Women in Formula 1: Challenges and Progress

The last woman to drive a Formula 1 Grand Prix was Italian Giovanna Amati


You might be surprised to hear this, but no rule prohibits women from participating in Formula 1 races. Yet, the last woman to compete in the competition was  Giovanna Amati in 1992.

That is a very long time, given that the sport has evolved. Nowadays, the sport is so widespread we can even find Formula 1-themed online pokies dominating gambling sites. In that line, if you are interested in such games, feel free to check out Australian real money casino list and choose accordingly.

So, here, we will have a closer look at the challenges women face in Formula 1, alongside the progress made in recent years.

No Physical or Psychological Barriers

Before we dive into why women struggle to make an impression in Formula 1, we have to mention exciting research conducted by More Than Equal. It is a non-profit company co-founded by David Coulthard – a 13-time Grand Prix winner. According to that approach, no physical or mental barriers can stop women from being competitive in F1.

“More Than Equal” collaborated with performance specialists Hintsa – a company that trained F1 drivers, most notably Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Both companies analysed data from F1 drivers and found out that female drivers can achieve all top-class and elite levels.

Both companies say that the beauty of F1 is that women and men can compete on the same grounds, and they finish up optimistically by saying that changes will happen very soon.

Sophia Florsch at the Wings for Life – World Run press conference at the Olympiapark Munich in 2022 | Flo Hagena / Red Bull Content Pool

Lots of Challenges

Here, we will discuss some points collectively shed light on some factors contributing to the under-representation of women in motorsport and the challenges they face in pursuing a successful racing career. They are the following:

  • Low Participation of Women in Motorsport: Women’s involvement in motorsport at all levels is significantly lower than that of men, with only 10% of racers in all motorsport categories and 13% in karting being female.
  • Shorter Racing Careers for Women: Female drivers tend to have shorter racing careers, typically lasting 1-5 years, compared to men in Formula 1 (F1), whose careers can extend over a decade.
  • Fewer Female Entrants: A lower number of women initially enter motorsport compared to men, which contributes to a higher percentage of dropouts among female drivers.
  • Financial Challenges: Motorsports can be expensive, and many drivers, both male and female, face financial struggles early in their careers. However, due to the limited number of women in the field, financial difficulties are more noticeable among female racers.
  • Lack of Tailored Training:Female drivers often need more access to specialised training programs tailored to their needs, partly due to the lack of funding and sports participation.
  • Absence of Role Models: The scarcity of female role models in motorsport makes it challenging for aspiring female drivers to find motivation and guidance as they progress through the ranks.
  • Unwelcoming Culture: The absence of a female driver in F1 since 1976 has led to perceptions that the sport’s culture may be unwelcoming or inappropriate for female participants.

Progress Made

Despite all the challenges, there are also positive things happened to change the situation:

  • Women in Leadership: In recent years, Formula 1 has seen an increase in the number of women taking on leadership roles within teams and organisations. Claire Williams, for example, served as the Deputy Team Principal of the Williams Racing team.
  • Development Programs: Some teams and organisations have launched initiatives to support the development of female talent in motorsport. The “W Series” is a notable example, providing a platform for female drivers to compete and gain experience.
  • Awareness and Advocacy: Various individuals and organisations have been actively advocating for gender equality in motorsport. The “Dare to be Different” campaign, initiated by former driver Susie Wolff, aimed to encourage more girls to pursue careers in motorsport.
  • Step-by-Step Progress: While there hasn’t been a female driver competing in Formula 1 since Giovanna Amati in 1992, there has been progress at lower levels. For instance, Tatiana Calderón has competed in Formula 2, and Jamie Chadwick has won races in the W Series and secured roles as a development driver for Formula 1 teams.
  • Rule Changes and Inclusivity: Formula 1 has taken steps to promote inclusivity and diversity. In 2021, a new regulation was introduced requiring teams to have a female driver as part of their junior driver program. This is a step towards increasing opportunities for female drivers.

The Introduction of F1 Academy

Low participation is one of the key reasons why there is such a big performance gap in F1 and that it stops females from competing, but what is the crucial reason for it? Well, it all comes down to one factor – money. There is not enough financial support for women in F1, but recent developments seek to change that.

Introducing the F1 Academy is one of the most significant steps to integrate female drivers into the high-level F1 world. It can cost millions of dollars to back a young racer through their journey from F3 to F1, and that is a luxury that very few people have.

For that to change, the sport has launched its all-female racing category – the F1 Academy. Here, 15 women participate across five teams, which has the full support of F1. It subsides the cost of each car with a $130,000 budget, but drivers have to match that total with their backing.

The F1 Academy is not where young female drivers should spend all their careers to race in. It exists solely as a platform to nurture them and give them the much-needed boost in their job to ensure they progress nicely through the ranks.

The Future Looks Bright

Even though female drivers in F1 face many challenges, there is good progress in the industry.

The lack of funding and participation have been the main reasons why we haven’t seen a female compete at the highest level of F1 since 1976, but it looks like it will change soon.

We couldn’t be happier to see the launch of the F1 Academy – an all-female single-seater racing series that funds young females to make their journey to the top much more accessible.

We should be encouraged in the path F1 is slowly taking. 2023 is the inaugural year for the F1 Academy, and we are still determining what it brings in the near and long-term future. 

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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