Formula 1

Explained: Can women race in Formula 1? A look at female drivers in F1

Anurag Kanjani

June 4 2023
Female Drivers Formula 1 (F1)

In the sport’s history, five female drivers have raced in the F1 grid.

Motorsports as a whole encourages the participation of Women as there are no such rules forbidding female drivers. However, the number of female drivers in F1 has been relatively low throughout the history of the sport due to very high competition and the availability of fewer driver seats. History has witnessed only five female drivers ever compete in Formula 1, and none have ever won a race.

The first female driver to race in Formula 1 was Maria Teresa de Filippis, who competed in 1958 and 1959. She entered five races and finished in the top ten once, earning two championship points. Lella Lombardi was the second female driver to race in Formula One, entering 12 races in 1974 and 1975. She earned half a point for her sixth-place finish in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. Divina Galica, Desiré Wilson, and Giovanna Amati are the other three women who have competed in F1, but none of them achieved any notable success.

Despite the low number of female drivers in F1, many women have competed successfully in other motorsport categories, such as touring car racing, rally racing, and endurance racing. Some notable female drivers include Danica Patrick, who became the first woman to win an IndyCar race in 2008, and Katherine Legge, who has competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA Formula E Championship.

To encourage more women to participate in motorsport, the FIA created the Women in Motorsport Commission in 2009. The commission works to promote women in all areas of motorsport, including driving, engineering, and management. The commission also runs various initiatives, such as the Girls on Track Karting Challenge, which aims to introduce young girls to karting and provide them with a pathway to competitive motorsport.

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In addition to the Women in Motorsport Commission, the F1 teams have also taken steps to promote diversity and inclusion. In 2020, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team launched the Accelerate 25 programme, which aimed to promote diversity in motorsport by providing opportunities for young drivers from underrepresented backgrounds. The programme included a scholarship for a female driver to compete in the F4 British Championship.

Another initiative that aimed to promote diversity in F1 was the FIA Formula 1 Academy, which was launched in 2019. The academy is a joint initiative between the FIA and Formula One Management and aims to provide young drivers from all over the world with the skills and experience they need to compete at the highest level of motorsport.

The academy includes a driver development programme, which provides coaching, training, and support to young drivers be it male or female, as well as access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

The FIA Formula 1 Academy is open to young drivers of all genders, but it is hoped that the programme will encourage more women to pursue a career in motorsport. The academy has already supported a number of female drivers, including Marta Garcia, who won the W Series championship in 2019, a single-seater racing championship which was exclusive for female drivers, with an aim to provide a platform for women to showcase their talent and progress to higher levels of motorsport.

In conclusion, women can race in Formula One, but the number of female drivers in the sport has been relatively low throughout its history. However, there have been many initiatives like the Women in Motorsport Commission, the FIA Formula 1 Academy, and the W Series to promote diversity and inclusion in motorsport and provide opportunities for young drivers from all backgrounds to pursue a career in the sport.

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