A Reader Writes…

An AR1 Reader has some strong words for Mr. Ecclestone
An AR1 Reader has some strong words for Mr. Ecclestone

(Editor's note: The letter below is from an AR1 reader regarding Bernie Ecclestone's recent comments about the possibility of a female driver in Formula One. The longtime commercial chief recently said he did not believe women were strong enough to compete in the pinnacle of motorsport.)

Dear AR1:

Mr. Ecclestone is absolutely correct when suggesting it will be almost impossible for a woman to get into F1; but that will not be for lack of ability, or strength, or talent, or competitiveness, or because she should really be just an appliance in the kitchen!

The problem is that no major sponsor will risk investing in getting a woman into an F1 car because of all the perceived issues Bernie keeps re-articulating. And in a world where money is everything, unless the woman is Ivanka Trump, she has no chance of moving all the way up the ranks thanks to the huge costs involved and the prejudice inherent at every level of the sport.

However, a woman can certainly compete with a man in Formula One, if she ever gets a real opportunity in a decent car. In fact, it’s already happened.

In 1981, Desire Wilson was offered a full season ride by Ken Tyrrell as teammate to Eddie Cheever, but she could not find the $100,000 asking price. Instead, the ride went to Italian star Michele Alboreto, Ken’s second choice! This opportunity followed her one-off drive in the South African Grand Prix for Tyrell, where she started last on the grid after stalling at the flag, came past the start line fifteen seconds behind the last car at the end of the first lap, then proceeded to catch and pass drivers like Cheever (her team mate), Nigel Mansell, John Watson, and others to reach 9th place before she lost it by getting on the marbles to allow Nelson Piquet to pass. That morning in the wet warmup session she was 5th fastest overall.

Her performance in this one-off race, seven months after last driving any race car and with no pre-race testing, showed that a woman can be just as fast and competitive as other F1 drivers. All this in a car with full ground effect, huge g-forces, sliding skirts, rock hard suspension, no assisted steering or brakes, manual shift, no electronic driving aids, foot clutch, and no engineers feeding her with info throughout the race. Keep in mind, Desire’ was 5ft 6" tall and weighed just 126 lbs at the time.

But this is not about Desire.

It’s about Bernie’s claim that no woman can ever be competitive in a modern F1 car. Bullshit!

Given the chance, and the money, and the same opportunities as men who get there, there will always be women capable of competing at GP level.

Let’s face it, if a skier like Lindsey Vonn had set her heart on racing, why would she not have been competitive? She is hugely talented and has immense speed; is as strong as any man in her sport and has more determination than almost anyone, male or female who has ever raced on ski’s, and she would make Bernie’s statements superfluous. And she is just one of hundreds of top line female athletes who, had they chosen racing, would have been equally competitive.

Yes, it is virtually impossible for a woman to get into GP racing in a competitive car, but it is not the result of lack of skill, strength, competitiveness or aggression, it is because the whole racing industry is set against women’s success; and this perception can be traced directly to the attitude espoused by Bernie and his cronies.

Thanks Bernie, for nothing. Name withheld by request

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