There hasn’t been a woman driver in F1 in nearly 50 years. Though more than 900 drivers have participated in F1 Grand Prixs over the past 73 years, only two have been women: Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958 and Lella Lombardi in both 1975 and 1976.
The issue of money — sponsorships, cars, additional practice time and testing — is systemic in professional motorsport, but there’s debate over the solution. “It’s a prohibitively expensive support, in large part funded by conservative sponsors who only want to back the racers they believe could be the next champions,” states Catherine Bond Muir, founder of W Series, the world’s first international woman-owned motorsport championship. “Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, they want that [driver] on the podium.”
Muir says that most drivers use the same avenues to get into F1 — childhood kart racing where they demonstrate natural talent at 6, 7 or 8 years old and progress to the junior F4 category, where, if they start winning, they’ll enter F3, F2 and, eventually, for the most talented drivers with access to the most resources, F1.
Since women are rarely given the same training at the same ages, Muir states they “have a tiny percentage of comparable time in a cart in racing and in testing, if you compare them to equivalent men of their age. [That’s] because money hasn’t gotten to them the whole of their career.” Muir aims to educate about the struggles women face in motorsport while simultaneously working to eradicate those barriers.
What is Formula One?
Formula One is one of the most popular sports in the world. It is the highest class of international racing for single-seater formula racing cars. Formula One was inaugurated in 1950 as the World Drivers’ Championship at Silverstone in the United Kingdom. In 1981 it became known as the FIA Formula One World Championship.
Several races called Grand Prix are held all over the world over a season. These races taken together are called a Formula One season. The word ‘Formula” refers to a set of rules that all participating teams must adhere to. Grand Prix is a French word that translates as grand prize in English. The races are run of tracks that are graded “1” by the FIA. Hence the name Formula One was adopted.
Colombian Female Racer Tatiana Calderón
Many women drivers work extremely hard to compete with male drivers. Colombian racer Tatiana Calderón, who added 9 centimeters to her neck to deal with the stresses of an F1 car, is one of just a handful of women employed even as a test driver. Calderón states, “I have to train so hard to be able to just drive the car, let alone push the car to its limits. Just to sit in a Formula One car, you need a lot of training to drive that well. It’s not like other sports, like tennis, soccer, where you can play basically all day, every day. For training in motor sports, everything is so limited.”
She adds, “The car is the best gym. And money buys performance.” Calderón says she dedicates a lot of time to exercising her upper body, her shoulder, her forearms, her neck, her lower neck, her legs. As a female, we have 30 percent less lean muscle than men and you have to compensate somehow. You need endurance because it's a two-hour race. You have an engineer talking to you while you race these other 20 guys, and if you miss your braking by 5 meters, you’ve [crashed] into the wall.”