overcome the systematic issues preventing women from participating at the top levels. A lot more needs to be done and supporting voices like Seb’s are few and far between. Remember that just because you read about these rare ones doesn’t mean they are widespread. They are not and they damn well should be.
          “Good luck to them, for sure. I think most of us would like to see it happen”. Yes, you’re right I think. Most of us do want to see it happen. And that “us” clearly includes you.
          “but it simply isn’t likely”. Well you can make it more likely by talking about women and encouraging them to enter the sport and not being negative towards the views of anyone who wants to make it happen. It’s clear that you do want to make it happen, you’ve said as much above. So don’t talk it down. Talk it up. Encourage it and it will change the environment. Put the effort in to remove to toxicity. Be part of the solution. We can change this.

          1. Well, @davethedrummer, I read all of your comment.
            And apart from looking forward to the ‘meteor coming to Earth’ as Domenicali put it, I don’t really agree with any of it.

            If treating all people equally regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other feature is ‘toxic’ – then I must be as toxic as they come, because none of that makes a jot of difference, IMO.
            I will not be part of the shadow-boxing movement to eliminate a problem that doesn’t exist.

          2. What a load of rubbish. Motorsport is perhaps the only sport on the planet where the difference between men’s and women’s natural physical characteristics are as neutralized as possible.
            Women even have a considerable advantage, they are much lighter than men.

            Scan your brain to locate all your american gender propaganda programming, and restore yourself to last working snapshot, mate!

            A Woman driving in F1, on merit, is something everyone would like to see. And nobody would like it more than the advertisers!

      3. someone or something
        26th August 2022, 10:33

        You forgot to drop your mic, mate. Enough has been said.

      4. +1 baasbas :-)

      5. +1 bassbas, right on!

  3. While I partially agree with Vettel, if a few less than positively associated words are going to prevent someone from entering into the highly competitive, highly critical world of international sports, then they never had a chance in the first place.

    If I was Williams or Haas, I’d find a woman driver as fast as possible, throw her into a full time drive and have the sponsorship team working every angle of international cosmetics brands, razor companies, fashion brands and flog the marketing hard with ‘motivation’ directed at women. That is an untapped potential that is being totally overlooked right now. Guaranteed a Netflix show would be green lit in minutes and sponsors would be piling on. Even though in those teams there would be no chance of winning, but those teams already have at least 1 sad, untalented driver that have zero value right now anyway.

  4. Not the language but the truth behind Domenicalis statement is discouraging. The leading female talent cannot even get the funding to compete in Formula 3.

    1. Assuming you’re talking about Jaime Chadwick, she did race in Formula 3 for Prema, alongside Petecof, Arthur Leclerc and Rasmussen who took 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the championship. Chadwick finished down in 9th, with just 80 points. The only full season entry who scored fewer points was Emidio Pesce. Pesce is now racing in the Italian GT championship.

      That’s a great place for drivers who are skilled race car drivers, but just not good enough to continue on to F2 and F1. Chadwick would similarly be a welcome addition to a solid GT team, and maybe she can even make the step up to LMP2 in the ELMS or WEC. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of career. There’s plenty more to racing than just F1, after all.

      1. I would argue that if a multiple championship winner of the W series cannot progress to the next tier up then there is a fundamental problem, moving to GT or LMP2 or similar cannot be an option surely.

        1. Why would that not be a good option, there’s plenty of competitive racing in sportscars for professional drivers to make a career out of. And in this case teams in superior single seater series have already seen what Chadwick can do when paired with some other prominent young drivers, and they seemingly weren’t impressed.

          It seems they consider Chadwick’s domination of Formula W more of a mark against the series than an endorsement of her skills. Unfair? Perhaps a bit, but again: she did race with Prema for a full season and the teams will have been paying attention. And as an aside, even success in a much higher rated series like Formula 2 is no guarantee of advancement, as Robert Shwartzman, Callum Ilott, Luca Ghiotto, and Nyck de Vries found out.

          Ultimately, I think the FIA initiatives to support female drivers – like in the ELMS – is going to be much better at proving what Vettel is saying than putting all the girls in a separate category.

      2. I was indeed talking about Jamie Chadwick, although I meant the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
        But I didn’t mean to say her fate is discouraging because it is unfair. Any male driver with similar results would struggle to get to FIA F3. You could even argue that getting the Prema seat was already sort of a priviledge.

  5. Imagine the media focus when that happens. I can’t help thinking some will say: “Look a woman driving a F1 car. All you guys in F2 and F3 was beaten by a girl.” If she doesn’t get it right all the comments will be even worse. “Get a man drive that thing.” “She’s there just because she’s a woman.” “She’s worse than Mazepin!” I hope not many will do that but it will happen. Imagine if she finishes on the podium or even wins. “Lewis the goat was beaten by a woman.” I can’t imagine what she will feel then.

    1. I can’t imagine what she will feel then.

      Quite proud of herself and her achievements, I’d reckon.

    2. If a woman come in and beats Verstappen / Hamilton, thats not a knock to those drivers, that means she’s totally legit and no one except the most die hard fool would doubt her ability. No one is laughing at Lewis because Maldonardo won a race against him!

  6. This remains a delicate balance. One popular opinion is that formula 1 is not a playground, only the best drivers should be elligable for an f1-seat and currently there does not seem to be a female driver good enough to warrant an f1 seat. On the other hand have we seen in other sports that positive role models do attract children towards the sport, resulting in much more talent to choose from. If we really think it is important to have women in F1, than children may need a role model.

    An example. Apart from F1 I also follow athletics closely. Last weeks the European Championships were held. About 10 years ago a female athlete from my country started winning medals in sprint categories (most notably 100 and 200 meters), categories our country was never succesful in. This probably inspired girls to focus on these categories more and during this European Championships most of the medals from my country were won on sprint categories, and all by women.

    1. I don’t think there is anything to balance, except people’s expectations.

      It seems that I am in the minority when I reference the mentality of many professionals (particularly elite athletes) that the last thing they need is for anyone to tell them they could or should be like someone else.
      They don’t want to be like other people. They want to be better. They want to do what nobody else has done before – to be the leader.
      Their ‘role-model’ is their internal belief that they can, and will, be the best at what they do. Or at the very least, do and be the very best they can be.

      I find it somewhat offensive when people argue to place a person in a position they are not up to or ready for, simply so they can be visible. It’s tokenistic, virtue-signalling, damaging nonsense.
      Imagine the pressure that person feels – especially if they are not of the ‘typical’ demographic for that position.
      Placing a female in F1 for role model duties would do far more harm than good for her.

      But hey, as long as some 8 year old girls drive a go kart, it’s all good, right…?

  7. They’re both right. Vettel makes a pretty uncontroversial point by noting that a lot of women are dissuaded from motorsport at an early age by a whole range of biases. (As an aside, motorsport is a rich person’s game. Countless women and men are unable to participate beyond regional karting for financial reasons; so it’s a complex issue.)

    Domenicali is also correct that there aren’t any women racing today in the junior categories that are usually part of the road to F1 that are likely to be on the grid within the next five years. There just aren’t. On a more positive note, there’s a marked increase (at least compared to the 1990s and 2000s) in women racing in GT series, and they’re proving what Vettel is saying: that you don’t need to be a man to be successful. However, just like none of the men in those series are going to get the call from AMG Mercedes F1, neither are those women.

    F1 is a very exclusive club. Until this year, F1 had never had a single Chinese racer. That’s 1,5 billion people. And F1 is very hard to reach, regardless of any personal characteristics. Heck, even most people on the F2 grid this weekend will never race in F1. They’ll stick around for two or three years, and then either quit racing to go to college or race in sportscars.

  8. Here we go again…

    Every other website: Reams of stories on Audi entering F1, Ricciardo losing his seat, inside stories from Alonso to Aston
    Racefans: #2 most prominent story is about language people use discouraging women from F1

    This site genuinely used to be my go to for all F1 news. It’s not even third on my list now.

    1. It’s not even third on my list now.

      So, may we deduce that you check at least four, considering that you in fact are here?

      (OK, the old mainframe programmer (ahhh, to be young and find COBOL cool) in me demands that I note that it, of course, could also be a list of only two, since all that you state is that racefans is neither number one (implied) nor number three).

  9. Imagine if one looks at the prospects between Indian drivers and just said: “I dont see an Indian driver in F1 for the next five years”. This certainly proves that F1 is racist against Indian people and that the fact that no Indian (or Chinese, or Japanese, or Moroccan) driver ever won a F1 race – or had a successful career on it – is due to the toxic environment.

    1. There are people on this site that would argue that, unfortunately.

    2. It’s still possible to look at the reasons why there has only ever been – for example – one Chinese driver, and only a handful of female drivers in all of F1 history. Some of those reasons are beyond F1’s influence, but others might be addressed or changed. It seems the main difference between Domenicali and Vettel is where to put their emphasis. There may not be any Indian or female drivers on course to joining F1 currently, but ultimately it’s also in the teams interests to attract the best drivers, and there’s no reason why the next Alonso or Schumacher can’t be named Zhang, Owusu or be a woman.

  10. Vettel continues to show he is an ideologically programmed idiot.

    1. Or maybe the problem is with the way that you are ideologically programmed.

  11. Long ago I used to drive karts and it was a blast. I did not progress from it, I was simply not good enough. Just like 99% of the people who try to pursue an elite sports career. Money was also a problem, but not the main one, had I been good enough, I would have found sponsors. But the idea that I would have been discouraged by language, I find it absolutely laughable. Come on, Seb, you cannot be as Boeotian as you sound.

    1. Yes, was the first thing I thought when I read the headline!

  12. Domenicali: We will take steps to encourage women into motorsport, but it’s unlikely you will see a woman competing in F1 within the next five years.

    Vettel: I haven’t read exactly what Domenicali said, but I’ll grab the chance to go off tangent and do a little grandstanding.

    1. This just about sums up the whole thing.
      Vettel being a classic woke one-upper.

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