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Women & Formula 1: Is equality the impossible dream?

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While many other sports have embraced the participation of women in recent years, it is fair to say that motorsports have been left trailing in their exhaust dust.

The number of women competing in top-class racing series is extremely low, despite some females demonstrating that they can compete with their male counterparts.

Recent research by Betway highlighted that two women – Sophia Florsch and Esmee Hawkey – are currently competing in the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) series.

By contrast, there are no female drivers in Formula 1 despite the fact that women have competed in Grand Prix events in the past.

Maria Teresa de Filippis finished 10th in the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix, while Lella Lombardi claimed sixth place at the aborted Spanish Grand Prix in 1975.

Giovanna Amati was the last driver to compete in Formula 1 in 1992, but was sacked by the Brabham team after failing to qualify for the first three races that season.

Despite the lack of female participation on the track, there have been plenty of women who have forged a successful career with Formula 1 teams.

For instance, Ruth Buscombe joined Ferrari in 2012 as a simulation development engineer where she developed and implemented algorithms.

She was subsequently promoted to the role of race strategist, working with drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen during her time with the Italian team.

Buscombe joined Haas F1 in 2015 before moving to Alfa Romeo as a strategy engineer. She has been widely tipped to secure a role with Williams in the future.

While Buscombe’s off track success demonstrates that females can progress in Formula 1, there still appears to be barriers in place where driving jobs are concerned.

It has previously been argued that physical performance is a factor, yet the efforts of several women in NASA’s space programme under gruelling conditions dispels this notion.

Florsch argued in 2019 that the lack of women role models for budding racers is an issue, and claimed that the creation of a female-only Formula 3 series was a backwards step for motorsports.

The point regarding role models has plenty of merit, particularly as many Formula 1 still lament the abolishment of the ‘Grid Girls’ in 2018.

Money is another potential hurdle, with motorsport requiring plenty of financial backing in most of the different disciplines.

Changing this requires a shift in thinking from sponsors, who tend to look towards male drivers whenever they give someone their backing.

Thankfully the sport is making moves to address the gender imbalance, with the ‘FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars arguably the most innovative.

The scheme was launched in 2020 and aims to discover and promote the best female talents between the ages of 12 and 16.

The project was viewed as a four-year programme, but has already seen 16-year-old Maya Weug become the first female to join Ferrari.

Rallying is another motorsport where equality is being encouraged, with the Extrem E Rallye series committing to use a male and female driver in each team.

Whether these initiatives will be enough to change the landscape in Formula 1 is unclear, but motorsport does appear to be trying to get its house in order.

 

 

 

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