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Marussia hands female driver De Villota 2012 test role
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Maria De Villota
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Mar 2012   |  5:53 pm GMT  |  129 comments

Marussia has paved the way for a female driver to compete in an official Formula 1 test at the end of the year by signing Spaniard Maria De Villota to a test driver role.

The 32-year-old is the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, who made two grands prix starts in the late 1970s, and made her F1 test bow for Lotus Renault at Paul Ricard last year. She has also had race experience in Formula Palmer Audi and the football-themed Superleague.

Marussia team principal John Booth said: “We are pleased to welcome Maria to our test driver programme, which will enable her to be integrated into a Formula One team environment and gain a vast amount of experience that will be useful to her career progression. We will also provide Maria with the opportunity to sample F1 machinery later in the year, further adding to her racing credentials.”

De Villota confirmed that test would come in the young driver sessions at the end season in Abu Dhabi, adding: “I am very happy to be joining the Marussia F1 Team test driver programme. This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula One team and gain important experience to help me progress my career, including the chance to drive the new car later in the year at the Abu Dhabi test. I will be joining the team trackside so I’m looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to Formula One racing.”

British IndyCar driver Katherine Legge had been the last woman to test an F1 car for Minardi in 2005, while several years ago there were rumours that the most high-profile female driver in America, Danica Patrick, could complete a test around the time of US F1’s bid to make the grid.

The last female driver to participate in a grand prix weekend was Giovanna Amati for Brabham in 1992, when she failed to qualify at two grands prix, while the last woman to start a race was Lella Lombardi on 12 occasions in the 1970s.

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129 Comments
  1. Dave says:

    32 seems a touch on the late side to be looking to get into F1 as a ‘future ambition’, but good luck to her!

    1. Wayne says:

      Smells like a marketing stunt to me, there are many more qualified and experieinced drivers out there. I think they are going for the novelty factor – I’m sorry if that sounds sexist but a femal driver connected to F1 is still a novelty whether we like it or not.

      1. eric weinraub says:

        since when does qualified/experience have anything to do with F1?

      2. Wayne says:

        In what sense? All the mechanics and engineers are appropriately qualified/experieinced. The vast majority of test drivers have earnt their place. The drivers have all competed to the highest standard… What point are you trying to make with that one-liner?

      3. Wu says:

        Since the sport become professional many decades ago.

        Marketing ploy or not, it is good to see a woman driver in F1, even if we won’t ever see her race. It opens up opertunities for other female drivers that might be more capable.

        Saying that, she can drive and race. Wish her all the best.

      4. Jan De Boer says:

        They are chasing sponsorship money according to Joe Saward. Not a good way to promote women in F1. 32 and has no experience in top flight racing. Danica Patrick would be much better…at least she’s raced at 240mph.

      5. Ohm says:

        Wayne I think Eric is being a touch sarcastic there……..? :P

    2. Hammer says:

      Her value comes from the fact that she is one of the first woman driver in modern F1 to step into an F1 car. A pioneer of sorts, paving the way for other females. The implications won’t be seen for many years to come (perhaps decades).

    3. HMain says:

      Ferrari’s take on women in F1.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_hX43TQPuE

      Enjoy!

      1. Wayne says:

        I laughed at this before I even watched it!

  2. Nick says:

    This is really interesting news. I don’t know anything about her, but I very much like the idea of a woman entering F1. It doesn’t really sound like she has the pedigree to break into the big time, and she is quite old. Still it’s interesting. Maybe it will spur more women to come into the sport and one of them will make it to an F1 race seat. I hope that happens in my life time.

  3. madmax says:

    I wish she was their on merit rather than the fact she is female with suitcases full of cash.

    1. Phil says:

      As opposed to other male drivers who aren’t there because of a suitcase full of cash…

      1. madmax says:

        Yes but the “other male drivers” who have cash also all have immense talent when compared against De Villota’s credentials or lack of.

        She is hindering the cause for other women drivers who come along in the future who do have talent.

      2. Andy says:

        I male with a suitcase full of cash would not be such a PR moment.

      3. CharlieBoy says:

        She’s not F1 quality. In every series she’s raced in, starting in 2000, she has only won one race. Say what you like about gender, but she just is not there on merit.

        For the record, I don’t like the idea of any pauy drivers but at least the other pay drivers actually have an OK track history. It’s wrong to exploit someone based on the gender for a publicity stunt and its wrong to allow someone a seat when they are not qualified. Think of all the real talent that she is blocking from entering a race seat and all the other better women out there.

    2. Wayne says:

      Agreed – it is not sexist to say that, generally speaking, the female form will struggle more than the male form to cope with the stresses in top flight motorsport. We’re built differently with pros and cons both ways – no shame in admitting it.

      1. Wayne says:

        Trouble is the fringe, feminist fanatics will seize on any comment like this and label it sexist wihout pause, because some of them make a living from doing just that (what do you do for a living? ‘I’m a feminist’ – what does that even mean?). For me the fact that this under qualified person has been given this job for the novelty factor is the epitomy of reverse-discrimination.

      2. AuraF1 says:

        I wouldn’t call your comments sexist, just uninformed. The ‘female form’ and ‘male form’ is covering a vast range of physical capabilities. If you look at female test pilots or athletes they are at a far higher level of peak fitness than you will ever be or achieve. To say that the male form automatically copes with high g-forces is just poor biology. If women can work as test pilots and astronauts and encounter g-forces that frankly make motorsport look laughable, you’re not really making any sense on that point. Also in motorsport generally smaller frames with shorter necks will handle cornering stress better than taller frames with longer necks and insertion points. In this case if women are generally shorter and smaller necked their g-force capabilities would be considered superior. Biology can be a bit more complex than ‘blokes strong, women weak’.

        As to this being a marketing stunt – I agree, based on the fact that she does not have the requisite experience or results to warrant the job.

        Of course saying this probably makes me a feminist fanatic, but I’m sure I’ll live with it!

      3. Wayne says:

        Aura, I would not say you are a fanatic, just a well informed individual. My comment was based on the fact that, generally speaking, men and women do not compete agianst each other in all major sporting events. The reason for this being that, again generally speaking, it would be seen as unfair to pitch a lady against a man in say tennis or football. I took the logical step of assuming that this must have something to do with the differing makeups of the male and female form.

        I did try to phrase my comment in such a way as not offend, apologies that I obviosuly, judging by your last sentence, did not succeed.

      4. Wayne says:

        Additionally, I am not silly enough to suggets that a male form automatically copes better, just that it has the potential to. I was obviously not compareing a female test pilot agianst myself, rather two individuals one female and one male both trained to their physical limits. No female hundred metres runner has ever beaten the male world record, female athletes cannot compete directly with their male counterparts in terms of speed, strength etc. Isn’t this the case? I’m not lauding the idea, or gloating – I just thought it was they way thing were. It’s not a slight to women, it has no meaning in anything that is actually important. We were just designed, in evolutionary terms, for different tasks were we not?

        Neither am I saying that female drivers should not compete in F1. My real problem here is with these underprepared backmarkers and ridiculous gimmicks like this one. They ought to be much more concerned about having a safe car whihc is fully tested beofre Australia. It does not do women justice to offer them a role which they do not deserve purely because of their sex.

      5. HMain says:

        Firstly, the term “reverse-discrimination” or “reverse-sexism” is erroneous because discrimination is discrimination. Reverse suggest that it is a norm that discrimination should happen a particular way – this in it self is discriminatory :)

        But I would agree the the female form can be a factor in driving an F1 car. In regards to fitness, women can be more fit than men, so fitness is not an issue.

        However, women can and probably would want to have a children at some point. This limits their careers to relatively short stints. Not bad for up and coming drivers. Also, women undergo monthly cycles and could suffer from PMS, which could have implications (road rage?). Seat belt design would also have to be reworked. An

        If women were to realistically compete in F1, I believe, it would work in a W-F1 style championship, where females compete against one another.

      6. Jim says:

        I’m trying to reply to AuraF1, but there’s no [Reply] link on that post.

        Female athletes are definitely a lot fitter than me, but they’re not generally fitter than their male counterparts. Is it “uninformed” to have gender-segregated tennis matches? Track and field events? I’m not saying that F1 should exclude women, just that there may be physiological reasons why they’re not suited to it. Being an F1 driver is not just about withstanding g-forces (at which shorter individuals, male or female, are better). F1 drivers are top class athletes in their own right.

      7. Nick says:

        In F1 the human isn’t doing the work. It’s the engine in the car and the aerodynamics. The driver just has to be fit enough to survive the G-forces, be able to turn the steering wheel and stay concentrated…and of course be talented. It is highly physical, but the vast majority of it is about driving skill. If your going to talk about whether women have what it takes to be F1 drivers then I think it makes more sense to talk about reaction times, spacial awareness and fearlessness. I think it’s possible that there are women out there that could do a decent job.

  4. Kate says:

    Maria de Villota is a terrible driver. That comment has nothing to do with her gender, it’s pretty indisputable when you look at her career stats. Marussia are hardly the first team to take a driver for publicity and sponsorship, so it’s not that which annoys me as much as claims that this is a good thing for gender equality and F1. If a there was a female driver who was good enough for F1 then that would be great. But the fact is that there are no female drivers in the feeder series at the moment who would still be tipped for F1 if they were men, so the presence of any of them is going to do more harm than good – it’s just going to reinforce negative stereotypes about the abilities of female drivers.

    I doubt Marussia are actually going to let her anywhere near the car for the foreseeable future whatever the contract says, but I still feel that this is more of step backwards than forwards. 32 years old is just too old to start in F1 anyway, male or female.

    I believe that one day there will be a female driver who is good enough to compete at the top level on merit. But I would prefer to wait for her to come along rather than having sub-par drivers in the sport solely because they are female.

    1. Davexxx says:

      Well put.

    2. Dudley says:

      This. Best finishes of 18th in the WTCC and reliably on the back row of superleague formula means this is a massive step back for women. Amati put the cause of women drivers back 2 decades, Maria would do the same if she was ever allowed out in front of people.

      And yet Simona di Silvestro languishes in Indycar, Alice Powell gets podiums in competitive international FRenault events, Emma Kimilainen has a great season of Formula PA (even beating Maria handsomely) and is ignored.

      And that’s just the first 3 I think of. This is NOT a step forward for women drivers, this is pretty much the single worst thing that can happen to them.

      1. Martin says:

        Hi Dudley,

        Leanne Tander nearly won the 2008 Australian F3 championship and was second in both 2007 and 2008. Now F3 in Australia is relatively weak, but I suspect Leanne would have been compentent in any other single seater. Lack of money and her husband (Garth) being a leading V8 runner has stalled her career.

        There could be some physical limitations that become a limit in F1. Tom Clarkson mentioned in Car that the greatest brake pedal pressure measured in the Red Bull simulator was Mark Webber at 181kg. Now women tend to be relatively stronger in their legs compared to their arms than men, but as they tend to be smaller, achieving peak pedal pressures for the initial braking phase could be an issue.

        One of Danica Patrick’s advantages on ovals in IRL is that in being lighter in a series with no weight adjustment, she had more grip available. Her performances on road courses was worse, which could be due to sevearl factors, but braking performance could be one of them. The weight advantage would only be a small advantage in F1 due to CoG and ballast positioning.

        Cheers,

        Martin

      2. Dudley says:

        Leanne’s another good candidate yes.

      3. Andrew Carter says:

        Danica specifically lacks upper body strength, trackside observers have long said she’s unable to hussle the car through corners like her competitors because of this, and that was a requirement of going fast on street tracks in IndyCar.

        This is not gender specific though, those observers have all said that both Pippa Mann and Simona De Silvestro both have that upper body strength that Danica Lacked.

      4. zombie says:

        Simona Silvestro is “languishing” in Indycar ? For Christ’s sake she finished 20th out of 22 fulltime racers in 2011 Indycar series!

      5. Dudley says:

        Mostly because after Indy she was quite literally running a car built in 2003 and which was 30kg overweight because it’s all the (1 car) team could afford.

    3. radohc says:

      have you heard about the quotas for number women in top management of each company proposed by EU?

      maybe in the future there will be quota saying 30% of drivers in each F1 team have to be women :)

    4. Paul Kirk says:

      I agree with many of your points, Kate, but Marussia haven’t claimed anything for her future other than exposing her to hands-on F1 experience plus a blat in a car at the end of the season. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If the “publicity” helps them and her improve their ratings, well and good. I’m getting tired of all these funny looking, funny talking funny named youngsters being forced into F1 by wealthy backers (who see big dollars to be made) at the expense of established performers, (eg Rubens), who we identify with and have grown to know. Btw I actually remember Maria’s father racing years ago too. I only hope the journos don’t get carried away and create a situation like happened with Danica Patrick whereby she was steeling publicity from the real stars!
      Personally I’d be surprised if there will ever be a successful genuine female in F1, and I say that with the utmost respect, as I hold females in extremely high regard!
      PK.

  5. Matt says:

    Is this as pointless as Marussia’s place in F1 or more so?

    I know if I was failing crash tests and doing my pre-season testing at the first race following two seasons of being unable to beat HRT in the championship, signing a 32 year old with little experience, no results and no prospects to a test roll would be the first thing on my mind.

    I wonder what deal actually got done to bring this about?

  6. tim says:

    Why not Robert Wickens!? This whole idea that F1′needs a driver from North America’ is discussed ad nauseum and yet, lo and behold, there IS a driver from North America who is fully qualified to be in the big leagues, yet is ignored because he’s Canadian. As a Canadian, I’m growing tired of this!

    1. Jordan says:

      I second that! Wickens beats Toro Rosso’s Vergne in the same team in Formula Renault last season and yet he doesn’t even have a drive for this season yet in ANY series. I was thinking at least GP2 for this year but it looks like that door is closed

      1. Andrew Carter says:

        Of course, that was Wickens 3rd year at Renault 3.5 and vergne’s first, or at least first full, year.Wickens has been bouncing around so many sub-F1 level feeder series for so long, usually in well run cars, that I’m not surprised Red Bull dropped him from their driver program.

      2. RoadRacer97 says:

        Come on now, if you’re not going to count Vergne’s frist 6 races as a season you can’t count Wickens’ first 4 as one. I will concede his first full season of FR3.5 didn’t go so well but he did have one victory and was new to the European scene. This was followed by finishing the F2 championship in 2nd position, GP3 in 2nd position and then winning the FR3.5 championship! Show me another driver with those stats. If he had the financial backing to be there he would win GP2 this year too but unfortunately we will never know. He has bounced around because he has success…it’s called climbing the ladder. Red Bull dropped him after he finished aheaad of all other RB juniors in F2 but like you I’m not surprised he was dropped. Unlike you, I believe it was not based on his talent but rather the fact that Marko is an idiot. I only hope Wickens gets his chance to beat Red Bull on the track one day, just as he’s beaten every one of their junior drivers since they dropped him.

      3. tim says:

        I know. I had the good fortune of interviewing him at last year’s GP. He was good natured and cheerful despite being aware of how hard it will be as a Canadian to break in. No bitterness. I was very impressed with him.

    2. Mr Ed says:

      You’re forgetting there is one from North America already, in the shape of Sergio Perez.

      Of course what this really highlights is that people say they need a driver from North America, when what they mean is a driver from the USA.

      1. tim says:

        Sergio is from South America. He’s still from the Americas, but not North America, where there will soon be three races—Montreal (the best, in my opinion, and I’ve been to a bunch), New Jersey and Austin. While Robert Wickens isn’t from the U.S. he is from North America.

      2. f1m says:

        Sergio Pérez is from México.

        México is in North America.

        Therefore…

      3. Mr Ed says:

        Mexico was in North America last time I checked.

      4. tim says:

        Momentary case of the stupids …

  7. CraigD says:

    It’s great that women are able to get some exposure in the sport but surely this is just a marketing gimmick for Marussia? Maria will be 33 or thereabouts come the test. It doesn’t appear like this is about looking for a future race driver. But well, it’s good she can get a chance.

  8. Husker says:

    I’m guessing Marrusia will get some money out of this deal, right? I see no other reason why they would sign a driver at that age with hardly any experience in lower formulas or without exceptional results in the categories she’s competed in. If they give her the chance to drive a couple fridays surely they’ll get a bit more TV coverage and that’s good for them I guess. But, would they have signed a male driver with the exact same CV, age and experience as test driver? Absolutely not.

    Marrusia is a complete disaster, they’re going nowhere. Making a lot of bad decisions and looking even worse than HRT, and that’s saying something.

  9. Rob Newman says:

    I fail to understand a few things here. What is her ultimate goal? She is already 32 and she hasn’t achieved anything in any of the other series she competed. Also what is the point of joining a back marker? She has more to lose than gain.

    1. TobyS says:

      I doubt she wants to be an F1 driver. As stated she’s getting old to start a carrier in F1 (as a driver).
      She might have made a good test driver under the old system: a test driver doesn’t necessarily have to be the fastest driver, but has to be able to translate the feel of the car into terms the engineers can use. Under the current system the engineers have to get this info during a race weekend. If she wont drive till the “young” drivers test then she is barely ‘testing’.
      My guess is that she’ll have a role like Karun Chandhok talking up the team to the TV crews. There may be a career in this for her, so perhaps it is beneficial for her post-driving career.

  10. Ade says:

    About time! We can then put to bed forever the jibes about women drivers…

    1. Doug says:

      Bed?? Why, is she Bernie’s new bird?? :-D

      1. Ade says:

        I wouldn’t put it past Bernie, the smooth talker that he is…lol
        It was a subconscious thing with her being blonde and pretty!

  11. Dan Orsino says:

    Good press for Marussia. That makes a change.
    .

  12. Alexx says:

    well, i hope she likes giving interviews, as i fear marussia has signed her for pr for the russian markets.

  13. Andrew Carter says:

    I can think of about 5 women drivers in single seaters who arent too bad, and De Villota isnt one of them (nor is the overated Danica Patrick).

    I think what we have here is a classic case of a pay driver, someone with far more money than talent and doesnt really belong in an F1 car.

  14. JimmiC says:

    It would be nice if one day there were no female drivers – just drivers – and that the hiring of a female driver wouldn’t be as isolated an occasion as it is. If there is one way that Indycar leads F1 it is on the mix in the field of men and women driving, and winning, side by side.

    1. Hutch says:

      I look forward to the day that the sex of the driver is completely irrelevant, and that the title of this article becomes an anachronism.

      Just like “Britain Hands Female Politician Thatcher Prime Ministership” or “McLaren Hands Black Driver Hamilton 2007 Drive”

  15. Tyler says:

    Hopefully Maria is being hired for her talent. Given the blatantly obvious Danica Patrick marketing machine…which pulls in millions of dollars for someone completely overrated, its hard not to see a savvy marketing move from a backmarker low budget team. But so what…good for her…hope she makes the most of the opportunity.

    1. anonymous says:

      At least Danica Patrick has had some respectable results to go with the fame, even though I think Natacha Gachnang is faster.

  16. PeteRI says:

    Having overlooked a driver with the calibre of Robert Wickens, who was on their driver development programme last year and did all he was asked of them in winning the WSR 3.5 championship, this announcement points to nothing more than a financial arrangement for a cash strapped team.

    They’ve taken on Pic and his millions of $ (although he is half decent and deserves a shot) and seem to be further topping up the tiller with this arrangement.

    You’re well out of it Wickens – money not talent is the priority for new signings it seems.

  17. Mark Crooks says:

    Good news, although her age makes me think that this opportunity should have been made available to a younger female driver because I could never see a male 32 year old driver being offered a testing opportunity like this without extensive experience.

    With already quite a number of good female drivers in Indycar last year it is long overdue that F1 has a female driver during a proper race weekend.

  18. CarlH says:

    It’s pretty pointless to call it the young driver test if 32-year olds are allowed to take part.

    They should either call it the in-experienced driver test or put an age limit on the drivers that can participate.

  19. dan b says:

    James can you just explain the reasoning why there just are not more women who make it into F1?

    1. James Allen says:

      There is no shortage of talented girls in karting but they don’t progress to the highest echelon

      I’ve always wondered whether it’s because putting yourself in harm’s way is not a female instinct

      1. Aryan says:

        Oh come on James. There are lots of women who are involved in very dangerous sports, from sky diving to aerobatics, many of them much more dangerous than motor racing.

        Have a look at this study about why girls do worse in maths than boys. It appears that it has a lot to do with lack of confidence of female teachers in maths. http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/01/female-teachers-math-anxiety-influences-female-students.ars

        We as a society do not encourage traditionally male values in women. If a 3 year old girl is found playing with a truck, she gets her truck taken away and is instead encouraged to play with her dolls. The way the society “expects” you to perform in a certain way and adhere to certain norms has a lot in nourishing those qualities in an individual.

      2. James Allen says:

        Maybe. It was just my thought

      3. Kevin Green says:

        On that though James I think were in an era now where your more likely to get injured in a Karting race than you are in an F1 car with the strides forward in the last decade as far as safety goes in F1.

      4. Alan Dove says:

        No shortage of female talent in karting? You been to a top-international event lately James? There has been only one-female driver in the last decade who has consistently challenged at the front in the top classes and that is Beitske Visser (maybe Michelle Gatting as well). There are very few girls who do karting.

        You’re right it could be just a fact the girls are less likely to try sports like motorsport just like I don’t know any man who actively partakes in netball.

        But why a girl hasn’t made it to F1? There are a number of factors.

        Firstly, I think it’s a real possibility that a female could make if they have the required talent. It’s a numbers game. If .05% of racing drivers are female then it’s hugely unlikely they will make it anyway, even if they have the talent.

      5. Ral says:

        Well, apparently Beitske Visser has been picked up by a certain German gentleman manager who wishes to remain anonymous for now.

        Let’s hope this is the manager who has so far shown his nous for two German drivers currently in F1 and see if he can bring her in :)

      6. AuraF1 says:

        This would be a view not remotely backed by science or sociology – racing drivers (even ones who aren’t at the top levels) are generally very daring and have a low sense of danger. The number of women who are now test pilots in various military forces around the world (and have been in Russian forces for decades) would attest that ‘avoidance of danger’ is a personality trait, not a gender trait.

        I suspect the real reason is financial backing and a lack of structure/encouragement for younger female drivers. It’s still a very boy’s club atmosphere. Even at karting events where girls are regular competing well with boys, there is a level of sexism that is quite awkward to be around.

        Maybe F1 should have ‘Grid-boys’ to even things up?

      7. Rich C says:

        LOL I can see it now:
        Chippendales on the grid!

        or Fabio.

      8. cali, colombia says:

        that’s not the case. May be in 99% of them, but we are looking at the 1% that’s left.
        They just don’t have the necesary skills.
        I think in de villota’s case, this article explains it better than anything else.

        But Maria de Villota has as much business being sat in an F1 car as I have. If you watched Superleague you’d have seen she was embarrassingly bad. Slow, stubborn when being lapped, and prone to hitting other cars. Some Superleague drivers were very good indeed, but the tail of the field was weak or inexperienced or both – and she was worse than the worst of them by quite a margin.

        Yesterday when the press release went out from Mark Blundell’s 2MB that they were representing her, it was a real shocker. This goes a long way to explaining it.

        But, please, no-one get the idea that this is the long-awaited and (for me at least) long hoped-for arrival of a female challenger in F1. She’s not up to the job. It’s not her age, it’s not her gender, it’s not even that money is certainly involved – it’s what she’s like behind the wheel.

        As the old saying goes, she couldn’t drive a nail into a plank of wood.
        Andy Darley

      9. Ral says:

        It’s all about Beitske Visser ;)

        She’s moving on to Adac this year with the Motopark Academy team which have just taken on the..

        drumroll…

        Lotus name :D

        Plus, she has come out and said she wants to make it into F1. Let’s hope she does well enough to earn her place :)

      10. James Allen says:

        Jaime Alguersuari was saying the other day that there’s a Spanish girl who’s a world beater in karts at the moment. Name was something like Visa or Viso. Lot of excitement about her in Spain

      11. zombie says:

        A woman’s natural instinct is “self-preservation”,post feminism ofcourse, they do seem to push themselves in predominantly male dominated fields only to “prove a point” and not out of sheer curiosity or interest. There are quite a few good women racers who are record holders in drag-racing, but that never manifests into year around track racing that needs much more dedication,skill,hardwork and ability.

        I’ve got nothing against a woman racing be it in MotoGp,F1,NASCAR or WRC, but its got to be through ability and not just because of your gender. It is amazing how the world works. If a man is hired over a woman, it is “sexism”, when a woman is hired over man, it is “progress and equality”! Such is life!

      12. AuraF1 says:

        Again, bit of a bizarre post to say a woman’s natural instinct is ‘self-preservation’. This just doesn’t tally with biology or history post a 1950′s view of men and women.

        In this case it’s simply who has the connections and the money over talent. That’s just corruption of merit in motorsport which applies to both sexes. I don’t think anybody is celebrating this hiring if it’s based solely on her connections, management, cash and novelty and not her experience, talent or usefulness to a team.

        Still the amount of nonsense posted on this forum today about women drivers does make you wonder if we’re still in the 1950′s…

      13. Simon Lord says:

        I’m not so sure about your comment, “Putting yourself in harm’s way is not a female instinct”, James. I don’t think it’s a natural instinct in anyone, but there are plenty of people – male and female – who overcome that instinct for the resulting adrenalin rush. My daughter has a friend, Avalon Biddle, who races 600cc Superbikes. She has already won the 125cc New Zealand Grand Prix and had enough accidents to put most people off. One of her favourite photographs is of her at Philip Island last year, face down in the gravel as the marshal cautiously and gently remover her bike from the circuit while ignoring her completely!

      14. Paul Kirk says:

        Yeah Simon, I’ve watched her (Avalon) race at Ruapuna and she is certainly good! I hope she can progress well up the ladder.
        PK.

  20. Kevin Green says:

    What was that new tea lady signed up?? ok its a start a few more new signings and they could be well on there way :)

  21. Irksome says:

    Ohh god really, do Marussia have to plumb to the depths of signing a 32 year old female to drive the car for 20 minutes (undoubtedly very well) to get a centimetre of reportage? Whats the news story here James? Is this driver likely to really progress from here at the age of 32?

  22. Gib says:

    One word: ppffffff

  23. Sebee says:

    Smart marketing move.

    Someone up the grid should do this. Instantly McLaren comes to mind. They seem to be best at marketing efforts. So many sales men behind the wheel, not a single sales woman.

    1. iceman says:

      It’s much easier for a team like Marussia to put a no-hoper in their car like this, since no-one takes them seriously already.

  24. goferet says:

    This is brilliant news, and just like that, all Marussia former indiscretions are forgiven in my book for it’s now officially my favourite small team.

    Yes I congratulate Marussia for taking this bold step and giving Maria De Villota a chance for it is just not right that all women drivers are discriminated against just because of the failure of others in the past.

    But seeing as Maria De Villota is already 32 maybe going on 33, and thus doesn’t exactly qualify for the young driver status, this great news comes across to me more like a PR move maybe to milk her sponsors or something.

    But anyway who cares, all that matters is Marussia have opened the door for a female driver again and who knows, other teams may follow suit.

    Now, I would love nothing more than to see one of the Marussia blokes get the boot (even for a couple of races) just to see what the divine Maria can do, maybe Alonso can take her under his wings and show her a couple of tricks.

    Thank you Marussia, you deserve a pat on the back though am surprised the Spanish speaking HRT team didn’t beat them to the punch.

    P.s.

    If Bernie had any business sense, he should put Danica Patrick in one of the midfield cars, I assure him F1 in the US would just EXPLODE!!!

    Danica is the kind of marketing ace card that can finally crack that market

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      FYI, Maria was little more than a backmarker in the Superleague Formula, a series that had Karthikaien as a winner. I think it’s pretty obvious that she’s here for marketing and nothing else, or they’d have at least given some friday running as well.

      As for Patrick, no team would take her as her complete inability to score points would cost the team more money than she would bring in in sponsorship. Simona De Silvestra on the other hand….

    2. tom in adelaide says:

      Yeah great publicity to hire Danica in a midfield car, until she fails to qualify within 107% every.single.race.

      I’m sorry, time to put the political correctness aside for a moment – the 1,000 fastest male driver in the world is much faster than the fastest female driver in the world. It not rude, it’s not mean, it’s just the way it is.

      Of course decisions in F1 are rarely based on merit alone….

    3. Quote:

      If Bernie had any business sense, he should put Danica Patrick in one of the midfield cars, I assure him F1 in the US would just EXPLODE!!!

      Only if she actually did any *well*. Americans aren’t going to tune in to watch her race around at the back of the grid race after race.

      1. James Allen says:

        Same is true for any country really. A driver in F1 is only any use to promote the sport in his country if he’s doing well.

      2. TobyS says:

        That should be in “their” country if “they’re” doing well if we continue the politically correct theme running through these comments.

        TS

    4. Dave Aston says:

      If Bernie had any business sense?

      1. CarlH says:

        Yeah, I think he’s proved over the years that he has plenty of it.

      2. Jack says:

        haha yeah, I thought Bernie had proven his business sense by now…

    5. Danica refused to entertain the idea of F1, and I think it’s because she knows that IndyCars were the upper-limit of what she could drive. She knows that F1 is too much for her (refer to someone else’s comment of her not having the strength to hustle a car through the twisty bits, unlike Pippa Mann or Simona de Silvestro).

      She knows she’d be a second or so behind her teammate, and her career would be ruined. Then again, she’s been off the pace in IndyCars for years, and I guess it hasn’t hurt her. She’d certainly boost the US numbers in F1 for a race or two, but when she inevitably fails, they’d all tune out and tune back in to NASCAR.

  25. Owen says:

    Her history shows no special achievement. I don’t care for the gender of an F1 driver as long as they are good enough. I don’t believe that Maria is. However, let’s see in the tests!

    1. madmax says:

      She done a test last summer for Lotus Renault, about 300 km and although the official statement was she done well, word was she was slow.(Think it was Joe Saward that said she was slow)

      The fact Lotus never done anything further with her and the fact at 32 she has no credentials in lower formula’s makes it seem extremely likely she wasn’t great in that test.

      In the young driver test you can bet she will be running on fumes in the hope the media will give the team plenty of coverage.

  26. Ketzal says:

    Hey James,

    Love your site. Great to see a female driver in F1.

    On another note, I’m a massive F1 fan and read EVERYTHING online leading into a new season.

    I have a suggestion, you should team up with the chap running the blog below next year for pre season information.

    He’s done some of the best work I’ve ever read.

    Makes a mockery of many existing F1 reporters.

    Please check him out and get him involved.

    http://abulafiaf1.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/331/#comments

    Regards
    Ketzal

  27. Ahmed says:

    I’m only 31 but alas i am male… however, i’d be willing to make medical arrangements in order to rectify that if, say, a Ferrari race seat was available…

    1. Gareth says:

      Just tuck it away and wear a blonde wig, sorted!

  28. Nuvolarifan says:

    Good god, who freaking cares?

    We are talking about a 32 yr old driver taking the slot in a young driver test.

    And how much cash flow and positive press will this actually generate for this hopeless team? I for one am no longer pulling for Marussia or for HRT. They just aren’t doing the things you need to do to be on the grid.

    Where is Prodrive, a professional operation?

  29. The good news is, Marussia have signed a female driver. The bad news is, it’s not one of the good ones.

  30. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    The problem when my wife drives is that she looks the shop windows at the same time…

  31. Adam says:

    This is just bad. She has no right being in an F1 car. Her record in lower formula is dreadful. I saw a number of Superleague races where she was just downright dangerous on the race track.
    I’m all for talented women racing in F1, but to put her in a car will just give women drivers a bad stigma. She is slow and has zero racecraft.
    I for one hope I never see her in a F1 car. I hope I see a woman in an F1 car soon as that would be great for the sport, but not De Villota.

  32. daphne says:

    It’s great ‘publicity’, but that’s a terrible photograph. “Leering” comes to mind.

  33. Davexxx says:

    Two points,
    1) In case anyone’s wondering, forget Danica Patrick coming to F1: she has made it clear, she isn’t interested: she hates the idea of all the (international) travelling (which I can fully understand) apart from all the sexism and politics.
    2) James thanks for the ‘history of women in F1′ info, can you expand on “while the last woman to start a race was Lella Lombardi on 12 occasions in the 1970s.” – how did she do?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not bad. She scored half a point

      1. Tom in Adelaide says:

        Which is 1/2 more than any of us! :D

        I wonder if this news was released to coincide with International Women’s Day?

    2. I think she just knows she wouldn’t be competitive. F1 would show the world that she can’t handle single-seaters at a top level, more so than Indycars did.

      NASCAR is a good place for her, where keeping the car tuned to a narrow set-up window for a single corner type matters more than relying on your talent to make up for a car that’s set up to be good on 15+ different corner types.

  34. Stone the crows says:

    I don’t know what sort of career progression DeVillota is supposed to get at the age of 32. Most drivers that age are well established in whatever series they’ve chosen. I know this team has to come up with cash any way they can, but this is the most crass of the crass pay to drive schemes I’ve seen. When her money runs out she’ll be gone, probably soon after Marussia’s YOUNG rookie is asked to give up a race for DeVillota to add a line to her resume.

  35. Andrew Kirk says:

    I do not really have an issue with age or gender when it comes to formula 1 drivers. Damon Hill got into F1 late while others like Alguersuari and Button are arriving too early. Gender also does not bother me it is all to do with talent. If someone is not talented then they should not be racing. Clearly teams need cash so the hope is you hire a Bruno Senna someone with friends back home but also with some talent behind the wheel. Looks like a PR exercise to me.

  36. Kay says:

    Nothing against female drivers, in fact I welcome them, but as many mentioned in posts above, I’d rather see female drivers who come to F1 on merit rather than cash or publicity or whatever.

    Someone throw her a barbie doll instead please, cars ain’t for her.

  37. Darren says:

    Regardless of whether Maria is any good as a driver or not, I doubt that there is any really useful experience to be had as an F1 test driver these days.

    She may well get a day in the young drivers test, and a few goes in the simulator, but it’s not really anything that will have a prospective employer noticing.

  38. DMyers says:

    Firstly, Amati failed to qualify for three grands prix for Brabham (after not getting any testing before her first practice session in Kyalami). Although her F3000 pedigree was awful: In 31 entries she failed to qualify 17 times, although she did get a 7th, 9th and two 10ths from the races she qualified for.

    de Villota is, however, not the best available female racer. Simona de Silvestro or Ana Beatriz have shown flashes of promise over in Indycars, as has Pippa Mann and Katherine Legge. Indeed, all four of these drivers have won races in Indy Lights or the Atlantic feeder series. There’s also Alice Powell, who I’ve seen in a few FRenault races in the UK, and is a feisty driver who I hope will make it to F1. But no, de Villota clearly has some money behind her. It’s a shame, because I don’t think she will make a great contribution.

  39. AuraF1 says:

    I think it’s a bit daft to exclude drivers of 32 years of age. Lots of great drivers haven’t even reached their peak by 32 and we’ve seen plenty recently who’ve gotten much better in their 30s. (As someone turning 30 myself I have to stick up for those hitting their third decade – we’re still young!) – and I think F1 has actually gone too far allowing in 19 and 20 year olds, who need a few more years before they should be in the pinnacle of motorsports.

    However –

    The issue is surely past experience. If a female driver of 32 had progressed and shown relevant experience in the right feeder series, then why not? Okay so at 32 they might not have a 15 year career ahead of them, but 5-6 years seems more than feasible with drivers sticking around past 40.

    I’d be happy with a 32 year old male driver getting a shot, but if they didn’t have the relevant background, it’s just a marketing exercise.

  40. GT_Racer says:

    I was part of the tv team for some Superleague formula races back when de Villota was racing there & she was pretty useless.

    I remember an incident at Jarama where she spun at turn 1 & then decided to drive back onto the track directly infront of oncoming cars & caused a near head-on collision with Sebastien Bourdais who had no way of avoiding her.
    It was the most ridiculous thing i’ve ever seen & Bourdais was furious with not just the fact he’d been taken out but also because of the fact she went unpunished & was still allowed to race in the series.

    Video of above moment courtesy of stefmeister-
    http://youtu.be/RJZKhvJurno?t=38s

  41. mayhemfunkster says:

    When we see the amount of drivers that streak through the lower formulae, winning everything then never get to F1 or perform poorly, we have to ask how far any of the current crop of females would get if it weren’t for gender?

    The percentage of kids that start out in motorsport making it to F1 must be beyond tiny. If you then think how many girls go into motorsport as a subset of that, its no suprise they struggle. It’s not talent per se, just numbers.

    That is the problem. Motorsport is not clasically of interest to girls – so th e numbers competing and probability of making to F1 are correspondingly lower.

    Eventually, talent will out, plain and simple. Doesn’t matter who you are, what colour you are or what bits you have.

  42. Martin says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJZKhvJurno&feature=player_embedded

    She wont get anywhere near an F1 car on a race day, check this Superleague race out from about 35 seconds.

    1. Tyler says:

      Yes thats a move from someone ripe and ready for the highest echelon of motorsport. Headshaker.

      1. Lol says:

        She did the same stupid move as Hamilton in Hungary 2011, the difference was that Di Resta could avoid it while coming at a much higher speed even.

        Hamilton should be sacked from F1 too then.

  43. Andy says:

    Every time I have heard Marussia have signed a driver for this season my first response has been “Who?”

    1. DMyers says:

      I have no words for how stupid and dangerous that was. Did she want to kill someone?

      1. Hmm says:

        Just like Hamilton in Hungary 2011 you mean?

  44. Adam says:

    I just hope this announcement on international women’s day is a coincidence. Otherwise its really poor taste.

    1. Adam says:

      Oh, … it was announced yesterday.

  45. Well, in some respects this is the continuation of family genetics…her father is Emilio De Villota, who ran in Formula 1 in the early 80′s. He had a lot of money backing him, but was slow in the lower categories (although he won a couple of races mainly by having the best equipment), and he was almost embarrassingly slow in F1.

  46. Darren says:

    I should get my wife who is a transexual to start racing , what would she be male or female , just need her to agree to start her driving lessons first :-)

  47. FF says:

    Frankly good luck to her. Hope she gets something out of it, as does the team.

    I guess her record in the lower levels is not the best but then some other drivers have that record too only to massively impress in F1.

    The main point to me though is why are marussia even doing this, instead of perhaps HRT who are proudly Spanish?

    They’re late with the 2012 car, even with Pat Symonds working in the background, and then we have this which is surely this is just a sponsoship move. I guess any press is good press but….

    I’m wondering if HRT will out live Marussia at this rate. I hope though that they BOTH survive!!

    FF

  48. Lol says:

    So many men frustrated a woman gets to drive an F1 car.. the horror haha.

  49. Alex says:

    Interesting comment section, I just wanted to add that currently there are two female drivers that will drive the European part of the F1 weekends in GP3.
    If I can see any female talent making it to F1, this is surely a way?

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