RACING

Women won’t drive in F1 in 5 years without a ‘meteorite’

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Lewis Hamilton (left) and Stefano Domenicali (right) at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix.

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Lewis Hamilton (left) and Stefano Domenicali (right) at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Photo: Clive Mason (Getty Images)

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali really popped up in the press conferences leading up to the Belgian Grand Prix, and the subject of one of his recent conversations happens to be the place of women in motorsport – in particular the fact that Domenicali doesn’t see any women. line up on the F1 grid anytime soon, sky sports reports. He is not totally wrong, but let’s dive into the complexity of what he’s really saying.

“In reality, unless there’s something like a meteor, I don’t see a girl coming to F1 in the next five years,” Domenicali said. “It’s very unlikely.”

He continued:

“We think that in order to be able to give the girls the chance to be at the same level as the boys, they have to be the same age when they start fighting on the track,” he added.

“We are working on it to see what we can do to improve the system. And you’ll soon see some action.

And, as noted later in the Washington PostDomenicali added:

Domenicali said on Wednesday that “we are very happy with the collaboration with Formula W. But we believe that in order to be able to give the chance to the girls to be at the same level of competition as the guys, they must be at the same age when they start. to fight on the track at Formula 3 and Formula 2 level.”

Very well. Now that we have the context, let’s really dig in.

From a general point of view, Domenicali is not entirely wrong. At the moment there are not many women in the F1 feeder series categories. Tatiana Calderon, who has just been announced to the Charouz Racing team, is the only woman in Formula 2 – and she hasn’t started yet this year as she was racing in IndyCar. There are no women in the FIA ​​Formula 3 championship, although there are a handful in the regional F3 series – and the entire W Series grid is made up of women.

None of these women, however, are set to join the F1 grid anytime soon. In this sense, Domenicali is right: it would take an amazing circumstance to see a woman in F1 in the next five years. Even Jamie Chadwick, who is currently the most capable female driver on the F1 road, would still need to spend time in the international F2 and F3 categories before she could see a seat in F1. But there are a hundred different ways for Domenicali to express that sentiment without it sounding like he wouldn’t want women in F1 without catastrophic disaster forcing his hand.

Plus, Domenicali isn’t wrong when he says that to truly create a level playing field for women in the sport, there needs to be a greater focus on integrating young girls into karts.

But there is one big problem with everything Domenicali has said that pretty much undermines his ability to have an informed opinion on this situation: Formula W.

He is, of course, referring to the W series, an all-female, open-wheel series that rivals Formula 3 chassis. Since its launch, the series has had a problem with people wanting to call it “Formula W” at the instead of “W Series”, usually referring to reasoning that “it’s the Formula Women series, the one with the girls”.

While it’s the kind of slip-up a casual racing fan might make, it’s a bad look for the CEO of Formula 1, a sport that sees the W Series serve as a supporting series for eight events a year. If Domenicali is really invested in encouraging more women to race, it would likely help correctly identify the all-female series that already shares a track with F1.

Moreover – and this is more personal nitpicking – the use of the word “girls” when referring to adult women used to infantilize adults. When you call a grown woman a girl, you tell her she’s not a professional, that she doesn’t deserve the independent respect you would give to a grown male colleague, and that she doesn’t belong in your world. Because person under 18 is allowed to compete in F1, no “girl” will ever race in the series. Only a woman would.

So while Domenicali’s overall sentiment here isn’t entirely wrong, the very language he uses to describe his stance means he’s probably the last person who should be talking about the legitimate perspectives of women in the race.

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