F1: Women, Bernie And The Art Of Proving It


Bernie Ecclestone was reported as saying some rather divisive things about women in F1 recently -not the first time. This time around Bernie's argument was weak, to say the least. He argued that women hadn't made it in F1 because they were weak.

Given the ability of wet behind the ears teenagers to step up and do a competent job in an F1 car I seriously doubt that physical performance is a limiting factor preventing women from becoming F1 drivers.

The counter arguments that women are pushed out of the sport in the junior formulae sound just as wobbly when emotional reasoning is left at the door. Progress through the junior ranks is almost entirely related to finances. Good sponsorship equals good cars equals development support equals results to a large degree. With women in the sport being a tiny minority its easy to see that appealing to sponsors with largely female audiences should ensure the progress of at least some women through the ranks.

The problem is that some of the women who have made it through the ranks into higher formulae have done so on the basis of everything but their driving ability. Take Susie Wolff. A history of having won nothing, ever, doesn't really promise a great career in any sport. Her entry into F1 was undoubtedly eased by her husband's partial ownership of the Williams Grand Prix team, and at the first prospect that they might have to give her a race seat (due to one of the team's real drivers suffering an injury) they showed exactly what they thought of her potential by categorically stating the Wolff would not be racing one of the team's cars.

Wolff did manage to appear in a number of suggestive publicity shots though, working her actual talent, rather than her imagined driving one.

There are much better prospects out there - the unfortunate game of musical chairs that Sauber played at the start of last season prevented Simona de Silvestro getting a race seat with the team. Given that she's shown plenty of talent and has race wins to back that up, it would have been a much better measure of the ability of a woman to compete at the highest level of the sport. I for one think that Simona would have achieved some good results in the Sauber. 

Unfortunately we'll probably never see de Silvestro in an F1 car now, but the time will come when F1 welcomes a real female racer into its ranks - and its not too far away.

So long as that comes as a result of talent rather than glamour I'm all for it. And I suspect Bernie is too.

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