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.
Motor racing has historically been considered a man’s sport, which is evident from the almost total lack of women at the higher levels of racing. But over time, more and more women are becoming involved in all aspects of racing – from management to engineering to driving. One such aspiring woman is racing driver Samin Gomez, who has recently secured a seat in GP3, the major feeder series for GP2, which in turn is the major feeder series for Formula One.
Samin Gomez, a 21 year old Venezuelan, has risen through the junior ranks of racing quite quickly. She spent a year karting in Venezuela and France in 2007, before moving straight into single seaters in 2008 with two appearances in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge. 2009 and 2010 saw her remain in the series and complete two full seasons, finishing third overall in 2010.
In 2011, Gomez began a partnership with Jenzer Motorsport, which has brought her to GP3. She drove for Jenzer in the Formula Pilota China series and also competed in the Formula Abarth Italian and European Championships. A second season of European and Italian Formula Abarth followed in 2012, with Gomez finishing seventh overall in each series.
Now she’s in GP3, which is likely to be quite a different challenge. Promising drivers from all over the world compete in GP3 in the hope of making the step up to Gp2 and then finding a way into Formula One. The racing is tough, close and challening, as rising star Alice Powell discovered in 2012, when she scored just one point in her debut GP3 season after winning the Formula Renault BARC title two years previously.
Gomez has the backing of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil and gas giant who also provides sponsorship to F1 race winner Pastor Maldonado. While she can clearly drive, with podiums and pole positions in her junior level racing, it seems that her Venezuelan sponsorship may have helped to fast-track her career. To date, Gomez has not won a race in a single seater series, which suggests that she could spend some time acclimatising to the intense competition of GP3.
The first race of the 2013 GP3 series is on 11 May in Spain. As it is part of the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix weekend, Gomez’s debut will be an ideal chance to show the racing world what she can do. Until then, she will be testing and training to make sure she starts with as much preparation behind her as possible.