Written by Sofia Belfitt, Edited by Alessandra Erazo
Over the last 10 years in motorsport, more and more women have become present in the paddock and in the grandstands. However, with the increased coverage of women in motorsport, it highlights the cracks in our fanbase and shows our inherent misogyny in our society.
Females in motorsport as drivers started in 1958, where Maria Teresa De Filippis competed in three Grand Prix's. The Italian's highest finish was tenth at the Belgium Grand Prix; however, she was awarded no points: the points system went from 1st to 8th at the time. The wait was 15 years for the next female, Lella Lombardi, to start 12th Grand Prix's. She is the first and only female to score points in F1- 0.5 at the Spanish Grand Prix. The next three female drivers, Divina Galica, Desiré Wilson and Giovanna Amati, all entered at least one Grand Prix; however, none of them made an official start. Amati entered her last Grand Prix in 1992, 30 years ago.
Female motorsport fans have always been a part of motorsport, and F1 has seen (particularly in recent years) the percentage of female fans increase a substantial amount. In 2019, the number (according to a survey conducted by F1) of female fans was 45%. Many of these female F1 fans are introduced to the sport via their dads or male family members, by friends or through social media and TV presence. This includes 'Drive To Survive', which has grown the F1 audience itself more globally.
But why are we still so far away from the equality promised in the 'We Race As One' campaign advertised by F1?
One reason is the stigma surrounding the Netflix series 'Drive To Survive'. The series has been critiqued by many long term F1 fans due to its unrealistic and overdramatised headlines and episodes. They believe its very far from the true sport. Particularly on the social media platform TikTok, if a female says an opinion that is controversial or is against the beliefs of the viewer, they're quick to jump on the idea that they clearly got into the sport via the Netflix series, therefore they're not a real fan. This angers a lot of the F1 female fans, as it shouldn't matter how you got into the sport.
As well as this, female F1 fans are being hurt by the negative use of the term "fangirl". This word is thrown at female fans to make them feel like outsiders and they're different to male F1 fans when, in reality, we're not that different - we all love the sport.
The introduction to W Series has had an overall positive impact on spreading awareness on the misogyny within our sport; however, a lot of criticism came along with it, with people claiming it segregated men and women more. As a female myself, I believe this is not the case. Why is it that men can race in Formula 3 with the help of sponsors to pay the entry of €1 million, but a female cannot afford it? A prime example of this is Jamie Chadwick, a two-time W Series champion, who has said in numerous interviews she cannot progress to Formula 3 because she doesn't have the budget. This is an issue for most young drivers; however, it's been proven in W Series' research that women are less likely to get the budget money over a male counterpart due to their gender. W Series tackles this by allowing their drivers to take part with no entry fee, and at the end they pay $500 thousand to the champion.
However, we still have a long way to go. In the off-season, Christian Horner mentioned in an interview with TalkSPORT quote: "F1 is bringing in a young generation. It’s bringing in a lot of young girls because of all these great-looking young drivers.”. As well as this, recent comments regarding Naomi Schiff's credibility due to her being a woman on Sky Sport F1's pundit team. These incidents have resurfaced the fundamental issues within the sport. This is no longer a sport for rich white men: the protection of this stereotype is damaging us progressing forward into the future. However, we all can help make a change. Call people out for their outright sexism, be angry with us, push for change with us.
So, to any female reading this - I hope that the abuse stops on your knowledge and credibility. I hope that as a generation we get to a point where we get to like a sport without having to prove it, because no one should ever feel like an outsider because of their biological differences.