“Women should be part of the Ferrari Academy”, recently stated the team principal of Maranello Mattia Binotto. “That's something on which we are working right now to make sure that it may happen very soon.”
It’s not a secret that motorsport has always been a sexist environment, with women being discredited for decades not only when driving, but also working trackside, both in the garages and in the paddock. The only females that were widely accepted at race weekends were the grid girls, just for pure eye satisfaction of the viewers. Luckily in recent times society has grown a more open mind ending the ‘women belong to ballet’ mentality.
At first ladies have started working in the paddock, around the actual racing: female journalists, PRs, TV presenters started growing in number, reaching a decent gender percentage in the last years. With time girls also managed to get into the garages, becoming mechanics, engineers, strategists and team principals. What looks like –and actually is- a huge step forward, still hides a dark side: the racing itself.
Only five women in history have entered a Formula 1 weekend as official drivers, with the last one –Giovanna Amati- dating back to 1992. Not only that: just two of them managed to start at least one race (Maria Teresa De Filippis and Lella Lombardi), shifting the actual date back to 1976.
Most of the female drivers, even in recent years, were hired by the teams just for the sponsors and visibility a motorsport girl can bring. It subsequently doesn’t surprise if most of them was relegated to mere testing sessions.
Finally winds (or, the better, breezes) of change seem to be starting to blow. If Binotto’s words don’t represent a proof, the presence of two female F1 test drivers may be a clue.
But even there, Alfa Romeo’s Tatiana Calderon has never shown a real talent among male colleagues: last in the Formula 2’s championship standings with zero points in 2019, she only conquered 20 points in three seasons of Gp3 (today known as Formula 3) finishing respectively 21st, 18th and 16th overall. The feeling is again that she’s being “used” for marketing purposes only by the italian-swiss team.
Different is the situation of Jamie Chadwick: the young Brit last year became test driver for Williams and team principal Claire Williams said her work in the team will increase for 2020. The background story of Chadwick is different from Calderon’s because of her results: aged 18, in 2016 she won the British GT4 championship before moving to the British Formula 3 for the next two seasons, bringing home three podiums and one race victory. Last year she dominated the very first W-Series championship, a women-only Formula 3 category, taking two race victories, three pole positions and five podium finishes out of six Grand Prix. It’s important to say that from 2020 W-Series will also provide superlicence points at the top 8 drivers in the standings, with the champion getting 15 out of the 40 needed to race in Formula 1. Now Jamie is currently racing in the Asian Formula 3, having scored points in all of the six races undergone so far.
So, back to the beginning: will we see a female driver in F1 again?
Hopefully yes, and possibly her name will be Jamie Chadwick. Teams are clearly starting to look at racing girls from a new prospective and with some actual interest, no longer therefore as cash-carriers but finally as a proper chance to elevate their line-ups.