In 2016, former Formula 1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone said female drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula 1 and that they are “not physically” able to drive an F1 car fast. As you can imagine these statements caused controversy as they reignited the stereotype of women not being able to handle sport to the same standard as men, particular motorsport.
Former Formula 1 test driver, Susie Wolff, hit back at Ecclestone’s view by saying: “A woman can be physically fit enough to drive a Formula 1 car. I did the race distance in Barcelona so I have proved that it is possible.”
Wolff went on to say that women could be successful in Formula 1. In 2012, Wolff said that the reason there were too few women in Formula 1 wasn’t because they wouldn’t be successful in it, but because young girls “have no-one to aspire to grow up”. After all, the majority of big figures in Formula 1 and in motorsport, in general, are men.
A combination of these attitudes and the fact that there are no female lead drivers in Formula 1 and other motorsports have led to people like Wolff taking action. Wolff in partnership with the Motor Sports Association (MSA) launched the Dare To Be Different initiative. It is designed to inspire, connect and celebrate all the women working in every aspect of motorsports.
The aim of the initiative is to give young girls and women role models in motorsports, which are currently lacking. They want to smash the perception that women cannot succeed in motorsports and therefore there is no point in women getting involved. Because it isn’t true. Women can easily succeed in motorsports and encouraging more young women to get involved is the perfect step to begin the removal of prejudice and stigma surrounding women in Formula 1.
Positive role models
In films like the Fast and Furious series, we see women objectified through camera angles. But we also see great female drivers who are essential to the plot like series’s favourite, Letty Ortiz played by Michelle Rodriguez.
If the Fast and Furious series can show strong female drivers, then they should be more visible in reality. With that in mind, we looked at four of the most successful female drivers in the different aspects of motorsport.
Pippa Mann – IndyCar
British driver, Pippa Mann is a success in America. She has competed in both the US Indy Light series and the IndyCar series. Indy Light is the feeder series to IndyCar and in 2010, Pippa made history by becoming the first female driver to win a pole position at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She is also one of only two female drivers to win a race in Indy Lights. In that same year, she finished 5th in the overall Championship and Indy Light fans voted her “Most Popular Driver”.
However, Pippa’s rise did not stop there. In 2011, she drove in the IndyCar series for the first time. In May 2011, she qualified for her first Indianapolis 500, which made her the 8th woman in history to start in it. She has since then started that 500-mile race four more times and holds the record for the second fastest female driver, at just under 230 mph.
Pippa started her driving career back in England, racing karts before moving to open wheel racing in Europe. She became the first woman to score points in the Open Wheel World Series by Renault and was the first female driver to start a race in pole position.
Pippa has so far had a massively successful career in motorsport and will no doubt continue to further success.
Sabine Schmitz – 24 Hour Endurance Racing & Top Gear
To give you an initial idea of how successful Sabine Schmitz is, she is nicknamed Queen of the Ring – as in the Nurburgring. Sabine was born in Nurburg right next to the Nurburgring, so we guess that she loved car racing from a young age.
She has won several German race events and twenty years ago, she became the first woman ever to win both a major 24-hour race and the 24 Hours Nurburgring in the 1996/7 season. She is also the first woman to take on the 24 Hour Nurburgring race twice. One of the most impressive facts about Sabine is that although there are 147 corners on the Nurburgring, she hasn’t crashed on any of them ever, which is a feat most drivers can’t claim.
Jutta Kleinschmidt – Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally is the longest and hardest long-distance rally in the World. It is known for its danger and toughness and in 2001, Jutta Kleinschmidt became the first woman to win it.
Jutta bought her first motorbike when she was 18 and it was through motorbikes that she started her racing career. However, she also completed her physics degree and spent six years as an engineer at the R&D department for BMW.
She left BMW and took part in four Dakar Rallies on a motorbike before switching to four wheels in 1995. From that point on, Jutta worked on the development of the most successful rally car ever, the Mitsubishi Pajero Evo.
In that car, she took victory in the 2001 Dakar Rally. She remains the only woman to have ever won the Rally. The values of the Dakar Rally are commitment, intensity and daring and Jutta has proved she has all of those things.
Susie Wolff – Formula 1
Susie Wolff became the first woman in 22 years to take part in a Formula 1 race weekend in 2014 at Silverstone Racetrack for the British Grand Prix. Susie started racing at a very young age. Like many others, she started karting before eventually starting her professional career in the Formula Renault UK Championship. In that Championship, she took three podium finishes and was nominated for the British Young Driver of the Year Award twice.
She spent a brief period on Formula 3 before moving to the German Touring Car Championship, DTM with Mercedes-Benz. In 2012, Susie made the biggest move by signing on with Williams team in Formula 1. Susie started as a development driver for the team initially, however, after two seasons, she was promoted to a test driver for the 2015 season.
She now spends her time as mentioned above trying to inspire more young girls and women to take part in motorsport in an attempt to make it less male dominated.
A chance for change
This is an interesting time in motorsport history. Women have over and over again proved they can be successful in motorsport. It is now time to inspire a new generation of female drivers to be successful and make names for themselves. The more successful women there are, the more role models are made for younger women. Motorsport could be changed for the better and the chance is open now.
Hippo Leasing has both its own rally team and it sponsors a variety of other motorsports including a Sidecar race team from Lancashire. Hippo Leasing also offers great deals on a massive collection of cars for everyone to consider. If you are interested in leasing a car, Hippo Leasing is here to help. Take a browse on their website and have a chat with one of their staff today.