Gender inequality in many competitive sports remains an issue, but the disparity between men and women in the racing world might be the worst. There are no regulations preventing women competing in the top series in the sport, but women don’t seem to make it to the track.
They have never had the chance to compete in standalone events like in other sports. This might change, as plans of a women-only motoring championship have now emerged, and could be launched in 2019.
The potential series are planned to have women drivers compete at six races. Five of there will be staged in Europe, and the other in America. The champion will get the chance to do a Formula One test drive.
There have been claims that a number of television companies have expressed an interest in broadcasting the series, and the organisers believe that the championship will be one of the biggest international motoring racing series, second to Formula One, within three years of its launch.
A spokesperson for the organisers said: “There will be no announcement for a number of months as we are undertaking a lot of research and completing our strategy. Starting something from scratch takes an enormous amount of time to get right.”
NOT A RECENT IDEA
Similar ideas have been discussed earlier. Back in 2015 Bernie Ecclestone, former chief executive of the Formula One Group, looked at the idea of an all-women F1 world championship.
“I thought it would be a good idea to give them a showcase. For some reason, women are not coming through – and not because we don’t want them. Of course we do, because they 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. They could race before the main event, or perhaps on the Saturday qualifying day so that they had their own interest.
“It is only a thought at the moment but I think it would be super for F1 and the whole grand prix weekend.” Ecclestone is quoted by The Guardian.
Susie Wolff was, in 2014, the first women to take part in a Formula One race weekend in 22 years. (IMAGE: CROSA @ FLICKR)
This, of course, got mixed reception. Susie Wolff was one of those who was strongly against, saying it’s definitely not the way forward.
"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." Wolff said.
RACING FOR EQUALITY
The history of women in Formula One is unfortunately a very short one, with only a few women in important roles or behind the wheel. There’s only been six women who has driven during grand prix weekends, and of those only two who have actually participated in the race itself.
The first time a woman raced Formula One was back in 1958. Maria Teresa de Filippis who hit the track at the Belgian Grand Prix, despite all the skepticism. She was one of only two females who have ever qualified and made it to the starting grid.
The second was Lella Lombardi, and that was more than 40 years ago. She went on to make history as the only woman to score a point at an F1 championship, after finishing sixth at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1975.
There’s been some female drivers who have been contracted to Formula One teams in testing and development capacities like Susie Wolff, Simona de Silvestro and Carmen Jordá, but no woman has managed to qualify for a Formula One Grand Prix race since Lella Lombardi’s success.
With that said, like in any other sport, these fantastic women act like role-models for younger girls all over the world, proving that a career in motorsport is possible.
Would a women-only championship showcase more female talent within the sport, help diversify motorsport, and possibly encourage even more young girls to chase their dreams? Or is it a step in the wrong direction, and could possibly harm female drivers’ position within the industry?