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According to DriverDB – 2 107 women have participated in circuit races, with only 406 – active since 2018, amongst several tens of thousands drivers overall, and when we, the fans, notice a lady on the grid take it as obscurity than anything else…

Formula E has the highest number of female drivers overall – 5% (three ladies). For comparison, in the 12 seasons of GP2 – the number is zero; F1 – 0.26% (two)! The low numbers do not mean that women are not talented enough, though. There is multitude of reasons, and this material will try to point out the biggest of them.

118 years have passed after Camille du Gast passed 89 men to finish 33rdin the 1901 Paris-Berlin race, but not much has changed on the topic. Half a point in F1 and a win in Indycar are the biggest open-wheel accomplishments for the so called “weaker” gender. Story seems a bit different when we throw in fenders. Everyone knows about the nearly missed WRC title for Michele Mouton and Jutta Kleinschmidt’s famous win in Dakar rally. The fans over the Atlantic have probably heard about 3-time drag-racing champion Shirley Muldowney, and nowadays – Christina Nielsen (2016 and 2017 champion in IMSA’s GTD class). 

What is the chance of a father to bring his daughter to a karting and the girl to love it so much, that she’ll be willing to spend most of her time outside school in the society of hundreds of boys in puberty, desperately trying to beat each other on the track? Oh, she will meet another young lady from time to time – an event, as rare as a driver admitting a mistake…

It’s no secret that the female body lacks 1/3 in muscle mass in comparison with man’s and has twice the body fat. Though a lot of sweat would be needed (especially for upper body), their better metabolic health should aid. Recent studies conclude that men’s eyes notice motion much faster than women, though the latter gender’s peripheral vision is substantially better. Vision is one of the main training points for pro-divers, so this can be handled to a large extent, if not –completely, together with on-track experience. It is immensely important on the tight Formula E city circuits! It might be a reason why ladies find more success in disciplines, where you won’t pass or be passed on track – rally and drag racing.

Psychologically speaking, while men and women perform equally well, women shy away from competitive environments. In a nutshell, it’ll be harder to find a female striving for the win, though the ladies handle pressure better than men – a great advantage on the long run towards a title.

Motorsport is one of the most demanding sports on the planet. It’s far from enough to be rapid on track – this is the bare minimum. You need a broad set of skills – hard and soft. And money – enormous amount if you want to go pro. It’s been estimated to be between 4 and 6 million Euros! Unless daddy is a billionaire (Hi, mister Stroll) the answer is only one – sponsors and/or driver development programs. With two ladies that have started in the 70 year history of the pinnacle of motorsport this would be severely harder. Nobody (almost) wants to support and provide opportunity to a lady not having the results needed. We have had (and still have) such examples, which are doing women drivers no good. It’s no more than a publicity stunt…

Formula E started five years ago, and is already one of the two global open-wheel championships on the planet. It’s innovative aura is certainly the best top-tier platform for the future talented and prepared ladies that will certainly come, given they receive the support to reach this level. There are few racing driver development programs out there, and all of them would absolutely adore pushing a lady up the ladder. Ten years ago the FIA created the Women in Motorsport Commission, which is doing a great job to promote, help and support ladies in motorsport (drivers, engineers, etc.). If the WiMC concentrates on female-oriented training programs and scholarships for the best ones, allowing them to race in prestigious championships, we can see the aforementioned Christina Nielsen given a bigger chance, or MRF Challenge winner Jamie Chadwick in F3/F2? Why not Tatiana Calderón to step up her game and do better in Formula 2?

In the 21stcentury, the two genders are different, but equal. Fortunately, the times are very different than 1958, when Maria Teresa de Filippis was denied entry to drive in the French GP because “the only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s”.

Sooner or later there will be a “Sebastiana Vettel”, “Louise Hamilton” or “Sebastiana Buemi”, or whatever she’s named…

P.S. People with first name “Sebasti(a/e)n” seem to have biggest chance nowadays, it seems: Loeb, Vettel, Buemi, Ogier, Bourdais… So if you expect a girl and want to give her a head start – name her wisely! 

Susie Wolff, Venturi Formula E Team, Team Principal
Tatiana Calderon, Venturi formula E Team, Test Driver
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