F1 seasons raise many questions, and one that seems to be asked every year is, “When will we see a woman in F1?” With the topic of women in motorsport and their progression on the Feeder Series ladder being a frequent topic of discussion, ATRL’s Mees Drijgers shares her opinion on the matter.
Women have been a part of motorsports for a long time and will continue to be a part of this sport. Think of Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first woman to ever compete in Formula 1, or of Lella Lombardi, the first and only woman so far to score points in F1. Think of Jutta Kleinschmidt, ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ Sabine Schmitz, IndyCar race winner Danica Patrick, DTM driver and Venturi CEO Susie Wolff, and IndyCar racer Simona de Silvestro.
This year, the W Series returned for a 3rd, albeit shortened due to funding issues, season hosting a race in Asia for the first time. The Iron Dames squad of Sarah Bovy, Doriane Pin, Michelle Gatting, and Rahel Frey made history by becoming the first all-female squad to win in Gold Cup at the 24 Hours of Spa. Tatiana Calderón and Simona de Silvestro joined the 2022 IndyCar grid, driving for AJ Foyt Racing and Paretta Autosport, owned and led by Beth Paretta. Calderón returned to the Formula 2 grid later in the season to race for Charouz Racing System, Jamie Chadwick tested an IndyLights car, and Alice Powell has been lighting up not only the commentator’s box for Formula 2 and Formula 3, but also the race track. At Magny-Cours, Abbi Pulling, Chloe Chambers, Nerea Martí and Hamda Al-Qubaisi took part in testing days to test F3 machinery for the first time.
Despite these achievements, the sport is not quite on the right path yet. Now that women are receiving the funding and sponsorship to race and are getting more chances to showcase their talent in the motor-racing world, there is still one thing that separates them from their male competitors– the unrealistic expectations they face and double standards they have to deal with.
Even now, in 2022, nothing much has changed. Men are willing to give women a chance, but only if they have already proved themselves in multiple different ways, working their way up through multiple series or having driven all types of machinery. And this way, they always seem to end up at the same conclusion: women have to join F1 on merit.
But how are women supposed to join on merit if they’re not being given the opportunities to show what they’re capable of? Women often do not have the funding to join a series in the first place, and if they do manage to join, they are held to much higher standards than their male counterparts.
Not only do they have to showcase they have mastered the new machinery in their first year of joining a series, but they are also expected to perform at the top of their game immediately, beat their competitors where possible, and be an active part of the championship fight, while achievements like those are usually only meant for the fortunate few.
It doesn’t stop at performance; in a recent interview with Along the Racing Line, former IndyCar and current F2 driver Tatiana Calderón mentioned that research on motorsport equipment and workout schemes for women has been limited. Not only are the pedals, the steering wheel, the seats and space for the seat in the car, and the race suits not tailored towards women’s physique at all, their workout programs are specifically tailored towards men’s needs. She suggested women might need an entirely different training method to get the most out of their workouts.
During the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, Charles Leclerc commented on this, mentioning how he thinks “it’s good to give women a chance in F2 and F3, and hopefully F1, [b]ut if there is a female driver, it should be by merit, not with the help of a social message”, and while it is extremely encouraging to see he would like to see a woman join the grid, there shouldn’t be a need for the ‘perfect woman’ occupying just that one designated single spot.
If women were given proper opportunities, equipment, and time on track to develop and hone their skills, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about women having to join “on merit” anymore; it would be given that drivers earn these opportunities through hard work, discipline and determination– not just as a “social message.”
But of course, such hypothetical statements of a woman’s place in Formula 1 won’t seem like issues to the people who find themselves already safely within the motorsport bubble, who have had the gates opened wide for them and have not had to climb the fence.
Regardless, if there’s anything the women in motorsport have shown us these past few years, it is that they belong in this sport, are talented, can compete and deserve to be given the space to grow and develop their craft.
Simply, let women compete.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mees was introduced to the world of F1 by one of her friends in July 2020 and hasn’t missed a race weekend since. Her favourite drivers are Alex Albon, Lando Norris, and George Russell; outside of F1, she also actively supports Lawson, Vips, Piastri, Ilott, and Ticktum. She specialises in writing about F2, but is looking to specialise in FE and IndyCar as well, after starting to watch both series in 2022. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture, she is currently getting MA degrees in Translation and English Literature & Culture. When she’s not watching motorsport, she’s either watching football matches (preferably Real Madrid), reading a book, or watching streams on Twitch.
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