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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Don't dismiss female racing drivers simply because they are good-looking

The title alone gives me a fabulous opportunity to plaster this post with photographs of female racing drivers in leathers and bikinis; an opportunity I will spurn due to the seriousness of the topic.

I am a big fan of Formula 1,

I am male, and

I am hetrosexual,

So sorry to all those gorgeous male F1 drivers out there (you know who you are [I don't]), but I simply don't find you particularly attractive, in that way.

Let's face it, F1 is a male dominated sport, which over the years has sought to allow a very select few females join the club, albeit for a relatively short period of time. Thankfully there have been moves in recent years to embrace a female presence with Monisha Kaltenborn taking over from the Great Peter Sauber and Claire Williams ramping up her presence alongside the Legend that is her father.

On the drivers side we have yet to see any impact on the Sunday Grid, but attempts have been made by Williams, Caterham and currently Renault to enhance female representation within the team.

I was very critical of Williams choice of Susie Wolff as team development driver back in 2012.  My criticism was twofold: firstly (and most obviously) she was the wife of Toto Wolff, who at the time was a major shareholder in Williams and sat on the Board of the company; secondly, I was pretty sure at the time that there was never any intention of actually letting her race nor of allowing her the significant Friday practice time to perfect her craft. When we did see her in the car on a Friday, like at Hockenheim in 2014, it was notable that she was not far off the pace.  In that session she finished only 0.22s off Felipe Massa.

Whether she would have been any good on race day is now academic, given she announced her retirement last November. It is unfortunate that in her four years at Williams we only saw her on track on 4 race weekends and even more unfortunate that her expectation that she would be Williams 2015 "Third Driver" was destroyed by the announcement in march that year that Sutil would be given that position.

Ultimately her time as an F1 driver will be remembered for her Hockenheim performance, and for her solid Friday performance in Barcelona 2015. Let's face it, all drivers look the same once they sit in the car.

So now we have Carmen Jorda getting into a fracas with Marco Sorenson over his claim that he left his position as Renault Reserve Driver because he felt he couldn't compete with his female co-driver - not on speed, but rather on gender and the fact that she is good-looking.

He claims she was 12 seconds off his pace on the simulator, she claims she was only 1 second off Romain Grosjean's best simulator time which, if true, would have made Sorenson 11 seconds faster that Grosjean. Then Sorenson came out to Danish publication "Ekstra Bladet" and said:

This is not that she is 1, 2, 3 or 12 seconds off; those in motorsport know what this is about. If you ask them they will say she should not be there because of her results. They know what it is about. I will not comment on it further"

Well we do know what it's about. Marco would appear to be a bit hacked off at the fact that he's competing with a female driver.  What's more, it also appears he's hacked off that he doesn't have the backing that Kevin Magnusson has. moaning that he doesn't have the kroner to get into a drive seat.

I'll say this, Magnusson has impressed me in his time at McLaren and it is really very unfortunate that, with Fernando Alonso coming in last year, he lost out to Jenson Button for the drive. He deserved more and so did Button.

Look, I admit that I knocked Susie Wolff when she came into the paddock, for the two reasons I outlined above.  The fact is that she hadn't the results behind her to justify her selection.  Her performance in the car showed that she could do the job and thus my fears were allayed; the team had seen her potential - even if they never did anything with it on-track.

If that's the case then we need to give Jorda the benefit of the doubt. She's had a year in the simulator now let's see her on-track in the car and judge her against her team-mates. If she's there on her potential it'll be pretty obvious. Anything under 1 second from her team-mate will do for the first couple of Friday free practices, but as she becomes more familiar with the physical machine and the tracks we'd want to see those times dropping to less than 0.5s pretty quickly.

You don't have to be pretty to drive an F1 car, just pretty quick!