Female drivers in F1
Will their be a female GP driver?

Since the accident suffered by Maria de Villota last week there has been a lot of talk regarding women drivers in Formula One and the chances of us having another female Grand Prix driver.

Looking at the history of Formula One, only five female drivers have entered a Grand Prix. Maria-Teresa de Filippis who raced three times in the last 1950s, Lella Lombardi in the 1970’s , Divina Galica who failed to qualify in all three of her Grand Prix entries, Desire Wilson who attempted and failed to qualify for the 1980 British Grand Prix and Giovanna Amati who also failed to qualify in three attempts in 1992. She remains the last woman to enter a Grand Prix.

In fact last Sunday British Grand Prix was number 867 in Formula One history and female drivers have a grand total of fifteen starts between them three for de Filippis and twelve for Lombardi.

When I used to run the Quiz Championship for this website I have a common question: How is the only female driver to score a point?, this of Couse was a deliberate trick question, as no female driver has ever scored a point, Lombardi came the closed when she was classified sixth in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix that was stopped after just twenty five laps and half points were awarded.

A recent post on the forum asked about the future possibilities of another female driver making it to Formula One, looking at the current crop in motorsport the chances are very slim for many years to come.

With the obvious assumption that Maria’s career is now over, there is only one female racer employed by a Formula One team, and that is Susie Wolff who is at Williams as their Development Driver. I do not wish to cast aspersions on how she got the job, but her husband is Toto Wolff a major investor in the team.

The most famous female racer in the world without a doubt in American Danica Patrick. She made her name in IndyCar becoming the only female driver to win one of their races, and the only female driver to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500.

She has the most change of making it to Formula One, but her anticipated move to NASCAR happened this year so it would take a major effort to entice her to Formula One at the moment, and if it does happen it will be with a team similar to the ill-fated USF1, who want American drivers and to get the publicity Danica will bring with her.

Natasha Gachnang is the most high profile driver in an International series in recent years. The Swiss driver is a cousin of Sebastien Buemi, and raced in Formula Two in 2009, scoring just two points. In 2010 she moved down to AutoGP where she only scored one point, after that she left single seaters and moved into Sports car racing, retiring from the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2010, but winning the Nurburgring 24 Hours earlier this year.

Katherine Legge was the last women to drive a Formula One car in an official test session, when she drove for Minardi in 2005. Since then she has raced in the Champ Car World Series with a best championship finish of fifteenth in 2007. She then moved to the DTM for three years scoring her only points in 2010. After a year out of racing she is back in the IndyCar series for 2012 sharing a car with Sebastien Bourdais where she currently sits twenty fifth in the standings.

Simona de Silvestro was once a hot property in IndyCar. She joined the series in 2010 after a successful Formula Atlantic championship, nineteenth in her first year, and a podium in the opening races of 2011 her future looked bright, but she dropped from form during 2011 and ended in twentieth, in 2012 she is struggling with a very uncompetitive Lotus engine in which she is normally running last, and was disqualified in the Indianapolis 500 for being too slow.

With the exception of Danica Patrick I would rank Simona de Silvestro as the best female racing driver in the world today.

Alice Powell is currently racing in GP3, he career highlight is winning the 2010 Formula Renault BRDC Championship, becoming the first woman to win both a race and a championship in Formula Renault, she moved up to British Formula Renault in 2011 and was a solid points scorer on her way to ninth in the standings before making the step to GP3.

With her position in GP3 and racing on the Formula One Support Package she has a chance to make it, but her results in GP3 need to improve dramatically, as she is yet to score a point and finds herself consistently in the midfield.

Vicky Piria and Carmen Jordá are rivals of Powell in GP3, usually only competing for the top female driver option. Piria comes to GP3 from the Formula Abarth series, while Jorda comes from a season in the Firestone Indy Lights series. Neither have done anything in their earlier careers to suggest that they will be anything other than backmarkers in GP3 and unlikely to continue up the ladder.

Milka Duno is a former IndyCar driver; usually she was disqualified for being too far off the pace during races, however unlike de Silvestro this was during the era before the engine war so she did not have a power disadvantage holding her back. I remember reading a comment a couple of years ago when she shared a car with Townsend Bell, you can tell when Bell is driving because the car will be going fast. That says it all really.

Rahel Frey is racing against Wolff in the DTM, they can usually be found together towards the back of the field. There have been drivers to have used the DTM as a stepping stone into Formula One, Christian Albers and Paul Di Resta for example, but both of them were championship contenders (and in Di Restas case a Champion) before making the move, but Frey is yet to even score her first point half way through her second season.

Vanina Ickx is another one of the more high profile female drivers currently making her living in motorsport, as she is the daughter of Jacky Ickx. In the past she has raced in the Sports cars championships and various Touring Car championships. At the age of thirty seven following her father into Formula One is slim as she is firmly part of the Sports car family racing this year in the GT1 World Endurance Championship, including a seventh place finish at Le Mans.

The names above are just a few of the well-known female drivers currently out there, and I may have been a bit harsh on some of them while accessing their career to date, and prospects for the future, but the question that was asked was regarding female drivers in Formula One and at the moment I sat that there is no chance of us seeing one soon, or even in the next ten or fifteen years.

While highlighting these female drivers exclusively due to their gender, it is important to point out that for every female aspiring Formula One driver that will not make it, there are about 100 men in the same situation.

On another note I hope there is not another female driver who does make it, not because I am sexist but because the media coverage and pressure on her would be unfair. Imagine if it was a female driver in Pastor Maldonados Williams that hit Sergio Perez at Silverstone, The media coverage of the accident would have been far higher than it was, and it would all be focusing on her gender.

When drivers make it to Formula One, they make mistakes that is inevitable and they are largely put down to a rookie mistake, if it was a female driver making those same rookie mistakes would they be covered fairly or would all aspects of the media blow out of all proportion and be unjustly critical of her. I think they would.

Written by Paul Crossling on Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:24:52

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