The chase is on
Shanghai 2018
Chinese Grand Prix
Why this is the right moment for women drivers in F1
Why this is the right moment for women drivers in F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Feb 2011   |  8:51 am GMT  |  254 comments

I saw a story on the Italian website about the Ferrari Driver Academy actively looking to recruit a female trainee, to work alongside Jules Bianchi and the others.

“According to our sources, the head of the programme, engineer Luca Baldisserri, wants to put a woman in FDA before 2012,” said the story.

I asked Ferrari if the story was true and they replied that they don’t discriminate on gender, which is all very PC.

But it got me thinking, when at the Williams event on Thursday the chat over lunch with Sam Michael turned to the multi-tasking now required of the F1 drivers. They can easily find themselves in testing doing an oil transfer, at the same time as adjusting the brake bias, hitting the KERS boost button and opening the adjustable rear wing (ARW). When one leading driver was radioed by his team while on the straight in Barcelona, asking him to perform another task on the steering wheel, he replied, “I’ve only got one pair of hands!”

As we all know, women are far better at multi tasking than men – so clearly this is a golden moment for women to make the leap into F1.

It does seem as through there are plenty of pitfalls for drivers combining the KERS and ARW when exiting a corner. Do it too soon and the car spins. With so many things to remember – some of which like the ARW have different rules for race and qualifying – there are bound to be some mix ups. Apparently the most common mistake is drivers failing to use the ARW to the maximum on a qualifying lap either by missing the button, or forgetting to use it or using it too late. There is lap time in these mistakes and it will put more pressure on the weaker drivers (and the poor multi taskers) in qualifying.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

This point in History is a good starting point for “select” women to enter F1 and other racing sports where its a “high g”, hang it on the edge environment…. however

I have an Air Force background and knowledge of women versus men fighter pilots in fighters like the F-11, F-15 and F-16. Bottom line is YES a few select women can do it competitively just as good… However, out of 100 men pilot candidates about 25 men make it to F-15/16s… and out of 100 Women pilot candidates about 3 to 5 qualify and make it to F-15/16s… the rest go for transport, bomber, etc. Not that everyone WANTS TO BE A FIGHTER PILOT…THEY DON’T; some actaully want C-130s, KC-135s or whatever. It’s about the “Right Stuff”… inately having that thrilling “LOVE” of speed, controlled aggresivemess … and Men simply have a larger proportion of “the Right Stuff” than women do. Some women have “the Right Stuff” though as indicated above, though proportionally less out of an equal population than men…

Auto racing by virtue of “the competition against the clock” will single out the women good enough to compete…

Unfortuanately, the NAVY had several women pilots killed about 20 years ago, because a Governmental source “Quota mandate” forced the NAVY to place women into F-14s and some did NOT have the “physiological right stuff” Yes, they were trained and could pass tests, but when it came to hanging it out in a real life high G situation and a Carier landing, there were deadly consequences… After the investigations, it was determined that having the “Right Stuff” really does count for Fighter Pilots and Government pushed quota systems can be very bad… Today, the physiological Right Stuff” factors are looked at for women Fighter Pilots. For racing cars, bikes…etc the shear competition and the clock will be the quota system.


Whether it is PC or not, whether women would make brilliant F1 drivers or not, whether women are equal to or better than men in any sport is irrelevant. Women in men’s sports (and vice versa) ruin the sport. I am a woman and I believe integrating women into male sports teams is nothing but publicity stunts. Men do not want them there because of the drama they bring. I don’t want them there because they are only there to prove they can play with the boys. That proves nothing. Men and women’s teams should be kept separate. Danica is prime evidence of that. She acts like a tramp in her publicity ads and then wants respect on the track. Not likely to happen. I hate watching football because of the female “reporters” who sound like idiots down on the field. They are there as eye-candy. Women playing on male dominated teams are not representing progress for women. They represent the woman who feels inferior and has to prove she isn’t by competing against men. If people really wanted to see women playing the traditional male sport, then women’s NBA would be popular, there would be all female football teams, baseball teams, hockey teams, etc. that are just as popular to watch as the male teams. Truth is, they aren’t.


Avoiding any political correctness I’m just going to suggest a couple of names racing in the junior categories and doing pretty well that may be worth a look at: Sarah Moore and Alice Powell. Although both are young (Alice is 17 I think and Sarah is 16 or 17) they’re both proving they have the speed and the skill. Alice says on her website “her aim is to be first successful British woman to compete for The F1 Title” and Sarah was interviewed in the Telegraph last year and said she wants to be in F1 so the desire is there too. Alice won the BWRDC Elite Gold Star and The Lord Wakefield Trophy, Sarah won the Ginetta Juniors championship in 2009 and has been karting since she was 4. So the talent is out there, they just need the break.

Daniaile Jarry

Now, that’s what I call forward thinking. Thank you “Josh’s biggest fan” for bringing these two concrete examples to the F1 community’s attention!


The most important thing is the quality of the driving. As long as that is maintained they can stick Lamas in the cars for all I care to be honest. When I watch Hamilton or Vettel give it the beans in qualifying I absolutely know 100% that the car has nothing else to give. There’s nothing left on the track. As long as that remained I’d be happy regardless of gender.

I would definately care if the publicity/sponsorship gained by having a Lama driving in F1 became more important than driver quality thus proliferating less talented seat occupants in the same way as pay drivers do. That would be inane!!


James’ article makes me think this is the right moment for a professional audio-typist, or someone with professional-level audio-typing skills, to try to get through the ranks and reach F1.

These days there are about as many buttons on the steering wheels as there are on the main part of a keyboard in an area that is, if anything, larger. Audio-typists often use pedals to control playback, which would correspond to braking and acceleration. The radio and engine noise would be not entirely dissimilar to the sound files and require similarly complex responses.

Good audio-typists are accustomed to doing all this without looking at the keyboard more than necessary, which would help in a race car. Finally, every type of professional-level typing requires skill in spotting detailed differences in visual stimuli.

While waiting for that professional-level typist (or maybe a really fit journalist) to break through into F1, if I were a team owner I’d be asking both my drivers to participate in a basic typing course (and then an audio-typing one) in order to aid their ability to adapt to the increasingly complicated environment that is a F1 car.


Monisha Kaltenborn, Managing Director at Sauber is one rather significant female player in F1….


Before I rant, I wanted to say that I’m proud to follow an intensely demanding sport that provides a level(ish) playing field for both genders. It’s near-unique and should be celebrated. The multi-tasking thing is clearly something and nothing, James knows that all F1 drivers are made of different stuff to the rest of us and he’s being a touch wry with making the connections between two unrelated stories. Good on Ferrari for looking out for female talent – it’s no more an act of positive-discrimination than HRT asking for money, Red Bull preferring yoof or Williams looking for a Venuzuelan.

I’m shocked that in amongst the hundreds of comments there is only one that points out that F1 uses power steering – something that the female F1 drivers of the past never enjoyed. There was a well-researched magazine article, that I cannot find to reference, about how Danica Patrick’s road course form was so bad compared to her decent oval performances because the weight of the steering became a greater factor on road courses. I don’t have any knowledge on the differences in the energy needed to apply the brakes in each series however, but the energy needed to work the steering wheel in F1 is less than American categories.

As for female racers coping with speed and pressure… The 2005 Indianpolis 500 was only Danica’s fourth oval race ever and her fifth Indycar start. Despite an accident she came back to lead the 33 car field and only lost first place with six laps remaining. All this was played out between unforgiving walls at dizzying speeds requiring determination, precision and bravery of the highest order. Her two teammates that year were both former Indy winners and she trounced them. From 2008-2010 she has taken the same amount of wins and comparable points totals to her esteemed male teammates.

Her sole victory was based on fuel strategy, that’s true, but so was Villeneuve’s Indy 500, more than one Ganassi championship and, er, lots of Grand Prix wins for Alain Prost! Patrick has had plenty of poles, so the oval speed is there. Restarts aren’t her strong-point, apart from that vital factor her oval game is pretty solid.

The thing is that Danica’s junior career never pointed to anything special, it’s likely she will never be F1 material, but that is nothing to do with her gender.

As for the people who question whether we will EVER have a female F1 driver – we’ve had plenty. Here is just one…

The video posted above of Bia Figueredo beating the boys is class! I’m enjoying watching the young ladies in Ginetta Juniors getting stuck in too.

As for women driving round worrying about the kids they are yet to have – nonsense. No woman would get drunk, get on a plane or climb a mountain if that was true. Emotion is all down to the individual. I’ve yet to see a woman cry after stepping out of a racing car – I’ve seen plenty of men do it…


This is all moot to be honest, I dont of many women on the single seater ladder and none that are showing race winning ability.

I dont doubnt that if a woman comes along and demonstrates the level of ability needed to win races and championships then she probably would make it in F1, but so far there arent any, and that goes double for Danica Patrick.


Nice one, James.

Little tip to avoid the current flaming you’re getting… a semicolon, hyphen and a right parenthesis goes a lot longer in communicating sarcastic intent than our subtle Anglo-Saxon repartee!

That said, the status of women in F1 currently is not just non-existent (drivers), but ludicrously one-dimensional (re: the few thousand Santander girls that often line the stairwells to the podiums).

I fear for the next female F1 driver – Lewis Hamilton was subjected to some pretty vile racist abuse from some moronic groups of fans.

The tacitly acceptable and widespread stereotyping of women, and all the banal, tawdry and threadbare jokes that follow, would likely make for a similarly unpleasant experience, as we have heard in other sports even at the commentator level.


He certainly was and quite a few were caught in the cross-fire, I can tell you


The DNA of men and women can’t be the same.

In some ways we have similarities but not all. I’m sure it affects motor racing.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Why doesn’t Diamond, the discriminating insurance company, set up an academy for women drivers?

The could go halves with Sheila’s Wheels


I suspect because part of their sales pitch is about safer-than-average drivers. They’d struggle to convince the public that motor racing is safer-than-average (at least in terms of number of incidents).


While I don’t know of specific scientific studies to support James Allen’s assertion here, it has certainly been my experience that women are better at multi-tasking than men. My wife runs rings around me in this area.

Does this mean now is the time for a woman driver in F1? I don’t know that now is any better or worse time, in terms of ability to drive a car, than any other time. I don’t see any reason a woman can’t drive competitively at any level if she shows she’s quick.

However, there has never been a better time in terms of marketing for a woman to enter any form of motorsport. Women in sports in general have never been more marketable.


“As we all know, women are far better at multi tasking than men”
Dear James,
Can you please give some references of say peer reviewed research which supports this. Most women I know are unco-ordinated at everything. Except for some things in the bedroom…


Dear God. I know English isn’t everybody’s first language on here, and clearly not everyone shares the British sense of humour and irony.

Lighten up FFS!

And don’t forget that women have driven in F1 before. [mod]


The sheer amount of people who have taken this article seriously, and not as a good piece of humour, shows what a Daily Mail-led society we live in.



I believe that one of the fundamental reasons for why there are so few women in motorsport is down to this:

Dad’s introducing their five year old son to karting is a pretty normal father-son activity, and like a lot of racing drivers, you develop your skills from an extremely young age.

Do you think it would be seen as normal to do the same with your five year old daughter?

I’m sure there are cases, but I bet if you look at the percentage distribution of boys vs. girls who take up karting at a young age, it will follow upward through the rest of motorsport.

Other than that I can see very few reasons for why women cannot be highly successful in motorsport (indeed, I believe that you’d be able to tap into a huge amount of additional sponsorship and funding), it’s just that a higher proportion of men start earlier and have this head start of several years.




Research (admittedly from 1997) showed there was a bottleneck between ages 14 and 16; relatively speaking, two in five licence-holders at age 14 are female but it drops to 2% by 16. While there is no point where the genders have equal numbers of representatives in racing (likely due to the factors observed by John), if a large proportion of those interested are leaving the sport in their teenage years, then that would also help explain why there’s a problem getting women into the middle levels of the driving ladder.


I think you’re spot on here! The chances of females rising to the upper echelons of motorsport have to be limited by the numbers involved at grass roots levels. Given the opportunity I see no reason why female drivers cannot compete equally with their male counterparts.


The modern F1 driver almost always is someone who entered karting at a young age, with the support of parents. I wonder how many girls are trying to get into karting, and how many parents support this? At the other end of the scale, whilst team managers sometimes say they would welcome able female drivers, perhaps the presentation of F1 gives a different sort of message — I’m thinking of the brolly dollies who stand in front of the cars on the grid, whilst the men do the racing. Pretty much the only other woman we see on F1 is that interviewer from Sky TV, who Martin Brundle always pushes in front of to speak to drivers!


Actually, I’m doing a disservice to Lee McKenzie, who did a good job covering for Jake Humphreys at one of the races last year. I also thought it was a shame that Louise Goodman wasn’t brought across from ITV and given a more prominent role. But generally I think women need more prominent roles throughout F1, not just in the drivers’ seats, if the sport is to be made more attractive to women.


i really dont think women are far better at multi tasking than men or men are better than women but i think somehow men are doing better under pressure than women in general.

you dont read much news about men who press gas pedal instead of break pedal dont you

anyhow one thing is very clear that to be a f1 driver is much more than to be able to push several buttons while driving fast, anyone male or female need a huge natural talent to be a competitive f1 driver.


More about Multi-tasking than women but do you know if anyone is working on thought control in F1? There are several groups working on this in the world of gaming and using it for say activating the rear wing might work


I don’t see that “this” is the right moment for women in F1. There is always a good chance for women but just that “illusion” that women are better at multi tasking than men doesn’t make any sense to relate it to women entry into F1.

Plain dumb!!


I’m sick of hearing about womens ability to multi task. To me this “mulit tasking” seems to be more of a lack of ability to focus on one task and do it well.

I dont think that there are any woman drivers worthy of stepping into a F1 car,there may be some decent women racers, but i think there will always be a better

Women seem to want to compete with men at everything these days and everything in life has to be seen to be “fair” from the point of view of the minority.

For example quotas for women in company boardrooms, quotas for ethnic minoritys/women in the police/firebrigade.

What happened to getting the best man…. sorry, person for the job?


what would happen with a woman driver when they get to a arabic gp. Would they have to wear a burka, ot just a pirelli hat all the time to cover herself, and not offend men?.


Good question. It’s too early to say either way because a lot of things are changing in the world…


As I replied to someone, I really think it is unfair for women to compete with men in the sports.

Like I said, there is a reason why we dont see women playing football with men or fighting with men in a boxing ring.

F1 is a brutal sport, physical strength plays a role big time, the size of the balls and emotional control. All those attributes play against women. They have severe disadvantage in this particular sport.

Why don’t they compete in golf with men?

I am not being sexist, I surely do have a point.


Women and men compete with each other on equal terms in equestrian sports and sailing, both of which can get pretty brutal and require emotional control. Cross-country competition in particular requires courage and lots of strength is helpful. It would seem to me that there is more in common between equestrianism, sailing and motor racing than football, golf and motor racing…


Stig is as woman:-)


Currently, the only people we are likely to see in F1, in the short to medium term, are those that are progressing through the ranks of feeder series’. The only people that will make it are the ones with the determination, inclination and [potential] skill (or money).

Regardless, we have to look at all levels of motor-sport, grass roots to the top, and ensure that no-one is discriminated against (based on gender, race, colour, wealth etc…). Only then will we see true representation of ability rise to the top and be in F1, be that a woman or a man.

F1 itself may not discriminate, but if people / teams further down the ranks do, then all F1 will have available to choose from are men. They are the only people given a chance to progress. If that’s the case, don’t blame F1.

As far as multi-tasking is concerned; I can’t do that as well as women. I can’t do it as well as other men, either!

Top Tags
JA ON F1 In association with...
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer

Sign up to receive the latest F1 News & Updates direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!