Why aren’t there more women engineers in F1?
Red Bull Racing
Why aren’t there more women engineers in F1?
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jul 2010   |  6:51 pm GMT  |  63 comments

F1 in Schools WebsiteF1 in Schools, the global engineering challenge for school children, of which I am proud to be a patron, has had two major breakthroughs recently.

First the world championship finals due to take place in Singapore this year have been boosted by a sponsorship deal with LG Electronics. And then at Silverstone last weekend, one of the participants, Kelly Ashbridge, who has represented her school in Carlisle in F1 in Schools, got the chance to interview Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey, an active patron of the programme.

Through F1 in Schools, Kelly has become interested in engineering as a vocation and wanted to find out about women and engineering and to ask the maestro’s advice on getting a career in F1.

Although the ratio of women engineers in F1 teams is very low, F1 in Schools has a very high ratio of female competitors, around 35%, and all-girl teams are quite common. And yet when they get to around 15 years of age, the numbers fall away and few girls pursue engineering degrees.

This is something many Governments and F1 in Schools want to understand and correct. The programme is now in 32 countries world wide and is doing great work exposing F1 in particular and engineering in general to millions of school children.

Here is an extract from Kelly’s interview with Newey.

Kelly Ashbridge interviews Adrian Newey at Silverstone

Kelly Ashbridge“In your career, how many girls have you come across who are keen on engineering?”

Adrian Newey “In Red Bull we have, I believe 140 engineers and of those in aerodynamics we have 2 (women), then we have 1 in vehicle dynamics, one in stress and 2 in general design, so I think that comes to about 6 or so. So 6 in 140 – 4%. It’s a small percentage, I am afraid, but it’s not too bad.”

Kelly “Do you think that girls should take more of a dominating role, do you think it’s time we took over? Do you think we are capable of it?”

Adrian“Yes, the girls we have are certainly very good engineers. They have earnt there place, we don’t hire them simply because they are females and they continue to contribute just as well as the blokes. I think to be honest, nobody, we are just not conscious of it, they are just another person.”

Kelly“Do you think F1 in Schools is a good way to introduce young people to Formula One and to engineering as a career path?”

Adrian “I think it’s a great way, I think not only to get into Formula One but also to get involved with something, to understand the spirit of the competition, to look at the details, to work with other people, to get it from an idea to designed product to competition. I think it’s fantastic.

“That for me is a life skill, it’s not just something that you would necessarily apply to Formula One. It’s a general life experience which you can apply to anything and that’s why i am such a strong supporter of Andrew’s (Denford, the founder of F1 in Schools) work.

Kelly “For people in my position who have done the F1 in Schools competition and are applying to university what is the next thing to do to keep them on the right path to make sure they are going the right way?”

Adrian “I won’t pretend that getting into Formula One is easy. There is an element of chance and luck with it – it’s not easy unfortunately. All I can advise is first of all don’t necessarily be hung up about getting into Formula One. It may be that you can get a job in another category and then once you are in the industry if you are good, normally, I shouldn’t say this, but it becomes easier to move around. Get work experience wherever possible and that doesn’t necessarily mean, you obviously apply for a team, to see if you can get work experience, we, like other teams have a limited number of places each year and again there is an element of luck in who gets those.”

“Also look at spannering for a Formula 3 team, generally anything on your CV that shows you are not only academically intelligent, but also that you are passionate about it. I think the big thing about motor racing is that it does generally involve long hours and so demands a lot of dedication and what your CV needs to try and demonstrate is that you have that dedication and you are prepared to do that.”

Kelly“So what advice would you give someone in my position?”

Adrian “Don’t give up is probably the first one. It’s not an easy one to get through. Be flexible. Don’t set your heart on Formula One initially. There are other teams, even other categories, even rallying, maybe motorbikes, I don’t know. Try to build out your CV as we spoke about and then try to not get too dispirited when you keep applying and it may be even, that we don’t always hire out of universities, so even if you get to the point where you have to take a job otherwise your Mum is going to kick you out or something, and it’s not in motor racing, then take that job, but you know, try applying again.”

For more information on F1 in Schools go to: http://www.f1inschools.co.uk/

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I will say, with no disrespect, I find some of these comments above are offending/ disheartening to myself and of course many other people, not just of the female gender.

I have been involved in F1 in Schools for 5 years, I just finished competing this year, as I am now too old for the program. I was first introduced to the program in 2007, when it was first brought into Tasmania. I had been manager of 3 teams, this year I just happen to be Project Manager of the F1 in Schools World Finals winning team, PentaGliders.

As previously stated, I had been working towards the goal of winning at the National level and to progress through to a World level, of course, my teams only ever went through to the National Finals and did not have all the skills the judges were looking for to progress.

Considering the small scale F1 in Schools sat on in Tasmania, there was not a lot of interest in schools because students thought they would have to put too much work into their team role as well as their school work, there are hundreds of hours to put in! and I say that from first-hand experience.

Although you will find this problem in many students, many teachers (with no disrespect) didn’t know what they were in for because of how new the program was, I see this in a lot of countries.

Resources were a problem as well, and in the last few years money has also become a problem, so more work was to be put in by the schools self-funding the program in their school alongside sponsorship with businesses who didn’t have a lot of money to spare themselves.

I know the situation with money very well, but what the communities and schools are not so aware of is the impact the program has on the students, the community and the schools, say 5 years down the track. To an outsider, (surveys were taken to get this result) the program was seen as “child’s play” and “irrelevant to school learning” but now seeing the impact 5 years down the track on students, schools, communities and most importantly businesses, the impact it has made in these areas; public speaking, problem solving, ICT, numeracy, literacy, science, confidence building and many other areas are seen in the students as they leave high school to progress through to college or university. Because, there is no lesson that can be taught again to such an extent and level of passion through the F1 in Schools Challenge. What you learn (which is a lot) stays with you forever, and a major part is seeing the interest in engineering, manufacturing, advertising and marketing careers – these are just to name a few!

Without industry support, where would anyone be? Knowledge would not be passed on, therefore industry going stale so to speak. There would be no business, and without younger people being trained and assisted in the above areas, especially science and maths, not just in the classroom but all these areas being applied to a work environment, how would they learn? This is not only to younger people, but also older people as well, we never stop learning, the beauty of the world! I have met some amazing women, not just in engineering, but in other areas who are extremely powerful business woman which most businesses thrive on! I look up to these women and hope that one day I will be that successful, to prove to everyone who ever told me that I couldn’t be a “shining star” But this isn’t about me this is about women everywhere who should be treated and valued in schools, the society and workplaces the same as all men.

There are thousands of opportunities to experience and great friends to meet along the way! Going to the Singapore Grand Prix in September and getting to meet all the F1 drivers in the paddock was an absolutely amazing experience, once in a lifetime! We were presented our Bernie Ecclestone trophy by no one other than Bernie Ecclestone himself! And also crossing paths with Sir Richard Branson was amazing also! But you don’t get to do that on a daily basis! You also don’t get to spend time in the F1 drivers garages talking to the teams either!

I am sure that not just myself, but a large majority of all the students and teachers who have been involved in the F1 in Schools Challenge would see how life changing the program can be, if you work hard and have the dedication, that takes you to wherever you want to go! And for myself and my team, that is taking us to London to study with our scholarships, and where do we go from there? No one knows! I was told by a majority of the F1 teams in Singapore that I have the managing/marketing skills of someone who is in their 30’s-40’s, and I am only 18!

Even if the students are female or not, you have to nurture the students talents, even if you don’t see it straight off, there will be a spark in them, and it’s the job of a teacher to bring the best out in their students. So who cares who does what job better in engineering or in any career! As long as they have passion, dedication and the job gets done, who is to judge them!

We are the innovators of tomorrow, just give us a chance! Male or female, we all deserve respect for what we are good at! 🙂


I am so proud to have had this opportunity from F1 in Schools and Adrian and I’m working very hard at Uni to get to F1


Hello, im 15 and i am due to finish school next year. Ive had my heart set on working in the motorsport industry for atleast 3 years now and im finding it really hard to find a way of getting into it or atleast to find somewhere that i can find information so i can start to plan my route after i leave school. I just need a breakthrough in informtion or a useful contact.

If anyone knows or has any advice it would be much appriciated.


F1 in Schools is great way to attract both boys and girls to engineering. The skills of engineering and problem solving really give the student an in depth view into the world of engineering. This speaking from my experience of the competition.


I agree with Sean!! It’s a great competition and it has changed my life!


I am a time served (Aeronautical Engineering) double engineering graduate (Aeronuatical and computer systems).

The local female hair stylist drives a £40k BMW M3.

I ride a £500 push bike and have a £15k student loan to pay back!

It would be naive and arrogant of me to say that my ‘abilities’ are higher than hers.

However, what I will say is that for the risk, cost, and study involved, that the numbers stack up much more favourably for, not just hairstyling, but vocational based jobs in general.

As for 15 year olds….oh dear.

How on earth can you take a survey like that seriously?

I cannot be 100% sure, but it’s highly probable that the survey was boolean and failed to gain a background for their choice.

To a 15 year old – F1 is glitz and glamour.

And from the F1 in Schools website, it’s not difficult to see why this opinion is formed.

It is just a publicity stunt.

I know this because there is a big link for ‘Media Coverage’.

In addition, ‘About the Challenge’ drums up a very sexy ‘CAD/CAM/CFD/insert cool acronym here’ image.

Not once does it mention ‘You will have to bury your head in a textbook for 150 hours, do 30 hour shifts, and then have your findings rejected/rendered obsolete by a rule change.


I don’t think so.

Some people actually relish the challenge in a sort of sadistic way.

They are driven, motivated, and dedicated to a single minded state.

These people are rare, but if you look at any top F1 engineer, you can instantly see it (Brawn, Newey, Gascoyne) and how the PR/Media razmataz annoys them.

As such, from an antirely biological psychological standpoint, perhaps the higher majority of Women than Men, don’t process information/approach tasks this way?


Great post.


I am a female F1 engineer & fell into it by accident really – I loved F1 growing up but at school there was no encouragement to be an engineer never mind one in motorsport. That’s for boys or girls. I did maths & science a-levels and its only when choosing a uni degree did I come across Motorsport Engineering.

There are plenty of girls out there who do enjoy F1 and also scientific subjects at school, but the careers advice is just so bad that whilst you’re at school you’ve no idea what possibilities there are.


“Why aren’t there more women engineers in F1?

This is something many Governments and F1 in Schools want to understand and correct.”

Why? Why it needs to be corrected? If women are not interested, they are not interested.

It’s fine, and does not need to be corrected. They will come to F1 if they are interested enough.


But the point is that they are interested under the age of 15 but they get put off.


I remember a couple of years back, a shot of Flavio and Ron Dennis having a bet on the grid and then asking the grid girl ‘something’, then both sneering like dirty old men. I can only imagine that if a female engineer saw that she might be a little put off the idea of working in F1. An isolated event, perhaps.


Flavio Briatore rules and so do grid girls.


Hi James,

I love the idea of F1 in schools. I live in Canada and wonder if this program is available here. It is great to see both boy’s and girl’s taking part, this only makes the sport stronger.


F1 in Schools is available in Canada as well!

Please check the map:



Tell me why you think F1 “needs” more females?

It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, either way.

But I think you’ve fallen into the “politically correct” trap of just *assuming that it is automatically a “good thing” for every identifiable “minority” to be proportionately represented in every type of activity.

It just ain’t so.

In spite of modern theology there *are built-in differences, not just *societal differences, between men and women, and thats just a fact.

Both my daughters were raised to believe they could aspire to be anything they wanted.

However, during their formative years I *might have over-stressed the “you could be President IF you wanted” idea since one has now become a politically active lawyer. Thankfully, the other has become some sort of techno-geek, balancing the universe a little bit.

(It just illustrates the Law of Unintended Consequences in action.)

Neither of them comprehends my obsession with things that go fast and make lots of noise. They just shrug and say its a “guy thing.”

And it is.


Sorry James but I still don’t get it. Many people show talent at the age of 15 but after that, when it comes to hard work and devoting yourself to one main aim numbers are dropping- this is life. In my opinion there are no barriers for woman who want to be successful in F1 world. Forcing woman into F1 is an idea of accounts who see a women-targeted market and big money to be made. Sorry that is how I see it.


James you say “F1 is a sport that needs to work hard to attract more women” I ask you why should F1 attract women, should it not be who has the better skills?? I employer over a dozen staff and we men are in the minority, And the reason is that the women have better skills and experience than the men. If i employed just on gender all would be very unhappy.


Where I went to school for Mechanical Engineering, at least 25% of the graduates were female. That’s a significant difference from 4%.

1) Women should be encouraged to follow what they want to do, and not just fall into the typically popular science disciplines of biology, chemistry and medicine; engineering should also be on that list, and more should be done to show it as an attractive career choice.

2) F1 should do more to be attractive to female engineers. There are a significant amount of female engineers in the working world, so why shouldn’t an effort be made to make the industry more attractive to both sexes?

I don’t believe in quotas or giving advantages specifically to women, as that is just patronizing; what should be done is to find out why most female engineers aren’t interested in motorsports or F1, and then work to solve those specific problems.


No, I think the sport should attract more women to want to work there and also as fans. Of course it is always about the best people and historically engineering has been male led but the point is that the lesson of F1 in Schools is that many girls as right up there in showing promise at under 15 level but then they drift away and to reverse that trend and allow more women to fulfil their potential would be a great result for the F1 in Schools programme.


To analyse this properly though we really need to know statistics for the percentage of applicants who for new jobs that are women against the percentage of women in those jobs. We also need to know that for the wider industry as a whole (ie, does the F1 ratio of women:men compare to the equivalent industries outside of F1) and also the percentage of people who are currently training in the relevant fields that are women.

I suspect that F1 does turn a lot of women off as a career path as it is still very chauvinistic (one previous comment mentioned the hundreds of girls just employed to be eye candy at every race for example) which would certainly imply to anyone without a strong knowledge in the sport that this chauvinism would extend to the working environment as well.

Of course, that is nonsense – F1 companies are the most technically sophisticated companies in the world and consequently have very modern working practices (see McLaren in particular) – however I suspect that due its skin deep ‘blokeish’ outward appearance I imagine that many women would not realise this and imagine that it is like a lot of other motorsports.

Unfortunately, I suspect that the only way to attract large numbers of women to the sport would be if there was either a female F1 driver or a female team principal. These are really the only positions within the team that attract attention and whilst they are all male it gives the impression that the sport is really only a sport for men.

I must stress though that I don’t think that a female F1 driver or team principal would make a woman *want* to be an F1 engineer, I just think that while 100% of the key positions are filled by men it gives the image of it being a male dominated sport and as a result any women who might be interested would be less likely to consider it.


The F1 in Schools programme looks great, I only wish they’d been doing it when I was at school as it would’ve given me a clear idea of what I wanted to do. As it was I ended up getting a biology degree, primarily because I found the subject easy and although I’ve carved out a decent career for myself, I have to accept that I’ll never be doing a job I really love.

It’s a shame because I have a good intuitive grasp of aerodynamics, but there’s no way I could afford to retrain now. We need more programmes like F1 in Schools, to give children something to aspire to across an array of potential careers. In a school like mine, where 80% aren’t even interested in Further Education (let alone Higher Ed), that could make an enormous difference and could shape the lives of hundreds of school children, just by giving them something to strive for.


I think Renault is quite strong on female engineers. The French tend to be more magnanimous about this sort of thing.


That may be the case, but the Renault F1 team is still a really a British team, it just happens to be called Renault and gets the French national anthem played if it wins.


When I drove one of their cars (he says, braggingly, it was almost exclusively run by French engineers and managers).


Renault might have French owners & certainly employees (as there are all kinds of nationalities that work there) but it is most definitely based in rural Oxfordshire & has a large number of British staff. That’s like saying Mercedes is a German team! (also not true)!

Steve of Cornubia

I have worked in the scientific instrumnt industry for thirty years and have seen only a handful of female engineers pass through. Sadly, I didn’t see a single good one. I don’t know why.

In my own experience,despite qualifying in engineering (and some of them did extremely well academicaly), they still lacked a basic appreciation, understanding and practical interest in electromechanical devices. I even remember one who didn’t know how to change a wheel on her car.

They also seemed less creative than their male peers. Whether these shortcomings were symptoms of a problem, or the cause of the problem, I don’t know.


My daughter did ‘F1 in schools’ last year and loved the challenge. Parents were invited along to the races, and the atmosphere was great.

My wife and I brought up both our girls with the attitude that they can do anything, whether it’s traditionally ‘boys stuff’ or not.

Having said all that, neither of our daughters follow motorsport of any kind. Like many kids these days they get their media via the internet, and unless they can click and watch races on youtube or elsewhere online there’s no way F1 is going to reach out to them.


Aren’t there any TVs in your house? And what about iPlayer? I suspect your daughters aren’t interested simply because they don’t find racing cars interesting, rather than any broadcasting / media distribution issues.

That said I’ve sometimes wondered why F1.com doesn’t keep a database of a season’s races in archive form…


No, we don’t have a TV. I have a tuner card in my PC and we have a projector we use with a DVD player, but that’s it.

We live in Australia, so no iPlayer for us.


Thanks for that


Respect for engineers. To be an engineer requires great technical skills. We’re talking mathematics, science, computer programming etc.

In my experience in the workforce, women in general are dreadfully hopeless at these tasks. And hence pretty dumb. And now that women are taking over and getting heaps of power, a lot of money is being wasted on meaningless junk social science.

With these unskilled women who have no technical knowledge but have PhD’s in “How advertising affects people’s social lives” and rubbish like that, we as a society will make no technological progress. No solutions will be found to big questions like climate change.

So my advice to all the girls out there, is get interested in real science and continue with it. Please, do not end up as one of these man-hating social science dumb feminists, with ten degrees in “why women are better than men”.


“With these unskilled women who have no technical knowledge but have PhD’s in “How advertising affects people’s social lives” and rubbish like that, we as a society will make no technological progress. No solutions will be found to big questions like climate change.”

So you’re saying we need more technological progress to solve climate change because pollution wasn’t caused by our overuse of technology?

Aren’t “big questions” such as how did we let ourselves get in this mess in the first place, and how do we as a society change, including HOW we use technology to prevent further damage equally relevant?

But since those kinds of questions are often tackled by the “rubbish” social sciences, by your logic we needn’t ask them. I’d say there are hopeless people of both genders.


Good work for engaging in the debate Mark V.

You’re most certainly right, there are hopeless people from both genders. However, the percentage of hopeless women is about 10x more than hopeless men. The majority of women are unfortuantely uninterested in the technical side of things. Understanding the technical side of things requires real intelligence. Not an ability to read reports and synthesise an essay… any half-wit can do that.

You are also right, that our technology has been our major cause for distressing our beautiful planet – even with the trillions of stars out there, I’m not sure there is a planet as beautiful as ours. If we as humans did not have technology we have, then natural incidents like the Haiti earthquake would rightly have wiped out the majority of the population there, killing millions people from disease and starvation, and hence reducing the stress on our planet with less humans.


That’s the whole point Mark V. Being great technically also mean being great creative wise AS WELL. How do you think Newton came up with calculus? Or Kepler worked out orbits were elliptical? Mathematics is only about set rules and rote learning at a simple high school level; mathematics at a complex level requires tremendous creativity in formulating ideas and solving proofs etc.

The good physicists, mathematicians and yes, aeordynamicists are also good creatively. However just being good creative wise means you cannot build a racing car, you need the technical understanding to implement your ideas properly.


I believe you overestimate the value of pure technical knowledge, so it is appropriate that the engineer being interviewed by the young lady about F1 is Adrian Newey. While Newey no doubt understands the technical side of engineering as well as anyone, what makes him stand apart from the rest is his intuition and creativity, particularly with the organic, unpredictable properties of aerodynamics. Any technical school can teach a monkey the nuts and bolts of wrenching automobiles. But they can’t teach people how to think outside the box.


Oh, by the way, that was supposed to lead in to this comment on women as engineers: I think F1 (and other industries) can attract more women engineers if there are opportunities to be creative with their technical skills.


Wow, just wow!


Why should the kidshave all the fun. I think that adult teams, made from F1 Fans, who think they know better (don’t we all) should have access to this software and tools to try and design the cars for an adult version.

Imagine at Next years Silverstone GP “The Adult F1 design competition” Practice on Friday, Quali on Saturday (heats) and the finals on Sunday… all from Adult F1 fans using the same technology and software that is already used in schools….

There has got to be a sponsor out there who wants to have fun… !!

This is a great program, having checked out the web site from previous years and I just wish we had these chances when I was at school…

Serious about the Adults having a go this would be great fun…



I found it fascinating that at your recent event (which was extremely illuminating) the audience was uniformly composed of men. Also, all of the participants of the panel were men.

Would you say that, in terms of F1 (and in motor sports generally) there is a cultural divide between men and women? I would imagine in female circles that to admit you like racing cars is probably some sort of social death!

I’m lucky, my current partner is a massive fan of F1, but do you think that some sort of challenge to that self reinforcing stereotype?



Not true. There were a number of women there, but certainly the minority. F1 is a sport that needs to work hard to attract more women


“F1 is a sport that needs to work hard to attract more women”

Why is that? Any particular reason? F1 is attractive because it’s an uncompromising, intensely competitive, testosterone-fuelled enterprise, and women with their tender soft feelings and caring attitude can only serve to damage that reputation.


Nonsense James, there are tons of women in F1, just look at the steps up to the podium at race end, hundreds, all lined-up for inspection.

Every-time I witness this ridiculous piece of 1950s throwback stupidity … for a sport so concerned to be seen as cutting-edge, this ‘dolly-bird’ garbage should have gone the way of straw-bales and no seat-belts.

Are Red Bull still carting round a minivan of bored models to each race, or have they finally knocked it on the head … for a brand so self-regarding in its supposed contemprary marketing nouse, they really are lost.

Let’s hope that one day very soon a winning driver decides to stop and talk to each and every individual ‘pitgirl’ (notice girl, not women) on the way up the stairs.

By the time he got to the top of the stairs, Herbie Blash would be apoplectic, and Bernie would have a gaping 40minute hole in his expensively choreographed TV schedule … maybe then we’d see the back of this anachronistic, and creepily stomach-turning, piece of Stepford nonsense.

Where are the role models for aspring F1 participants: owners, team principals, drivers, designers, mechanics, technicians, all the managers on the pitwall.

The principal cast of all TV and radio, all male. The only female faces to be seen (actually check that, heard), the woman all TV producers will send to talk to (injured-ego) retired male drivers.

Aside from that, what? The only women the teams bring along, the PR staff and the catering in the motorhome, aka typing press-releases and cooking; never mind HD, it increasingly sounds like F1 should be broadcast in 405-line black and white.

I think there was one frontline female mechanic last year for Toro Rosso, and this year there is one in Lotus … the very fact I can identify them individually like that ….

So assuming any daughters out there don’t have a paddock pass, pretty much the only person that looks anything at all like them at a Grand Prix weekend, will be standing in the baking sun, or freezing rain, hot pants and heels, holding a stick with a number on it.

Is there really any mystery here?



The question isn’t about women in F1, it’s about women in engineering in F1


They are the same thing.

It's about the mood-music, it's about outdated ideas of gender; men doing things, getting their hands dirty, women looking pretty and admiring the men doing things.


Young Lewis watches Ayrton on TV, young Jenson watches Alain on TV. I could do that, they think, I want to do that.

Why would any young girl want to be part of a business that blatantly shows them nothing but contempt. That relegates them to the periphery, treats them as decoration.

That is the point. Any young girl with her head screwed-on, the type of person that F1 should be encouraging, the potential creator of the next f-duct, would take one look at precisely this sort of archaic fixed gender-role nonsense and be both insulted and repelled.

Like I said, there's absolutely no mystery here.



Excellent post from someone who lives in the 21st century. Just listen to Ecclestone, Moss, Jordan and any number of F1 luminaries spouting patronising sexist garbage and it’s hardly a surprise that most women wouldn’t touch the sport with a barge pole.

As an aside, I know that Ecclestone created what we see today, but do you guys have to back off quite so quickly when not getting answers to perfectly sensible questions? I mean you’re almost as reverential as the lot that cover Golf.

I thought the history of this sport was made by swashbucklers, a bit of that devil may care approach when interviewing the taciturn BE wouldn’t come amiss


If you chat to any of the pitgirls then you will find that they have a point of view about it as well.

I’ve been on the grid for a few sports car races, taking photographs. I’ve found the girls to normally be intelligent and switched on. Certainly they didn’t conform to my, now embarrassing, preconceptions.

I’ve spoken to a couple who were undergraduates doing a bit of work during the vacation. One, in front of a car driven by an all female crew, said something along the lines of her looks being an asset that she saw no problem in realising.

“They’ll soon go.” Was her rather depressing comment.

I discussed the apparent sexism with a woman working on the management side and she was adamant that no one forced the girls into doing it, they were happy doing so, the money was good and who was I to patronise them. We didn’t really hit it off.

F1 is glamour. I feel sure the women will suggest that they are taking control by being part of it. I asked one pitgirl if she felt she was being exploited and she said that all she had to do was stand, in a short skirt, holding a pole, in a glamorous location (Silverstone?) in order to get well paid. If anyone was being exploited she didn’t feel it was her.

I’m not suggesting it is right to use women this way. What I am suggesting is that your perception might not be the only point of view.

At the press day at a motor show I asked the very attractive women in business suits on one stand what a particular lever did in one of the cars. She said she didn’t know, checked through the briefing document she had been given, apologised that it hadn’t been covered and went of to see the chap in charge of the stand. He came over, went through the function of the lever with both women and then left. Both women thanked me for asking.

They were like most people, wanting to do a good job. To think they were there just for their long legs would be patronising in the extreme. They were extremely knowledgeable.

At a rugby club a couple of the girlfriends of the players were professional dancers. These girls were fitter than many of our players. (Mind you, at 55 I was fitter than anyone in the front row.) I suggested to them, half jokingly, that they might want to set up a cheerleader squad. They took it on board and found another three or four who were only too keen to take part. The Club management took a very dim view and said that they did not want the Club’s good name associated with such a thing.

The girls were very upset as they had hopes that they could do something for the Club other that stand and applaud. They reckoned that the dirty minds of the management should not be a restriction. That was an excellent point.

The male perception of pitgirls and such differs from that of the women themselves. Which is right?

Some have a great sense of humour as well. I was standing at the front of a car and trying to change a memory card in my camera. I fumbled and dropped it. The girl bent down and picked it up for me. I thanked her and said that I was new to the job and trying to behave like a professional photographer.

“In that case you should have touched my bum as I bent down.”

I’m sure that doesn’t go for all pro photographers.


I think what’s interesting is that I know a few promotions girls, glamour models etc who work at motor races, and they’re strong, bright, ambitious types; they’re just not engineering-minded.

If you approached them and said you intended to ban their promotional work at racetracks because it was sexist, they’d be furious and ask how dare you decide what’s a right or wrong way for a woman to earn her money?!

I’ve been to Channel 4 events where all the drinks and food are served by muscly men in boots and hotpants too. Whilst it most assuredly wasn’t my thing at all I appreciate that they had the right to work in that way – how is it different? Or should we simply ban every event in the country that elects to hire promotional people of a particular gender because they’re aesthetically attractive?


The question isn’t about women in F1, it’s about women in engineering in F1


6/140 isn’t 15% in my maths book – do I get a job with Red Bull? Seriously, if I had my time over again, I’d be doing physics or engineering. It’s where all the exciting science is.


Agreed. I didn’t discover the magic and enlightenment of the two disciplines until my mid twenties. If only there were more opportunities like F1 in schools available to me. All we got were programs run by mining companies, which presented ZERO excitement or motivation.


I followed the TVR T400Rs in Le Mans Endurance Series and British GT from 2003 for 4 years. There were precious few women in the pits in those days. That said, LNT (now running Ginettas) had one as did the Peninsula Racing team at times. That’s a higher percentage than RBR.

From what I saw the women were treated exactly the same as the men. That is abruptly, shortly and with little concern for feelings. Just like they treated me when the race was on.

Women stuck out a bit (so to speak) because they weren’t grossly fat (sorry to the mechanics, but you have to admit . . .). I did a brief interview of the LNT woman mechanic at Spa but the two photographs I took of her, even in her overalls, looked more like glamour shots. She was extremely attractive but, at least at the coal face, she was just another spanner.

She said she loved working on the cars but, as it was for publication, you never really know. But she seemed happy.

In November 2003 for the inaugural LMES at Le Mans there was an all female crew in the T400R: Amanda Stretton, Liz Halliday (probably more famous for her horse riding exploits and her superb Eurosports Le Mans commentary, and Fanny Duchaeau.

I interviewed all three women, Fanny briefly as she spoke little English, but all said that endurance racing suited women more and that sprint races (which included F1) was more male territory due to physical requirments.


The exhaust in the T400Rs runs partially inside the cockpit with a very thin cover. The heat generated is such that as they open the door anyone looking in without a mask and goggles – such as a green reporter – would have to take a few steps back and gasp for air. The heat burnt the hairs off the arm of one mechanic (not the woman I hasten to add).

Yet these women drove for an hour in such conditions. I remember one getting out of the car, removing her helmet and looking as if she had been parboiled.

Again only from what I saw, but the women seemed to be treated exactly the same way as the male drivers were. There seemed to be no partiality.

In the dying laps of the race Fanny was told to speed up as the Morgan immediately in front was slowing. She increased her lap times and began to catch the Moggy and our pit crew were cheering her lap times as they came up on the repeater at the back of the pits. There seemed to be no sexism. She was their favourite driver of all six.

One big difference between the sexes was apparent. After the Moggy came in for a splash and dash and came out in front of the TVR, matching Fanny’s lap times, she was told to revert to the agreed speed and she dropped down immediately. No offence to the male drivers but you know what I mean.

What I thought were calls of trousers from the pit crew watching Fanny’s times was, in fact, a contraction of ‘two houses’ for Duchateau. Not much of a joke but quite clever for mechanics. (Sorry lads but you have to admit . . .)

When I edited the TVR Car Club magazine, Sprint, I started a column for women. Despite the title being Women’s Bits it wasn’t about how to make tea for 14 blokes but for those who drove their TVRs, probably the British make with the most macho image. And there were lots in the Club. I was eventually replaced by a female editor who drives a Sagaris. And well.

So there are women who are keen on motoring and motor sport. And, it seems, there are opportunities for them to be mechanics and drivers. It needs to improve a bit I think but perhaps the problem is more to do with lack of money in the lower formulae.

F1 is the absolute limit. Without a women’s F1 the extra strength of men and their ability to take the tremendous G-forces will limit opportunities. Why go for motor racing when there is little chance to make real money at it? You need to be an athlete to compete and with such skills and abilities there are many other sports that provide recognition and remuneration for women.

But if there was some support and advertising for the other formulae and a chance of making some decent money then perhaps the elite women might drift into the sport. Come on, FIA, support the sports cars.

My rugby club has a thriving women’s section. Ten years ago it would have been treated as a joke but not any more. Things are moving the right way but there needs to be encouragement but it needs support from the top as well.


I’m a female F1 engineer! So I’m proof it is possible! I think the key to getting a job in F1 is lots of work experience- I worked at a go-kart track, helped out marshalling, and got plent of engineering work placements – some paid some not. Keep at it and you’ll get there!


Was all this work experience done straight out of your engineering degree or after it?


Can I just ask when did you start doing all the work experience that helped you get the job?


6 out of 140 is 4.28%, not 15%

I’m sure Adrian’s maths is better than that!

6 out of 40 would be 15%, is that what he meant?


Please re-read, Adrian actually does say 4%.

It’s under the picture of him and Kelly.


There was a typo which has been corrected.


Adrian comes across very well there. Deserves a thumbs up.


Adrian said they do not always hire from unis. This made my heart sing as I was a rebel towards schooling all my life ( and always use an example of Henry Ford in arguments), but all those hopeful children who think a uni is the way to success must feel slightly less sure footed.

It seems to me Adrian is a bit old fashioned bloke who believes experience is everything. I certainly agree with him if he does think that way.


I think he meant it as they don’t usually hire kids straight out of getting their degree… That, sort of like you said, they need experience [in general engineering settings] first.

To be an engineer you need a degree or diploma. While it doesn’t guarantee success, it is definitely the way to go if you want to be designing in F1.


You would be surprised, and I hope disappointed, at the number of people (BS’ers) in F1 who entitle themselves as engineers and are nothing of the sort; why? easy… EGO. F1 is no longer eliteist, even though it keeps on purporting to be as such. Most of those coming from Uni haven’t a clue how to approach or tackle practical problems or have any respect for the girls and guys on the shop floor who’ve been getting their hands dirty for more years than undergrads have been alive. CAD/CAM has killed-off the necessary learning of the fundamentals of engineering thought processes, in F1 and elsewhere.

In my (almost) 20 years with 4 teams, I’m probably in a reasonable position to make an informaed judgement. The problem is that F1 has grown too big and become self-important. Youngsters… forget the Uni route, get youself a job in the real world, learn how to deal with people – learn from anyone and evryone about anything and everything, THEN think about knowcking on racing doors. Be prepared to make sacrifices. Oh, and ditch that bl**dy mobile phone!!!!! …that distraction is half the problem. THINK – did Adrian, Ross et al get where they did being distracted by comms devices all day?


I agree the system works that way. I still think though, Adrian would have hired an ‘amateur engineer’ providing he’d have the right skills. People however, believe in schooling so strong these days that for such thing to happen is ever less likely.

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