Let me begin by saying it would be great to see women competing in F1 but it is totally unrealistic to think that there will ever be competing female drivers in the future. Only five female drivers have ever raced in the sport, Giovanna Amati was the last of a rare breed, the Italian made three starts for the Brabham team back in 1992.
Lella Lombardi was the most active between 1974 and 1976 and raced 17 times, these women are pioneers in a sport dominated by rich men who adorn the ‘circus’ with candy floss grid girls. For women to be taken seriously they first have to be taken seriously by the hand that feeds them and the hands will only ever see the candy floss.
Now a new generation of female F1 drivers are leading the charge, but the numbers are small, and their primary roles are behind the scenes as test drivers. The charge was initially led by María de Villota, but she suffered severe head trauma after a serious crash, in England, while carrying out straight-line testing for the Marussia F1 team. The Spaniard made a full recovery but died suddenly and unexpectedly as a result of her injuries exactly one year later in 2013.
Now the sole female representative in F1 is Susie Wolff, with British Formula Renault and British F3 Championships experience behind her the Scottish born driver has a great racing pedigree. Currently a test driver for the Williams F1 team, some may point out she had it easy because her husband owns 16% of the company, Mr Wolff is currently in charge of race operations at Mercedes F1. Mrs Wolfe has connections.
The 31 year old will be the first female driver, since Amati, to participate in an F1 race weekend at the British Grand Prix, albeit during the practice sessions. In a BBC interview Wolff says “the sport is not a mans sport anymore” but the problem is the sport is run by men for men. It isn’t about Susie Wolff’s proficiency as a driver its about the same old story of women in the sport trying to break down barriers and smashing the glass ceiling.
For women wanting to compete in F1 the barriers will always be difficult to surmount and the glass ceiling, well it’s getting even tougher. Women drivers in F1 are seen, by the media, as objects of curiosity, strangers in a strange land and that attitude is pervasive in the sport itself.