Seems it is that time of the year again when a respected name from the motorsports community makes a statement quite discouraging to women racers. Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko has said that women are not physically and mentally strong enough to compete at the highest level of racing, citing examples of other sports like tennis where men and women compete separately.
He told Kleine Zeitung, “You have to be in peak fitness to race in Formula 1 and you need crazy power in your shoulders. In the old Gösser Kurve on the Red Bull Ring, you have to endure about 4G. That is a huge physical burden and possibly that is too heavy for women.”
He also questions the temperament of female drivers to go toe-to-toe against male counterparts in F1, “If you drive 300km/h and then fight wheel-to-wheel, you must also have to be aggressive. I don’t know if that is in female nature.”
“Why don’t men and women always play tennis against one another? Why doesn’t Serena Williams play Novak Djokovic for example?”
Marco's statement comes at a time when there is a push to hone a female race driver capable of competing at the highest level. The 2019 W Series will be the inaugural season of the W Series, an all-female Formula 3-level racing series, which is aimed at providing young female racers a platform to train and climb to bigger series.
Marco is correct in saying that an F1 driver has to be in the best of their physical state and that they have to be able to endure about 4G in a Formula 1 car. But then, there are women jet fighter pilots who endure about 9G. And when it comes to cars, we're talking lateral G.
Speaking of aggression, there are female combat fighters as well. There are stories of Soviet women snipers who terrorised the Nazis during the World War. Coming to physical strength, if women train with an aim to make it to Formula 1, there's no reason why they wouldn't be able to. Not every woman is born to be a delicate mother.
There are no physiological or psychological reasons why female presence has been small from motorsports entirely. The reasons are rather institutional and not performance-based.
The number of women who have taken part in Formula One World Championship since the inception of the World Championship for Drivers in 1950 is five! Since 1950! That's five in about seven decades. Only 10 women have ever raced in Indianapolis 500.
The scenario is now changing, but it will still take a long time for racing to be considered a 'normal' profession for women. We still live in a world where a country only last year allowed its women to drive cars. We still live in a world where female drivers on the road are frowned upon. Change takes time, and change has to withstand forces opposing it and carry on forwards anyways.