The question of whether or not women can or should race modern Formula One cars has been hanging over the sport for some time. Only a handful of women have even tested in F1 over the last few decades, and the last time a woman attempted to qualify for a Grand Prix was way back in 1992. Women are competing, or have competed recently, in almost all other major racing series, of which Indycar, NASCAR and DTM are the most high profile. Why not F1?
Those against the idea of having women in F1 have spoken about the physical challenges – strength, reflexes, endurance – and the mental challenges – thinking clearly under stress while still competing aggressively against the best drivers in the world, all while controlling a beast of a racing car.
Sir Stirling Moss, who is regarded as one of the greats in Formula One history, recently told BBC Radio 5 live: “I think they have the strength, but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel.
“We’ve got some very strong and robust ladies, but, when your life is at risk, I think the strain of that in a competitive situation will tell when you’re trying to win.
“The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don’t think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race.”
Unfortunately, Moss’s words will be taken seriously in some quarters due to his standing in the sport. But he has no evidence to support his ludicrous suggestion, and nor does anyone else. The idea that mental stress makes it impossible for a woman to win an F1 race is nonsensical. There are female fighter pilots and astronauts – both of those occupations are far more challenging in all respects than driving Formula One cars.
The reality is that the idea that women cannot or should not race in Formula One is simply sexist rubbish. When high profile people in the sport chip in their two cents’ worth on the subject, they are invariably just spouting an opinion rather than actually looking at the issue of women in F1 objectively.
Can women race in F1? Should they? It’s time to put a woman in an F1 race and find out.
Rumours are circulating of a possible change of engines for McLaren in 2014, when Formula 1 will move from the current 2.4 litre V8s to 1.6 litre V6 turbos.
It was reported some time ago that Honda might be considering a return to Formula 1 as an engine supplier, and that McLaren were potential customers. The team denied the rumour.
More recently, a switch to PURE engines has been suggested in the media. Again, McLaren have moved to deny the rumour, and the team has stated that it is happy with Mercedes-Benz and intends to continue the current partnership. There would be good reason to do so, given the success of the McLaren-Mercedes pairing over the last two decades.
However, there has been no indication of the length of the contract with Mercedes-Benz, which suggests that change may be possible. Mercedes has its own works team and will want the new Mercedes engine to work well with the Mercedes car. It therefore makes sense for McLaren to find an engine partner who would be more likely to design the engine to suit the McLaren car.
At this point, this is all speculation, but until McLaren makes some sort of definite announcement, the rumours are likely to continue.
Marussia (previously known as Virgin) have announced that their 2012 car will not make use of KERS. In doing so, they have effectively relegated themselves to the back of the grid.
KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) works by harvesting energy under braking, and then using the stored energy to boost engine power for a few seconds a lap. The system is thought to be worth around three tenths of a second per lap.
All of the other teams will be running KERS this season, which immediately puts Marussia at a disadvantage. Formula 1 is largely a technical battle. The best car generally wins. By not using KERS, Marussia are putting themselves behind everyone else by three tenths per lap. Those three tenths have to be made up somewhere else. Considering that all of the other teams will be working to improve all aspects of their cars all the time, the chances of Marussia making up that difference are virtually nil.
So it seems that Marussia will spend another season as also-rans. Hopefully they can prove otherwise, and make good progress aerodynamically, but they are starting on the back foot.
Williams F1 has confirmed that it has signed Brazilian Bruno Senna for the 2012 Formula 1 season. He will drive alongside Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado. This brings to a close months of speculation about the second seat at Williams, and about Senna’s future in Formula 1.
Senna drove for HRT in 2010 and for Renault (now Lotus) in the second half of 2011, but has not had the chance of a full season in an experienced and successful team. With Williams, he now has that chance.
Senna’s contract with Williams means that Rubens Barrichello is without a drive for 2012.
All of the established teams have now decided their driver line-ups. The only remaining option is with backmarkers HRT, who have yet to confirm who will partner Pedro de la Rosa. For Barrichello, who has won 11 races and finished second in the Drivers’ Championship twice for Ferrari, HRT would be a significant step back. Perhaps it is time for him to consider a move out of the F1 cockpit.
Barrichello has been a constant presence in the paddock since his debut in 1993, and has always been competitive. With 322 race starts he is by far the most experienced driver in F1 history, and by all accounts he is a much liked and respected member of the Formula 1 community. If he does decide to hang up his helmet, it will be a sad day for Formula 1.