Formula One needs the right woman

By on Thursday, March 8, 2012

Maria de Villota tested for Renault last year

Maria De Villota joining Marussia must be a positive, right? Well, no actually...

Marussia’s announcement confirming that Maria De Villota will become the team’s test driver is apt considering that today (Thursday) is International Women's Day. Yet De Villota is rarity in Formula One, despite the fact that 50% of the globe is, probably, made up of women.

You think about other sports for a moment – in Tennis, there is a separate game for women that isn’t as popular as the male game, but receives widespread coverage. The likes of the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki are global superstars. A separate series in football for women has been gaining popularity throughout the last few years, while the majority of the top teams cater for women too. The same is the case in Cricket, where the England team is rather good. Yet that isn’t the aim in Formula One – creating a separate series is pointless both financially and in terms of marketability. Well, there was/is Formula Una but so little is known about that or watched that it might as well not exist. Formula One’s aim is to get a female driver into the sport to compete alongside Sebastian & co.

Anyway, a brief history of women in Formula One is required, so here it is. There have been 5 female Formula One drivers and only two of them started a race. Lella Lombardi scored half a point in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. Giovanna Amati attempted to qualify for Brabham in 1992 but that’s pretty much it.

Yuji Ide was out of his depth.

Back to De Villota and we have a problem. Quite frankly, she isn’t good enough. Her racing career so far has yielded almost no success. “Sexist!” I hear you chant, and yes that may be true. But there’s a reason for it. There have been hopeless Formula One drivers before, the most recent being Yuji Ide. He was so bad it was comical, except of course he was a danger to his rivals, which culminated in his super license being revoked when he tipped Christijan Albers into a series of rolls at Imola.

With a woman, mediocrity cannot be accepted.

De Villota hopes to improve her Formula One chances, but at 32 and with a dire racing record previously, her own ambitions may scupper the chances of a generation that come after her. Formula One needs to have a credible lady racer to dispel the theory that women cannot compete at the top level. Sure, women would probably struggle more than men concerning the physical side of racing a Formula One car for ninety minutes but F1 is the only mainstream motorsport that has yet to attract the opposite sex.

Danica Patrick

Every motorsport fan is aware of Danica Patrick. She arrived in IndyCars in 2005 and finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500. She became an attractive prospect to sponsors and eventually won a round in 2008. It may have been a fleeting success, but there was a woman who had beaten the men and could consistently run near the front. She may have now moved on to NASCAR, but her success has opened the doors for other female racing drivers in IndyCars.

If Formula One is to accept a female racing driver and then view her as just another competitor, it needs someone like Patrick. A racing driver such as De Villota will only trundle along at the back – if she would even qualify – and bring negative publicity that would set the advancement of women in motorsport back another decade.

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