Written by Alejandra Guajardo Lozano, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Women have played an influential role throughout the history of motor racing. Many have taken to the wheels of motorsport machines, while numerous figures have worked tirelessly on the sidelines in various roles, shaping the racing world to the present day. Woman Spotlight Wednesday aims to take a look at the tales of these superwomen, who have surpassed various hurdles to reach where they are today.
Today’s Woman Spotlight Wednesday article narrates the tale of a famous Formula One presenter, one who has braved the odds and made it to the big stage.
Naomi Schiff is a Belgian/Rwandan racing driver, and presenter for Sky Sports. She was born on May 18th, 1994, in Belgium, but grew up in South Africa from the age of four. With her charisma and extensive knowledge of the sport, she has caught the attention of many.
Schiff discovered her love for racing at the age of 11 in a family friend’s birthday party where she tried go-karting for the first time and got hooked. Schiff is mixed race and noticed there wasn’t anyone that looked like her in the track when she started racing.
“There weren’t many girls or people of colour,” said Naomi to The Red Bulletin. “I didn’t feel like I fit in, and the idea of being compared with my counterparts was frightening.”
Schiff decided to put her fears and doubts aside, and started competing in the Karting World Championship at the age of 14, representing South Africa, the country of her upbringing.
“By the time I climbed out of the go-kart at the end of [my first] race, I was smiling from ear to ear,” Schiff said.
She then continued her racing career, and competed in single-seater cars in Formula Volkswagen at the age of 16. She also participated in other disciplines like RC Formula, and Supercar Challenge Superlights.
Schiff won the Clio Cup China Series in 2014, scoring 135 points. She also took part in the 24 Hours of Zolder the same year. She won the KTM X-Bow GT4 the following year. In 2018, she competed in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, finishing second.
Schiff participated in the W Series in 2019, and was appointed as the diversity and inclusion ambassador of the all women’s series in 2020. Unfortunately, she had to step out of racing, due to the lack of budget.
In February 2022, she presented the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team car launch for the Mercedes W13. The following month, she was announced as co-presenter for Sky Sports F1, being an excellent addition to the broadcast team. However, she did not receive a favourable response from all sections of fans.
She suffered online abuse too, questioning her racing record, and attacking her knowledge. Everyone in the F1 community stood by her side, including Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who spoke about the situation:
“Naomi is an ex-professional racing driver and totally qualified to give her opinion as part of the Sky team,” Hamilton tweeted. “She’s been a great asset since joining and we should welcome more representative broadcasting with open arms. Still have a long way to go to change these attitudes in sport.”
The seven-time World Champion later elaborated on his tweet at the Canadian Grand Prix, saying, “I felt compelled to say something. This has been a male-dominated sport for a long, long time. There is so much work that we need to do to improve the representation and opportunities for women in all levels within the teams and within the sport.” Hamilton said to the media.
Schiff has also shared she had a hard time switching to broadcasting, after having to step out of racing.
“I think the most difficult thing is having to be at the racetrack and not actually getting to get in the cars. That's like a torture really. The first year in the W-Series was particularly hard, because that year, I had planned to be back in the W-Series cars.” She recalled, “So I guess every time the cars rolled out, I was like, ‘Oh, I'm supposed to be in one of those cars’. So that felt a little bit too close to home,” she admitted.
Naomi has been an influential role model for aspiring female racers. As a racer, she has surely left her mark on track, and been a perfect example for people of colour. They’ve had to brave the odds and prejudices in the racing world, be it as racers or as presenters. Schiff has managed to shape a remarkable career, facing every obstacle and prejudice that sadly still exists. A true super woman, with super skills in her area of work today.