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Formula 1 Losing Its Sheen? Ecclestone Says Bring Women Drivers To The Scene

Seems like two years after Sir Stirling Moss’ comments about F1 racing not being a woman’s thing grated on us and of course, star women Formula One drivers, and Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has taken it upon himself to mend matters. Not that women have been absent from the F1 scene, but it has been a shocking forty years since the audiences have had a chance to spot a woman driver on the starting grid. The last woman to compete in an F1 race was Lella Lombardi in 1976, and the last to try to qualify for one was Giovanna Amati way back in 1992.

bernie ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One chief

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone told the media at last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix that he, Ecclestone proposes women’s F1 championship race weekends, and that women Formula One racers would benefit from a “showcase” series.

“I thought it would be a good idea to give them a showcase,” British media quoted the 84-year-old as saying after proposing the idea to team principals. “For some reason, women are not coming through — and not because we don’t want them,” added the Briton.

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While one may do well to contend the patronizing element of that comment coming from a man who, in a former infamous comment, had compared women to kitchen appliances, one cannot help but deem this development on the F1 scene a welcome news. Ecclestone claims that the idea is viable and shall be an enabling force to see if someone can be brought through to F1. Adding a separate women’s race to the undercard of grand prix weekends “would attract a lot of attention and publicity and probably a lot of sponsors. We have to start somewhere so I suggested to the teams that we have a separate championship and maybe that way we will be able to bring someone through to F1,” he says.

carmen jorda

Carmen Jorda

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The excitement created by the declaration is clearly palpable and development driver at Lotus, Carmen Jorda is backing the all-female F1 series idea with invigorating enthusiasm. Jorda has expressed the same in no uncertain terms. Totally behind the idea, she believes it is the right time for F1 to catch up with the rest of the sporting world.

“Why in tennis, why in other sports, why in soccer right now, why in every sport you have separate championships and not in motorsport?” Jorda tells CNN. “Not everybody looks at it like that, you know?”

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She goes on to explain the rigid gender framework within which the sport operates and recalls her days when she wanted to fit in.

“I wanted to be a boy because motorsport was all about boys. But then I grew up and I realized — why do I have to act or be like a boy? I’m not, and actually it’s completely the opposite — I am what I am and I just have a passion for motorsport,” says Jorda, who finished 29th in last year’s GP3 feeder series.

When asked if she now feels the same pressure, she replies,

“I feel it but I don’t care — I am who I am, I hide nothing.”

carmen jorda

Carmen Jorda

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She avers that this would help crumble the gender imbalance citadel and inspire women.

“It’s the only sport in the world that men can race against women. There’s not another sport where men and women compete at the same level. So it’s so much more difficult for a girl to make it than for a man. It’s very clear, if they have a woman there they can see that a woman can make it, and then they will follow it much more, she explains.

On her own personal vision, she asserts,

“The most important thing will be to be the best woman in motorsport. And then from there I think I can inspire a lot of women.

However, others like Susie Wolff, development driver at Williams, who last year became the first female to take part in a Grand Prix weekend in 22 years when she drove in Friday free practice, has given Ecclestone’s idea short shrift. She has expressed her reservations in an interview with the Daily Mirror.

susie wolff

Susie Wolff

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

“It’s most definitely not the right way forward,” she said, “First of all, I don’t know where you’d find a full grid of female drivers who are good enough. Secondly, I have raced my whole career in motorsport as a normal competitor. Why would I ever look for a race where I was only competing against women? I can hand on heart say it would not interest me at all to win such a race. I would rather not be in the race because what am I winning? A race where they’ve just looked for any girl to make a grid up.

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Well, both sides seem to be trying to diffuse the gender-bomb in their own ways and it is hard to side with one! Especially, in a world where sexism moves about as naked as the ‘Erotik Camping’ open air brothels that Formula One brings along, how do you gauge which faction is probably deploying the right weapon to combat the “‘Pit Babe’ and ‘Foster Girls’ groping” highly sexist world of motor racing. After all Ecclestone had once said that his ideal female racing driver would be

“Perhaps a black girl, with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish.”

bernie ecclestone with michael schumacher

Bernie Ecclestone with Michael Schumacher

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

It was a joke, alright – but a telling one, nonetheless. After all Formula One is governed more by sexism than the forces of capitalism. Although, the last decade has caused the sexism army to be a tad bit subdued and tame, vanquishing it would be another ball game altogether.

And while we believe that this latest development where Ecclestone proposes women’s F1 championship during race weekends is a blatant strategic move for commercial purposes by dear Bernie, it remains to be seen if the change shall enable or disable the female-F1 scene.

Let us know about your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Article Name
Ecclestone Proposes Women's F1 Championship During Race Weekends
Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone proposes women's F1 championship during race weekends. Read to find out more.
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."