Formula One is often referred to as the pinnacle of motorsport and when it comes to technology it is however when it comes to equality it most certainly is not.
The Verizon IndyCar Series on the other other hand has been a leading force when it comes to gender equality. There have been many female drivers in the sport who have competed successfully in the series alongside their male counterparts.
Danica Patrick is a prime example, she made her debut in the IndyCar Series with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Team in 2005 and immediately caught everyone’s attention leading laps as a rookie at the 2005 Indianapolis 500 going on to finish the race in fourth place where she started the race from. Patrick led three times for a total of 19 laps.
Patrick took home the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the year award following her performance at the race while also claiming the IndyCar Series Rookie of the year award.
In 2007, following two years with Bobby Rahal and David Letterman, Patrick struck big when she announced she was signing for Michael Andretti joining Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti at the team taking the No.7 with sponsorship from Motorola.
At the 2008 Indy 300 race at the Twin Ring circuit in Motegi, Japan, Patrick made history by becoming the first female driver to win a major open wheel event.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a favourite circuit of Patrick’s as following on from her fourth place in 2005 she took a podium finish at the 2009 Indianapolis 500 finishing in third place behind Dan Wheldon and race winner Helio Castroneves.
During her time in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Patrick claimed the pole positions and seven podium finishes including her Motegi victory. Patrick’s best finish in the championship came in 2009 when she finished the season in fifth place.
Patrick is not the only female driver to have competed in IndyCar in recent years with Venezuelan Milka Duno competing in the series in 10 events in 2007 with the SAMAX Motorsport team.
At the 2007 Indianapolis 500, Duno along with Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher made history as for the first time in IndyCar Series history three female drivers competed in the legendary race.
In 2008 Duno moved to Dreyer and Reinbold and competed for them in 2009. For the 2010 season she moved to Dale Coyne Racing and on August 10 she made history once again as for the first time in IndyCar history there were four female drivers on the grid for the Peak Anti Freeze and motor oil Indy 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway with Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno, Ana Beatriz and Simona De Silvestro all competing.
Sarah Fisher competed in the Verizon IndyCar Series as a driver from 1999 – 2010 (NASCAR West series in 2004 – 2005).
Fisher has since retired from racing to concentrate on her Verizon IndyCar Series team where she is part owner in the CFH Racing team along with Ed Carpenter. The team have been very successful and in 2015 they took victory at the Grand Prix of Alabama with Josef Newgarden while he also won the Honda Indy Toronto. Newgarden finished the 2015 season in seventh place.
This year the Grace Autosport Verizon IndyCar team will make history by becoming the first all female outfit to qualify for the 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500. Beth Paretta is leading the team with Katherine Legge set to compete for the team at the event.
So if IndyCar can do it why can’t Formula One follow its American cousin in getting female drivers to compete alongside their male counterparts? What’s the problem? There are plenty of talented female drivers out there who should be in Formula One racing with teams, Susie Wolff, Simona De Silvestro, Alice Powell.
For whatever reason however Formula One is so far behind in this regard and it is a real shame that female drivers have not been given the opportunity in ‘the pinnacle of motorsport’ to show what they can do.
Susie Wolff was the closet to racing in Formula One but instead of competing she has now been forced to retire from motorsport due to the lack of opportunities. Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone caused major controversy by telling Canadian broadcaster TSN:
If there was somebody that was capable, they wouldn’t be taken seriously anyway, so they would never have a car that is capable of competing, There was a girl that was driving in GP3 for a whole season so it is not something that hasn’t happened.
Ecclestone’s commented are surely going to alienate not just female drivers who aim to make it to Formula One one day but all fans of the sport around the world as this is NOT the message that a major sport should be portraying.
Ecclestone’s comments come as Susie Wolff launched the #D2BDofficial Dare To Be Different initiative at the Autosport International Show to inspire, connect and celebrate women who work in every aspect of racing.