The idea of having a woman driving in Formula 1 has always been pretty dead in the water, there has only ever been one female driver to finish in the points at a Grand Prix, We have to go back as far as the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix where Lella Lombardi recorded a 6th place finish to earn a half point, since then there hasn’t been a female driver in the sport, three had tried but all were unable to qualify for a race. However with two female team principals and some female racers on the scene, can it happen?
Currently two F1 teams are led by female team principals, Sauber by Monisha Kaltenborn and Williams by Claire Williams of course the daughter of the great Sir Frank Williams and interestingly it is Williams that gave a female driver a chance with Susie Wolff being a test driver for the Grove based squad, she spent most of her earlier career in Formula 3000 and Formula Renault before moving to DTM driving for Mercedes and only last summer took part in the Young Driver Test at Silverstone and was quite impressive with her pace being quite good, however she was still well behind rookie Williams tester Daniel Juncadella so maybe Susie may have to settle for being a test driver for now and with time running out for the 31 year old it is quite unlikely that she will secure a race seat.
However Wolff isn’t the only British female driver around, Alice Powell has spent the last two years in GP3 and F3 and in 2012 picked up an 8th place in Monza to become the first female points scorer in GP3 history, at 21 there is plenty of time for Powell to make the step up but she will have to show better pace than what she has done in recent years during her career if she is to attract the interest of F1 teams.
Now Sauber led by Kaltenborn have gone for a female driver, Simona de Silvestro (pictured above) has been named as an ‘affiliated driver’ with the view of her racing in 2015, the same was said for young Russian Sergey Sirotkin although he isn’t on the grid so I think Simona may have to wait for her chance too. Let’s be clear this isn’t a publicity stunt by Sauber, De Silvestro is a top driver having raced in IndyCar since 2010, last season she finished 13th in the championship and got on the podium with a superb 2nd place at Houston, the 25 year old Swiss may be the closest thing that Formula 1 will get to a female race driver in the near future at least.
Of course we must remember Maria De Villota, the Marussia test driver sustained a horrific injury after crashing during a test which ended up in the loss of one of her eyes, despite this De Villota carried on with life and didn’t seem to let anything phase her despite the huge setback she had often being seen in efforts to help the sport and the female minority, however in October 2013 on the weekend of the Japan GP it was announced that she had died from what we are told by the investigators to be the effects of her crash a year earlier. She will be hugely missed.
So is it finally time for F1 to welcome a female race driver, I think it may take just a few more years but it is certainly a whole lot closer than it was in the past.