Ecclestone “massively pushing” for F1’s own Danica Patrick

2013 F1 season

Danica Partrick, Daytona, NASCAR, 2013While Danica Patrick lines up on pole position for today’s Daytona 500, over 20 years have passed since the last time a woman even attempted to start at round of the Formula One world championship.

But Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes it’s a question of when, not if, that will change – and the issue has support at the highest level:

“I know many people want it to happen,” she told media at last week’s test in Barcelona. “Bernie Ecclestone for one is massively pushing that it happens at some point I think in the future we will definitely see it happen.”

Wolff sees the shortage of women drivers in top-flight motorsport as a chicken-and-egg problem.

“There are more male drivers which is why possibly it’s even tougher for a female because there aren’t as many of us trying to get into Formula One,” she said.

“But I think it’s difficult for any driver to get here and then to stay here because it’s a very, very competitive world. You see how quickly the driver line-ups can chance with circumstance, with economic environment.

“So I think it’s very tough for anyone, I think the fact that there hasn’t been a successful female in Formula One maybe makes people wary over whether it’s possible or not. I fully believe that it is possible but it’s just going to take time for it to happen.”

Susie Wolff, Williams FW33, Silverstone, 2012Wolff joined Williams as a development driver in April. She had her first run in a contemporary F1 car in October and was the first driver to shake down the team’s new FW35 earlier this month.

She says she is treated “the exact same” as any other driver. “Of course I had to come in, I had to earn respect from the team members but any drivers has this responsibility. But I must say I had no issues at at all.”

But she isn’t getting ahead of herself when asked about her chances of racing an F1 car: “I’ve done more time in the car now. I feel even more comfortable in the car, it doesn’t seem like it’s an unrealistic dream.

“The tests in October last year, I was very unsure how the tests would go and what I would be capable of. But the tests went very well, there was no issues physically, there was no issues with not being able to handle the car.

“So it’s not unrealistic but I think we all know how competitive Formula One is, how many drivers are fighting for a chance to be on that grid. And I don’t want to come out with any bold statements or dream of saying ‘yes, I want to be on the grid next year’.

“Everything happens, it has its flow, I’m in the right direction, I’m taking each step at the time, I’m showing the guys in the team what I can do and what I’m capable of and for sure that was one of the reasons from the test last year I was able to drive the car for the very first time. You can see that it’s not out of my capabilities.

“But let’s see how it goes, I’m taking each step at a time, for sure a superlicence is the next thing on the to-do list, so let’s see.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber, Korea, 2012Last year Monisha Kaltenborn became the first woman team principal in Formula One. Wolff believes the appearance of more women in management positions in Formula One is a positive development:

“I think Williams is incredibly lucky that we have some fantastic women in the management positions. Claire [Williams], for example, we have another lady on the board – Lousie Evans, CFO – and I think we are a glowing example of diversity within what is quite a male-dominated sport.

“And Claire is only in the position she’s in because she’s good at what she’s not because she’s Frank’s daughter, you can’t run a team just because your family name means that you could be up for the job. She is incredibly good at what she does, I think she is definitely the future of the team and she is and should be a role model for many people.”

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125 comments on Ecclestone “massively pushing” for F1’s own Danica Patrick

  1. matt90 (@matt90) said on 24th February 2013, 14:48

    The issue of women in F1 is complex. Ideally, they should only enter the sport due to talent. However, plenty of men get in because of sponsorship, so if a woman took a place which would otherwise be occupied by a driver such as it shouldn’t matter, as long as they’ve proven in feeder series to at least be competitive (so no to Wolff). After all, just as some drivers have good sponsorship because of their nationality or family connections, why shouldn’t women be able to use their gender to secure enough sponsorship for a drive? So that means the problem is actually finding women talented enough in the feeder series. And as far as I’m aware, there aren’t any quite yet. As Wolff says, that is a result of a chicken and egg situation whereby the lack of talented women is a product of a lack of any women, which is to some extent a product of a lack of successful women drivers…

    If women being in F1 and motorsport as a whole is important, it should come as the result of promoting engineering careers among younger girls to make the entire industry and sport more appealing. Also, for drivers, perhaps offer some additional financial support (although only where they need it to continue competing, as I agree that there is a fine line between supporting a cause and making women a charity case) to any promising girls in the earlier stages of their career, to ensure that they make the jump to series where they can actually have a chance to to showcase their abilities to the wider world. If this brings just a few more worthy women into higher categories, it is an improvement and might lead to some female drivers who can act as role models, kick-starting the process.

    The entire sport needs to be made more female-friendly to appeal to a larger number of women though. One way is the aforementioned promotion of engineering as a career. However, that isn’t enough. I am in my Masters year of Mechanical Engineering, and know 4 female engineers on my course well (there are a few others). 1 is Aviation, 1 is Aeronautical, and 2 are Mechanical. None of them care the slightest bit about F1 though. That can be put down to any of several factors- preference influenced by gender stereotypes, their general personal preferences, and the way F1 presents itself. The first two of these clearly cannot be changed easily, and the first is the reason nobody should ever expect to see a significant number women driving in F1. F1 could present itself better though. Grid girls are an example. I couldn’t care less personally, but I can see that it might grate with others.

    Ultimately though, I do think that there is only so much that the FIA could or should do, partly because F1 is a sport and industry which women will generally be less interested in. I don’t really see a reason why that needs to change, other than that the grid might benefit from some diversity.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 24th February 2013, 14:49

      Oops, this wasn’t meant to be an essay.

    • I love the Pope said on 24th February 2013, 15:19

      What would diversity do? How does that make racing better? It is a word that means basically nothing and has nothing to do with racing. If Narain was actually good at driving, would F1 be better because of that, or because he is Indian?

    • robk23 (@robk23) said on 24th February 2013, 15:32

      I don’t understand why grid girls have lasted this long? A saving could be made by not having a bunch of women wearing hardly any clothes and buckets of makeup hanging around on the grid or behind the podium doing nothing constructive. They’re an outdated concept in today’s world and I would like to see them gone.

      You know you’re a proper motorsport fan when you want to tell the grid girl to get out the way because she’s blocking the view of the car!

    • Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 24th February 2013, 17:44

      @Matt90 Superb comment.

    • @matt90 – spot on. One thing that isn’t a product of stereotypes though but applies to the issue of diversity is the complete lack of “ethnic minorities” in F1 (by that I mean not white males). Recently we’ve had a couple of Indian drivers, a Japanese driver and Lewis Hamilton – that’s about it as far as people who have actually raced are concerned. I struggle to believe there aren’t more talented racers out there, but perhaps that is more of an issue of racing culture in countries such as India and of course financial backing.

      The two main racing feeder series are based in Europe, and perhaps that contributes to the issue. The only country outside of Europe and South America that really has a racing culture is Japan, and that is fast degrading. So I would like to see everyone represented in F1, as long as they deserved to be there based purely on talent.

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 24th February 2013, 19:49

        The only country outside of Europe and South America that really has a racing culture is Japan, and that is fast degrading.

        @vettel1 I’d include North America and Australia/New Zealand in that too. It’s a result of history. Cars came out of the West, and were adopted by those countries and other wealthy nations initially, and so racing was taken up by the rich minority. As racing is expensive, it’s no surprise that generally richer countries supply the majority of drivers, and that most of those drivers are white. Perhaps we need an FIA campaign in emerging countries (and any countries not supplying a proportionate amount of non-white racers). Call it ‘All races for all races’, or some such awful pun. Solved!

        There simply isn’t the racing culture in most countries, and they will always produce fewer drivers. The racing culture in places like Inida and China might develop over the next few decades given that cars are being used far more than they were even very recently, but I don’t know how you go about promoting it (the F1 race in China has limited impact after all).

  2. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 24th February 2013, 14:57

    Yes, knowing Bernie, I’m sure he would like someone just like Danica in F1; an extremely beautiful bikini model that does some racing in her spare time. However, I for one don’t think we need armies of feminists tying themselves to the Monaco barriers as well the green freaks and the anti-Bahrain GP protesters. So whilst it is perceived as perfectly okay to use a pair of long legs to get you places in America, the same is not the case in Europe, where adding an anti-feminist dynamic to a dictatorial, extravagant, uneconomical and dangerous sport would not be appreciated.

  3. Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 24th February 2013, 15:10

    Ok Susie but remember that if you get a race drive through politics and fail massively that you will delay progress for female F1 drivers by years. I’d really rather we wait for a genuinely talented female driver. I don’t think it would be too long of a wait either.

  4. I love the Pope said on 24th February 2013, 15:11

    I know my opinion is unpopular on this, but I just don’t get excited about woman drivers, or women’s athletics in general. Women’ s basketball, boxing, soccer…etc – all pale in comparison to the male versions. A huge part of racing for me is the manly duel or battle between the guys. The fact that they could die raises the intensity of it. It is why I played American football-for the chance to be a warrior battling other warriors like men should. I loved it and miss it. Why can’t guys be guys and enjoy sports and battle among guys? Why do we have to share something that is a part of who we are, when the door does not swing the other way? I have zero interest in female drivers. I hope to never see one and should there be one, I would not cheer for her in a million years. I’m just being honest. Would Senna v. Prost have been as intense if it were Senna v. Susie? It lacks the warrior element and just isn’t the same.

    • I love the Pope said on 24th February 2013, 15:13

      BTW, my wife loves F1 and she feels the same. She has never watched female sports and has no interest in a female driver. She played sports but is the first to say that guy’s sports are just plain better.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th February 2013, 19:55

      Your differentiation between ‘girls sports and boys sports’ may hold for sports where the sexes are segregated – like football here in the UK. But it’s not the case in motor racing where women are allowed to compete with men. I see no reason why they shouldn’t and I hope in the future we see more of it.

      • I Love the Pope said on 24th February 2013, 21:03

        I understand your argument and I hope you understand mine. We have different views on the matter that I don’t think can be reconciled.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th February 2013, 8:35

          I neither understand nor respect a point of view which dictates what people may or may not do based on whether they have a penis or not.

          • Ha ! LOLed at that . +1. So what do you think about wolf ? Does she deserve a license based on her credentials ? Me thinks not !

          • I Love the Pope said on 25th February 2013, 15:43

            Sure you do, unless you believe men can be moms and women can be dads.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th February 2013, 16:35

            I’m almost insulted you apparently think you can wrong-foot me by deliberately confusing “may” with “can”.

          • I Love the Pope said on 25th February 2013, 17:21

            Not at all, but since you agree with that point, all we do is go further than mere biology.

            That you do not agree with it is understandable. That you denigrate it as nonsensical is irrational.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 25th February 2013, 17:58

            By your own admission, you’re trying segregate people for no reason. Biology doesn’t prevent women from competing in motor racing and you can’t make that so by wishing it, however much seeing girls and boys playing together makes your blood curdle.

            You’re the one who chose the word “nonsensical” to describe your views, not me, but I’d certainly go along with it. The irrational thing in this debate is your insistence that possession of a vagina should exclude someone from driving a racing car, as the two things are in no way related.

          • I Love the Pope said on 25th February 2013, 20:23

            Keith, you’re still missing it. We don’t believe that sex differences stop at the reproductive organs. Male and female are different – and the differences are soul deep. Equal in dignity? Yes. The same? No.

            It is far deeper than what you are giving it credit for. Again, I care not that you despise it, but to dismiss it, you’re going to have to go deeper, and I know that you won’t be able to.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th February 2013, 17:33

            When you start inventing things like “souls” and using them to justify beliefs like this, you’re off into the territory of irrationality. I could say I believe all brown-eyed people are blessed with mystical flottlewanglers and only they are allowed to be team principals. It would be no different to you saying women shouldn’t be racing drivers because of their “soul deep” differences to men. Neither are views that should be entertained seriously.

    • Oblong_Cheese (@oblong_cheese) said on 24th February 2013, 22:03

      Then 1950s called, they said you were missing. Yeah, no, yeah. Something about outmoded opinions and not keeping up with the times?

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th February 2013, 22:19

      to be a warrior battling other warriors like men should

      – I guess you are not all that exited about having the army mixed nowadays then?

      Why can’t guys be guys and enjoy sports and battle among guys?

      – What if the gals want to enjoy sports as well then?

      I have zero interest in female drivers. I hope to never see one and should there be one, I would not cheer for her in a million years.

      – look back at the, admittedly only a few, excellent female drivers that have been in racing from the 1920s onward (living in the Czech Republic I would highlight Eliska Junkova ) who have been getting the respect from their fellow drivers not for their looks, or for being a rare female driver amongst men, but for their sheer ability behind the wheel.
      I have seen some footage, and would say its top level driving amongst the Nulovaris of the time.

    • Maciek (@maciek) said on 25th February 2013, 3:02

      It is why I played American football-for the chance to be a warrior battling other warriors like men should

      I guess the army was too so-ed for your liking?

  5. Women drivers will enter F1 eventually, if they’re hard working and talented. Good looks and publicity should not be an issue. It sounds like Bernie is just rushing to get more headlines for the sport, but then again that is his job so you can’t complain too much.

  6. One name: Beitske Visser. I might be biased, since she is Dutch, But she dominated her karting seasons, won a fair amount of races in Formula ADAC last year, including one with a broken back the day after breaking it, which was the reason she missed a few races and didn’t end up finishing the season in the top 3.

    She’s racing in German F3 this year, and if she keeps winning, Bernie might want to keep a look out on her.

    • Spanky Speed (@spankyspeed) said on 25th February 2013, 9:29

      Just looked thru the comments to see if anyone would mention Visser!
      She is by far the best young female talent in single seaters. I’m pretty sure we’ll see her in GP2 in the coming years.

  7. I say, Danica Patrick, and people immediately say ‘good looking’. I say Carmen Jorda, and people immediately say ‘hot’. I say Susie Wolff, and people immediately say ‘cute’.
    To me, this reeks of sexism, and as long as people do not get rid of this mentality, it will be difficult to look at female drivers on the same level as male drivers. I do believe that the female sex are on an average physically inherently less tough, but they have no mental deficiencies w.r.t. males, and with equal or slightly more training, women can be on the same level of men. There are female drivers like Alice Powell(2010 Formula Renault BARC champion), Samin Gomez(finished 7th in Formula Abarth last year), Beitske Visser(finished 8th last year in ADAC Formel Masters, winning 2 races despite missing some rounds) and Natasha Seatter(won Formula Gulf 1000 last year).
    We must treat them equally and only then will the aforementioned drivers come to F1, instead of less deserving drivers like Susie Wolff, Carmen Jorda, Vicky Piria and others whose appointment may lead to an increase in F1 viewing just because they turn up the ‘glam quotient’. Drivers are drivers, and talent comes BEFORE EVERYTHING ELSE.
    *P.S. I’m a male.

  8. Nick Jarvis (@nickj95gb) said on 24th February 2013, 16:01

    The reason they are not in F1 is not sexism, it’s the lack of skill. If women can prove they are fast, they will surely be given a seat – they should not recieve a seat just because they are female, and should recieve no extra financial backing JUST because they’re female.

    • I agree: perhaps women aren’t given the same opportunities as men currently and that should be ammended but I don’t want to see a female F1 driver just because she’s a female at the expense of a better male.

  9. If Danica Patrick would stop posing in swimsuits and doing risque’ commercials, I might have an ounce of respect for her. Instead, as soon as she obtained a small amount of notoriety, she objectifies herself and her body. Waaaaay to change female stereo-types there Danica. Now men will REALLY respect you in a male dominated sport. Hand me a basin, I’m going to be sick.

  10. Search for beitske visser, she seems to have some talent, she’s driving in German ADAC series.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 24th February 2013, 19:51

    There is just one small problem with Wolff’s theory: any female driver in Formula 1 is going to need a certain amount of talent to recapture the “Danica effect”, and I can’t think of any female who could do it. Without that talent, cynics and critics are just going to assume that that woman is there to capitalise on sponsorship potential.

  12. I understand why you make comments such as a woman she be on the grid purely on merit but consider this. If you force the issue now in 20 years you will inspire the next generation to actually train and get to the position where they can genuinely compete on merit.

  13. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 24th February 2013, 23:37

    Does anybody get the feeling that Susie Wolff is trying to set herself up to become “Formula 1’s Danica Patrick”? She’s been talking a lot of late about how she wants to get a superlicence, and the BBC is producing a documentary on her, and now these comments about what Ecclestone wants … it makes me wonder if she’s not lobbying for a seat of her own.

  14. N7 (@m77) said on 24th February 2013, 23:38

    As an aside, when are they going to get rid of the corridor of pretty girls in tight clothing before the podium celebrations? For such a modern sport, F1 is pretty backwards in some aspects.

  15. josephrobert (@josephrobert) said on 25th February 2013, 9:02

    In Nascar she get’s bumped around, here she is getting taken out

    Here she try’s to take someone out, keeps way off the brakes and slams into the wall

    In Nascar oval racing you need to form alliances to bump and draft to get ahead, you need friends. It looks like she doesn’t have friends out there. Or brakes.

    Perhaps going into the pits would have been better than dropping smoke an oil on the last turn.

    I think she would do better in single seater but Indy is too deadly to drive in, and it might be too late to work her way up in europe. I hope she inspires young female drivers to keep trying to get ahead in the sport as F1 is all about characters from different countries with different styles and the great the mix of drivers / cars the more entertaining the racing is.

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