Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Women in F1

SIMON: There was an interesting article in Autosport last week. Susie Wolff, who is Williams F1’s current development test driver and a competitor in the German touring car series, was being interviewed about whether women had a place in F1. The article was somewhat poignant as Spanish driver Maria de Villota suffered horrible injuries after crashing a Marussia F1 car after it malfunctioned (although Marussia are now denying it. This could become a story all by itself).

So can women cut it motorsport’s premier series? My answer is of course they can. Women are people too. A great driver is a great driver and their sex has little to do with it. This question about whether women can cut it comes up when a female driver breaks out, and there are quite a few women doing well in motorsport across the world. But so far, no woman has succeeded in F1. I think this has more to do with numbers than gender. There are thousands of guys going into motorsport with F1 aspirations, but only a handful of women. Hand in hand with that, of all those guys very few realize their dream. The same goes with women. Getting to F1 is like making it in American Idol, only a handful will make it prime time. The harsh reality is that for a woman to make it to F1 more women are needed in motorsport so that a great talent can be discovered. Your thoughts, Tammy.

TAMMY: My answer is (not surprisingly) also "of course they can." What I'm cheered by is that I haven't seen a single "oh, poor women, can't cut it" or "poor females, we can't endanger them" article since de Villota's accident. And thank goodness for that. I think it's a generational thing ... I was aghast at Denise McCluggage's story that she had a ride lined up for Le Mans with Briggs Cunningham (how cool would that have been?), but at that time, the French didn't allow women to race. (That's Denise in the center there, last year, with mutual friend Jill Amadio and me.)

But can you imagine a country or organizing body not allowing women to race today? I can't, thank goodness. After all, as my husband put it, we send women to war now. I don't think young women these days will ever stand for being told they can't do something because of their gender.

But Simon, I think you're also right that the scarcity of women at the highest levels of motorsport, like F1, is a numbers game. I'd hazard a guess that females were pretty scarce at the bottom of the racing ladder 15-20 years ago, meaning the number who've made it to the pro ranks today is even lower. I like to think the number is higher these days ... and just maybe the current crop of karting competitors contains a few girls who will someday be racing an F1 car through the streets of Monaco. I'd love to see it.

What do you all think? Can women cut it in F1?

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