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Women in motorsport
Women in motorsport
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Apr 2010   |  7:26 pm GMT  |  83 comments

I was interested to see that the FIA’s new Women in Motorsport commission has met for the first time, under the presidency of former rally star Michele Mouton.

Mouton: New commission president

It was one of the first measures introduced by Jean Todt when he took over as FIA president in October last year. Women are not well represented in the highest levels of motor sport and one of the main reasons for that is that there is no parallel series for women competitors as there is in tennis, athletics, soccer and other sports. In motor racing women compete directly against men, like Mouton herself in the early 1980s, where she won four world championship rounds, and nowadays Danica Patrick in Indycar and Katherine Legge in DTM.

This is just the way things have evolved over the years and it has led to a pretty low representation of women participating, partly because the federation hasn’t taken an active role at looking at ways of improving things. Now that has changed.

“Like many international federations, we will support, promote and help advance the participation of women in motor sport to ensure equal opportunities at all levels,’” said Todt in his statement today.

But it’s not just about finding women to race at the highest levels, it’s about encouraging women to engage at all levels in all roles. Many women work today in F1, as engineers and tyre technicians as well as in the more traditional roles of hospitality, pr and promotion. The paddock is not a male dominated environment any more, hasn’t been for the last ten years. Sauber is trying out a female team manager for the second time in its history and there are some very senior women in Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM organisation.

“The WMC aims to put in place strategies and policies that will promote education and training, and put into practice actions and events that will strengthen the participation of women in all areas of motor sport,” said the FIA.

It is common for young girls to be very competitive in karting but then the difficulty of finding funding and being taken seriously as they work their way up the ladder means a significant drop off in numbers. Who’s to say that the sport hasn’t lost a potential Vettel in the last five years?

It will be very interesting to see what progress this commission makes and how long it is before a woman driver makes it into F1. It cannot come soon enough.

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Alice Powell a 17 year old, lead from pole and won a BARC Formula Renault race by 7+ seconds, at Silverstone, last week. She was 2nd in the earlier race.

Lewis Hamilton made big headlines in motorsport when he won it in a similar spec Formula Renault, when he was slightly older than her, in 2002:

“who the hell is Alice”?


I read about that. Great result for her. Will keep an eye out


Michele Mouton simply a class act,now gentleman if only you could be as good.not. Motorsport is completely dominated by men,yet here we are ponticating about “drivers”.

If any of us men included had the skill to drive a an Audi Quattro like Mouton then and only then could you honestly comment,as men…

Any “men” read about Pat Moss Carrlson?

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I think that having women in F1 would be like inviting females to enter a men’s tennis grand slam tournament.

Sure they would be able to beat a few of the journeymen, but would probably fall by the wayside further along the line.

We have had enough journeymen in F1 over the last few years…let’s not add journeywomen to the list.

If a female turns out to be a really great driver then she will naturally rise to the top, and will inevitably attract a disproportionate amount of sponsorship…you only have to look at Danica Patrick as an example.

If there was a female good enough to be in F1 then surely she would be there by now.


James I don’t think you’ve got this bit correct

“It is common for young girls to be very competitive in karting but then the difficulty of finding funding and being taken seriously as they work their way up the ladder means a significant drop off in numbers. Who’s to say that the sport hasn’t lost a potential Vettel in the last five years?”

It isn’t common at all for girls to be competitive in top flight karting. Very recently we’ve had two or three girls make a mark – Laura Tillet and Michelle Gatting – but they are very rare indeed. The idea there is a drop-off in numbers doesn’t really stack up because I don’t see scores of woman racing karts and then stopping because they can’t afford cars.

The idea they find it especially hard to find sponsorship is somewhat naive to the realities of motorsport though. Every driver finds it hard to find sponsorship, and arguably competitive girl racers certainly attract more sponsorship interest!

Motorsport is a money game. Unless you really are super-human you WILL NOT get spotted and picked up. 90% of motorsport money comes from family.


Well said, TM, my own experiences are very similar to yours.



I thought Natascha Gachnang was looking promising, although her F2 season wasnt brilliant. She then broke her leg in the same weekend her cousin, Seb Buemi, had his astonishing suspension failure.

I think for British hopefulls, keep an eye on KC Watson (I think that’s her name) and Alice Powell







Ok Sarah so why aren’t you an F1 driver then?

Who stopped you in the Karting, the junior formulae, F3 etc.

If you are good enough you should go for it. But don’t forget that probably only 10% of aspiring feeder formula drivers ever make it into F1, and a lot of them only last one season.

Determintation and willingness to sacrifice all the way up to F1 standard is required and then luck and talent are the only criteria, mostly luck.

But if you haven’t struggled through all the junior formulea don’t expect to jump the queue.


R u sure it’s 10%, Jonrob, I’m guessing more like 2.5% or less!



Maybe I’m incredibly naive, but I thought it was refreshing how open minded most of the comments are on here, particularly the genuine enthusiasm for a woman to succeed on her merits, not to just have a few pretty faces.

The overall opinion seems to be that anyone is welcome and will be embraced by fans if they’re fast enough, regardless of sex, race, nationality or looks.


Sarah, there’s only one thing I can say to that: Iron my shirt, there’s a love.

But to put all joking aside you do raise a relevant discussion point which is reflective of society as a whole and possibly goes to the heart of why it’s been difficult to get women into motorsport.

I’m afraid I disagree with your viewpoint on it though. It isn’t sexism and fear of women doing better that stops men often giving women a chance – it’s a fear that if they don’t pass muster and they fire them, the woman will jump up and down claiming sexism.

Yes women want a chance – but unfortunately many play the sexism card when that chance doesn’t pay off. It’s a brave man in the modern world who’ll risk that in such a high value arena. Hopefully more and more will do exactly that, but the women also have to accept it has nothing to do with gender if they get booted too.


I’m sorry Sarah, I can’t agree with you on a number of points! One of them is your comment about an “easy route”, I garantee if you interview every single TOPLINE driver in motor sport not one of them will agree they had an “easy route”, they will ALL have worked hard, scrimped, taken major financial risks, and gone through hell to get were they are. You generally find the drivers that had the easiest route, i.e., golden handshake, are never able to get anywhere near the top. Among other things you’re also VERY wrong about us being “scared”.




It’s a good job this is being done with Todt at the helm as if Mosley was still in power it would have taken in a whole new meaning wouldn’t it ❓


The only reason a woman should be an F1 driver is if they’re quick enough.

Giving anyone a seat in F1 should be based on merit.


Absolutely, Tobi.



At least motorsport doesn’t discriminate against women like so many other sports do, in fact any team would be glad to have a fast female driver, as they would generate more publicity and therefore sponsorship.


Yeah but at the expense of other sometimes more deserving competitors. (unless the f/male was able to run up near the front, of course). I’d like nothing better than to see a female running near the front in a F1 race, but I would want her to recieve the same attention as the males she is competing with, not having the TV cameras, editors, pit interviewers, magazines, etc., in her face all the time, forceing her every move on us just because she’s got some cleavage!



Don’t talk “deserving.” Thats a subjective judgement.

And you’re overlooking the fact that there are *guys in motorsport right now that are ONLY there because they bring money to the table. And that usually means they have some PR skills, or possibly rich, Brazilian dads.


Who’s to say that the sport hasn’t lost a potential Vettel in the last five years?

I believe there are lots of Vettels, Rooneys, Nadals and Tigers out there that could of have been world beaters. I am convinced there are adults who have never raced karts or shown any interest in motorsport at all who have all of the attributes to be world champions. There paths just never crossed.

This is why i fully support these motorsport programmes.


I think you’re quite right about that. I’ve been racing and working in motorsport for nearly 20 years now and I’ve no doubt that an awful lot of talent goes to waste because it simply nevers occurs to people that they may have natural ability.

That’s largely a product of it being an expensive and/or impractical thing to find out, but when I’m at karting events I always tell the novices not to worry about speed and that some people just ‘get it’ from the outset. The number of people who have that natural speed is surprisingly high, I’d guess somewhere in the region of 1 in 30, and I suspect a lot of them could’ve gone a long way had they been nurtured at the right age.


Artificially promoting female drivers is a cheap publicity stunt, if they are quick then they should be able to race against the men without outside help. There was a television programme called Formula Woman [as far as I can remember] and it was truly awful, they didn’t choose people for their driving ability but rather for their ‘reality profile’ so that they could boast a good mix. I believe it was won by the sister of….. no, sorry it’s gone! but I don’t recall ever seeing her again. Turn up and drive series such as Ginetta and Caterham seem to have attracted some good people but when the going gets tougher the majority seem to give up. The FIA is wasting it’s money of it thinks a commission will do anything but give more jobs for the boys [and Michele].


That’s true but let’s face it if we had what any good looking woman has wouldn’t we use it too ❓


That depends on if you are looking for a racing driver or a pin-up….. and that, of course, is the root of the problem. The FIA want to appear PC and equal opportunity and all that, but only superficially and only short term.


“It cannot come soon enough.”

I completely disagree James.

Having a woman come into F1 too soon could cause bigger problems later on – arguing that a woman should be in F1 as soon as possible is, in my opinion, ridiculous and I’m shocked you think this. Does this mean that no matter what her talent level, a woman should be in F1? What if she isn’t any good? Would that be acceptable?

Women do need to be taken seriously in motorsport but encouraging any old woman into F1 simply for the sake of being a woman is demeaning and not the right approach.

When there is a woman good enough, she will get into F1. Simple as that.


Nathan, I absolutely totally agreeeeeeeee!



I disagree – plenty of male drivers have got into F1 for the money they bring (the list is huge but off the top of my head Diniz and Petrov). How marketable would a female be to an F1 team?

Comments above criticise Danica Patrick for appearing in lads mags but she does so alongside images of her car and its sponsor logos.


I know women who HATE Danica,they think she is ruining it for women in racing.I believe the opposite is true,she has opened the floodgates.But you must want to win above ALL else,guy or girl.Your off track activities cannot reduce your focus one iota.

In Bahrain people were so complimentary of Mario Andretti.Because he will never lose his winning attitude,and any racer must have that first,and everything else is second to it.


Only two UK motorcycle finishers in the Dakar Rally this year – one of whom was Tamsin Jones – supported by our first lady Dakar finisher – Patsy Quick.

Riding a motorcycle in the Dakar is pretty demanding physically and plenty of women take it on and finish well.

In motorsport there’s no need for a separate “Ladies” class – the girls can compete directly with the men. They do, however, need to be taken seriously when they’re doing well.


I’ve always thought of Michelle Mouton as being the perfect female competitor : She asked for and got no special treatment and competed on an equal basis with the men. I watched her on a few events and particularly remember her flat out and sideways cutting the corner across the grass opposite Goodwood House at the FOS. Brilliant !

On a wider point, except in sports where they are at a clear physical disadvantage, women should want to compete on an equal basis with men. That ensures they get to the top on merit.

The last thing any self respecting woman would want to see is a race series just for women.


Good to see Michele Mouton’s superb competition and administrative abilities being used by the FIA. While I agree that women have an advantage when it comes to seeking sponsorship in motorsport, James’ point about there being no parallel series for women is well made. Such series might, perhaps ironically, enable women to develop their skills to a high standard without their being so much under the spotlight until they are ready for ‘open’ competition.

Re Michele Mouton, my favourite memory of her is watching her duel with Malcolm Wilson on the Scottish Rally in the mid-80’s. Malcolm beat her comprehensively on the notorious Drummond Hill stage, which features some very nasty corners with a long drop to Loch Tay, and afterwards commented “The trouble with Michele is that she hasn’t got the balls for it!” Unfair but very funny.


And probably true, Simon! In fact I think that is their limiting factor when it comes to being capable of racing at the very top.



Now I should point out that I’m not actively encouraging this to change… but it works both ways you know. When was the last time you saw a male model holding up the grid position markers on the grid?

I’m sure plenty of blokes would love to get that opportunity, but sexism within F1 is rife and some people just won’t let them. Maybe it’s those senior women in FOM blocking them and keeping jobs for the girls?


It’s not like holding up grid markers is preventing them from being doctors and lawyers etc, remember it’s their job. The promotions industry employs thousands of girls who would otherwise be unemployed. You could argue that this is unfair to the lads, however unless Labour stay in power it is unlikely that being gay will eventually be compulsory, only then will we see lads holding the grid markers.

In the UK having a degree is commonplace amongst the shelf stackers who can find no other work, so let’s not begrudge the grid girls their few days of work looking delectable.


Valencia 2008 and 2009


Valencia doesn’t count. It’s not a real race. They probably had bouncy castles too. It’s just a filler for Bernie’s wallet until he can get a proper event to replace it.


Not many women are prepared to build up their necks to the necessary thickness to withstand the lateral Gforces of F1. Driving on banked oval tracks does not produce the same type of G force.


Not many women are prepared to build their bodies up to the point of being female weightlifters. But they do. And they are remarkably strong. And also I really dont think F1 drivers necks are particularly thick, just rather strong.


“Driving on banked oval tracks does not produce the same type of G force.”

Utter tosh. The G-forces on ovals tend to be much higher.


Have it your way, but I am pretty sure you are wrong. I said lateral remember, not total. In oval racing much of the lateral g force is transmuted into an effective increase in weight (not mass).


In fact I seem to remember driving around the banked circle track at Millabank and there being no lateral G force at all. The angle of the banking being calculated so that the horizontal component of the centripetal force is cancelled out completely.


There have already been five women drivers in F1. I must confess that that’s four more than I knew about, as I discovered when I went to Wikipedia to look up the name of the one I remembered from the time: Giovanna Amati in 1992. She was the Brabham second driver, but only lasted the first 3 races, none of which she managed to qualify for. In all fairness, the Brabham was dreadful that year. She was replaced by Damon Hill. I recall that the drivers toilet facilities all had to be extended to provide a ‘ladies’.


To be far, Amati would have been a disaster with any gender. She got the job because she had the money to get the team to races. Equal levels of male disaster were being hired by other teams at the same time, Paul Belmondo leaps to mind.

It’s just going to be a slow process, to be accepted we’ll need a woman to start winning in GP2 etc. It’s getting closer, 5 years ago no woman had won a professional motor race, now we have 3. Katherine Legge and Simona de Silvestro both won multiple races in series 1 level below the main Indycar Series and (admittedly with half the field missing and a gigantic scoop of luck) Danica Patrick has won a proper Indycar event.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, most of these women are going about it the right way. Race as hard on equal terms as you can. A Danica, a Sarah, a Simona might just inspire another little girl to go karting. Maybe one of those will win a little more and inspire another, larger group of girls into the sport.

And maybe one of THEM is our Michelle Schumacher, Fernanda Alonso or Louise Hamilton.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Perhaps Sheila’s Wheels and Diamond could pitch to the FIA for a spot on next year’s grid?? Their bid should probably have more credibility than USF1 at least.

Not so sure about females in F1. Everyone gets excited about Danica Patrick, when in reality she is probably no better than an Olivier Panis.

PS – I haven’t come across a decent female journalist in F1 yet.

marques de portago

when it comes to talking, they are second to none, so if the woman have some interest in the sport, she might be as good as any men. Driving it’s a different matter. I really doubt we will see in the next 50 years a woman who is champion material. Unless they keep lowering the horsepower up to a point where even a kid will be able to do it.

Stephen Kellett

Do you think women should be allowed to vote as well?

Or just stay in the kitchen baking cakes for you to eat when they are out shopping and talking on the phone. After all, according to you, that is all they are good for.

Blimey, next up we’ll have someone going on about how the colour of someone’s skin affects their intelligence.


“Driving it’s a different matter. I really doubt we will see in the next 50 years a woman who is champion material.”

Why? I’m not sure if you’re joking or not but can you really compare female athletes to kids? little bit ridiculous really.


Diamond’s interesting actually, all they are is a rebadge of Admiral. If you’re a bloke try and get insurance with them, they WILL actually provide one and in my case it was pretty much the best quote I got.

I wonder if that’s a legal issue.


It’s absolutely a legal issue…how would they possibly justify only giving insurance to women??

In the same way, how could any team justify not employing a woman driver IF she was fast enough…


I have to say I fully appreciate the job that BBC pitlane lady does. Short, direct questions – allows the drivers to speak. And where the is something to be asked she seems to ask the right questions.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I meant journalist as opposed to TV/radio reporter. Someone who originates first hand facts and opinion…

There is no female equivalent of a Mark Hughes or James Allen.


Im a big fan of Katherine Legge, I loved watching her when she competed in Champcar series, she had a massive crash at Road America, it’s was incredible she walked away…. the car disintegrated, very fortunate girl


I agree with this and would love to see more woman not only competing but also working behind the scenes.

I would presume that being naturally lighter and smaller than men (well apart from Anthony Davidson) women would do very well, especially in F1.


I remember a few years ago Louise Goodman on a F1 ITV broadcast saying that there were no women drivers in F1 because biologically women just didn’t hae the strength to cope with the g-forces in F1. It made me laugh out loud – I’m sure there are plenty of strong girls who could give little Ant a good thrashing…


James, do you think scantly clad pit-girls (or paddock girls) are something that are kind of denigrating to women and belong in the past?

I’ve noticed lately a trend, that when the top 3 finishers walk to the podium their are received by 50 scantly clad women left and right… looking at that it looks like a machissimo sport

marques de portago

and some of us want it to stay like this.

At valencia they used men to do that job the first year, i imagine to attract women to the sport, but i doubt the did. What i am sure it’s that they convinced me not to go there.

This is a men’s sport, so do take care of us.

Most women are busy shopping and talking on the cellular phone. That’s what they like.


Marques, this is a dangerous subject, but I’m inclined to agree with you! Although I’d be very interested in seeing a female up near the top by her own merrits, (driving, not bumps on her chest), and De Silvestro might be the one.



I’d say most women who attend F1 are more interested in the race than you are if the lack of skimpily-clad grid girls is enough to turn you off attending.


I agree! What about an equal number of scantily clad men to even it out? 😉


they need michelle and bernie to share te presindency…. ecclestone retires from F1 and gets a warm chair by mouton’s side…. he’s perfect for the job 😉


actually, there will be three women in this year Indy 500 edition: Danica Patric, Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno. So there is a trend to employ more women drivers at least in the Indy Series. Whathever we need separate racing leagues for women, I personally doubt. Mrs Mouton has proven that ladies can compete against man, although in other sport than rally spectacular results are still missiong.


And you have to remember Michelle also happened to have a factory 4wd car to use while most of the others were 2wd.



Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist also had works Audi Quattros at their disposal, but it was Mouton won challenged for the 1982 title. She could have won it too, had it not been for some Audi reliability issues.


Actually, there will be 4, you missed Simona De Silvestro, probably the quickest of all of them round any course with more than 2 corners.


You have got it bad 🙂

“De Silvestro describes the sensation of qualifying on a street course as feeling like every corner is a crash in waiting”


Its a valid point. One of the only top line drivers I can think of is Danica Patrick who is competing at a high level.

The marketing potential is huge for a women who looks like Danica Patrick (and thats not mean as a sexist comment) and races like Robert Kubica – but doesnt look like Robert Kubica.

I cant see any reason that a women could not compete in Formula 1 or be as good a driver personally.


are you are aware of any up and coming lady drivers in junior/feeder formula that might break the mould?


AndyC, you forgot about Simona DE Silvestro, it looks like she is a real racer and quicker than Patrick. Good to see as I’m getting (already got) tired of Patrick! Duno is certainly not doing the womens’ movement any good.



Emma Kimiläinen of Finland!

I once tried out old Formula Opel Lotus cars, and she was in the group too. Overtook me via the gravel side of a kerb on first lap…

Very sensible girl with humble but confident attitude it seemed. And she does have the looks too.


Are women going to be allowed in motorsport without being judged by the male fans solely on their looks? This messgae thread makes me think not…



Did I not mention couple of other things first?

However, considering how rare female drivers are in top categories, I think this is just inevitable.

It is like Bruno Senna is always going to be compared with Ayrton. It is not his “fault” but is makes a big difference in perception. And if you look at what Danica Patrick is doing, I think you see that she is happily using this to her advantage.

I understand that accepting that looks matter do give a disadvantage to female drivers who are perhaps less attractive. Maybe this injustice can be corrected only with time, as female drivers become more common?

marques de portago

if she is fast, give her a chance. But having an also run just because she is a woman, it’s as bad as having a driver with a suit case. It’s taking a space that can be used by some other more talented driver.


I agree with that sentiment – I don’t care who races, as long as they do it well and are the best that can be. WHOEVER they are, if they are not telented enough, stay away, and there are a few male names that could easily be mentioned that fit that bill.


I completely agree, equal opportunities to whoever fits the bill. Unfortunately though, motorsport is not the most accessible sport, if you look at the people participating. I know there are plenty of very notable exceptions, but for the most part the majority of drivers are men, most are european/american, most are white. It is a sport that requires alot of investment of time and resources to enter into, at a young age if you want to really make it. And so encouragement of new competitors has to be a major point for the FIA to pursue. The more accessible it is, the larger the fan base will be and the more talent there will be on the grid.


I agree too: if she’s able, she’s most welcome; but no easy route. No women simply because they are women.


It seems to me that some of these women are saying “I am a woman so you owe me to put me into F1-IndyC-WRC-etc.”.

If they were fast enough they would automatically be there. Call me chauvinist for mentioning a fact.


*I never heard any women saying this. Who did *you hear?

And I sure don’t have any problems with Danica flaunting her underwear!


Not sure I would want to see Fernando Alonso or Robert Kubica in their underwear though


But that’s led to you seeing Danica as “Someone in her underwear” and not “Serious racing driver”.

Danica is the Anna Kournikova of motor racing and about as successful. Not a huge problem with Anna because we had Steffi Graf, we had Capriati, Seles and Navratilova. Plus the women tennis players were only playing other women.

In motor racing Danica is the only game in town for a lot of people and I really don’t think it helps. Compare and contrast to say, Sarah Fisher, a woman who loves the sport so much she’s running her own team to stay in it and is a little ball of enthusiasm in any interview.

In a world where women drivers’ biggest problem is reputation and perception, one of those people is helping and one isn’t.

That said, neither does Milka Duno, the Yuji Ide of Indycar. By all accounts an excellent person but at Long Beach she was well over 10 seconds off the next slowest Indycar. She’s no more a ride buyer than Yuji was but let’s really hope no-one assumes she’s any more indication of the speed of females than Yuji was of the men.


No Dudley. I’ve seen her race and get right in somebody’s face when she’s felt wronged. And I’ve seen her in street clothes and in bikinis. Its led to me seeing her as a kick-ass driver/babe that I wouldn’t want to mess with.


Wait a minute….

Doesn’t David Beckham and a whole host of other male sports stars constantly do semi naked ads for money? I think I’ve seen Beckhams torse more times than he has! But no one says anything, it doesn’t make women (or men) have less respect for him.

In saying about Danica, you are being sexist because you are applying harser rules for men than for women. She is promoting herself in the exact way that many male sports stars do. The only difference is, she’s female. This kind of attitude is why sexism is still so persistent in society.



I agree, and there are 4 women in Indycar this season who HAVE earned their place (Simona De Silvestro, Danica Patrick, Ana Bratriz and the always excellent value Sarah Fisher).

Outside that you have Buemi’s cousin Gachnang in FIA GT1 (although ironically she had the same accident as him only more serious on the same day) and in an all women line up in a Matech Ford GT at Le Mans. You’ve got Pippa Mann in Indy Lights, Susie Stoddart in DTM (outqualifying Coulthard and Schumacher last week).

It’s not equal but nor should it be, but there ARE women in top level motorsport and there because they’ve earned it by being bloody fast or (at least partially in Sarah’s case) through sheer passion and commitment to the sport.

Danica though has NOT helped. Every bit of exposure she has is because she spends 20% of her time motorsporting and the rest of her time looking for creative ways to be pictured in her underwear. She’s trying to put women being taken seriously back years.


I agree, women shouldn’t be given an easier route into motorsport, but the fact that there are so few, shows that they could do with some encouragement at least. Equal opportunities. And yes, Danica Patrick has not helped the image of women in motorsport, or of what men expect from women in motorsport.


Just another example of what an excellent job Jean Todt is doing as President of the FIA. Brilliant.

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