F1 MAKES A LAME BID TO RE­VERSE DIS­CRIM­I­NA­TION

PressReader - Tke Channel - F1 MAKES A LAME BID TO RE­VERSE DIS­CRIM­I­NA­TION
That sex­ism still ex­ists in sports is with­out doubt. On the other hand, the fact that the sportI — I’m hop­ing I can also say we — love, For­mula One, is a par­tic­u­larly ve­he­ment bas­tion of sys­tem­atic sex­ism hasn’t gar­nered all that much at­ten­tion.In the mod­ern era of For­mula One, only two women — Maria Teresa de Filip­pis and Lella Lom­bardi — have ever raced in a Grand Prix. And lest we con­grat­u­late our­selves on how much we’ve re­cently be­come en­light­ened, let me re­mind you that their ac­com­plish­ments were way back in 1958 and 1975. More re­cently, Susie Wolff and Tata­nia Calderon have served as test driv­ers, but as for ac­tu­ally mak­ing it to an F1 grid, there has not been a sniff.Now, for those Ne­an­derthals think­ing that the lack of fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion is a sign — or the re­sult — of some form of ge­netic in­fe­ri­or­ity, let me give you a cou­ple of ex­am­ples of how truly hor­rific sex­ism has per­vaded four-wheeled mo­tor­sports. The ear­li­est, per­haps sad­dest, ex­am­ple of out­right — hell, overt — sex­ism has to be Helle Nice.Never heard of her, right? There’s a rea­son for that.A wealthy French so­cialite cum can­can dancer who lit­er­ally tore up the track be­fore the Sec­ond World War, Nice was ini­tially spon­sored by no less than Et­tore Bu­gatti. No dainty demoi­selle, she ruf­fled feath­ers by be­ing the jit­ter­bug equiv­a­lent of the li­cen­tious James Hunt, her “ap­petite” re­put­edly as enor­mous of any of For­mula One’s famed play­boys. Af­ter the war, one of the rac­ers she chose not to bless with her, um, favours — a racer, by the way, whom she reg­u­larly beat — de­nounced her as a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor. That was the end of her ca­reer.More re­cently — in 1983, to be spe­cific — Taru Rinne won the Fin­nish kart­ing cham­pi­onship. Why is that sig­nif­i­cant, you ask? Suc­ceed­ing in lit­tle two-stroke karts is hardly proof, in and of it­self, of For­mula One-like ta­lent. But it is when the man you beat to the top of the box is Mika Häkki­nen. Yes, that Mika Häkki­nen, who went on to win two F1 ti­tles. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports of the day, so in­censed were mo­tor­sports’ man­darins by hav­ing their anointed one beaten by a woman that they man­u­fac­tured an in­frac­tion, re­voked her cham­pi­onship and then banned her from rac­ing.So Rinne took up mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing, where de­spite her late start, she went on to have a fairly suc­cess­ful ca­reer at the sport’s top ech­e­lon be­fore — on an even weaker pre­text — Bernie Ec­cle­stone once again banned her, this time from mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing.So, that mo­tor­sports has been — oh, let’s be po­lite — a lit­tle un­fair to those of dou­ble XX chro­mo­somes can­not be de­nied. Con­sid­er­ing that fully 38 per cent of For­mula One’s fan base is now fe­male, how do we pro­mote young women look­ing to join the ranks of Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Lewis Hamil­ton?Well, at the risk of de­stroy­ing what #me­too bona fides I just spent the last sev­eral para­graphs estab­lish­ing, it’s cer­tainly not by cre­at­ing the W Series.The W Series will be an allfe­male rac­ing series that, in the words of CNN, will act as a “po­ten­tial F1 path­way” for women. The mo­tor­sports in­dus­try is sup­pos­edly so com­mit­ted to this “path­way” that there will be $1.5 mil­lion in prize money up for grabs. The series’ pub­lic re­la­tions mavens say this is the path to par­ity.Com­pared with the money bandied about it F1, it’s a pit­tance. For an­other, it reeks of the worst kind of to­kenism, the stuff in­vented by men imag­ing what women want.How will one woman beat­ing 19 other women — who mo­tor­sports’ man­darins have al­ready proven they don’t re­spect — sud­denly give rise to the bona fides that will sud­denly see a fe­male be­hind the wheel of a McLaren or a Fer­rari?Tear­ing up the Ne­gro League didn’t help the im­mor­tal Satchel Paige break into the ma­jors and women’s tennis got a lot more at­ten­tion from Bil­lie Jean King beat­ing Bobby Riggs than it ever did from Mar­garet Court’s 24 Grand Slams on the women’s cir­cuit. Be­sides, just last month Ana Car­rasco put paid to fe­male mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ers be­ing lesser by be­ing the first woman to win an in­ter­na­tional rac­ing ti­tle in a sport, I’ll re­mind you, that is much more phys­i­cally de­mand­ing than For­mula One.For­mula One’s sole de­fence is that it is un­fair to, well, pretty much ev­ery­one. The un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity of mod­ern F1 is that many driv­ers — some es­ti­mate as many as half the field — have lit­er­ally bought their rides.Things are so bad that Lawrence Stroll bought Force In­dia so that his son, Lance, would have a ride next year. You didn’t think he got to the big show on ta­lent, did you?In other words, if we re­ally want to pro­mote fe­male F1 pi­lots, maybe we should be ask­ing Ta­mara Ec­cle­stone or Belinda Stronach if they have any in­ter­est in rac­ing.

Susie Wolff of Great Bri­tain is one of the fe­male de­vel­op­ment driv­ers yet to re­ceive an F1 ride.

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