In an interview with Sky F1, World Champion Lewis Hamilton addressed the issue diversity in the sport, stating that much of the attention that he receives may have resulted from his position as the F1’s first ever black driver.
Yet there is another issue of diversity that has not been addressed. While it is true to say that there have been more female than black F1 drivers, and there are more women working at the highest echelons of the sport than ever before, how long will it be before we see a female driver in a race?
Today Williams Martini Racing announced that Adrian Sutil has been appointed as their reserve driver for the rest of the season, casting doubt of Susie Wolff’s chances of ever getting behind the wheel in anger. Many fans were disappointed to not see Susie replace Valtteri Bottas during the Australian Grand Prix following his back injury, despite the fact that this would be in contravention of the regulations.
With two female development drivers in the paddock at most races, there is a real desire from the public to see at least one of them given a fair chance to race. Not only would this represent an important step forward for the sport, but it would also provide PR benefits for the teams, as this would surely draw considerable positive media attention. I hope that perhaps Manor may be able to take advantage of this – offering them increased exposure while also offering a driver a deserved chance to race.
However, a driver should not be given a race seat based on gender alone – and that is the shame of not seeing the likes of Wolff on the track, as she is a genuine talent that deserves a chance. With two female team principals and a growing following from female fans, now is the time to capitalise and show that F1 is a progress and modern sport that respects talent, regardless of gender.
To date five female racing drivers have entered at least one Grand Prix since the World Championship started in 1950, with two qualifying and starting in a race. Lella Lombardi is the most famous female driver to have raced in the sport, with 17 entries and 12 starts for March, RAM and Williams between 1974-1976.