Sports Gazette

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“The idea that women can’t be as good as a man at driving a Formula One car is purely socially constructed.” Dr Paolo Aversa on why there are no female drivers in F1

One more Formula One season starts tomorrow and once more, there are no women competing on the circuit. The Formula One world is a male-dominated sport. How many women do you remember making it into F1? I will helpsix. Only six women have driven during Prix weekends and of those just two participated in the race itself. The last to do it was Lella Lombardi more than 40 years ago. To understand this absence, Sports Gazette talked to Dr Paolo Aversa, one of the leading academics in the motorsport industry. 

He said: “There is a stereotyping of the sport, so we tend to believe that car racing, motorcycle racing or road racing is, in general, a male sport. So it’s very unlikely to find families that will take a young little girl to race in karts. That’s a problem because to become an F1 driver they need to start racing very very early: when they are four or five years old.”

“So the few girls who actually race discover their passion quite late: around 16 or 18, possibly when they have a driving license, and that is too late for them to have the necessary training and development that you need to have to make it into Formula One”, he explained.

The fact is that with the recent decision to ban Grid Girls, F1 is even more surrounded by men. Some may ask if F1 would welcome a change from this. Dr Aversa has no doubts.

He said: “If that changes I don’t think F1 will put any objections. Market-wise it makes a lot of sense for them. Besides that, I believe that there is no scientific proof that women can’t be as good at driving an F1 car as a man, because even if in fact strength is important, F1 is not a pure strength sport. Cognitive abilities are also very important, and women are proven to be very good at it and to a certain extent even better than man. Furthermore, usually Formula 1 drivers have to be small and relatively light, and women are also on average smaller and lighter than men.”

“So, I don’t think that there are any systematic constraints or limits to that. It’s purely social constructed: we don’t have a society that favours the introduction of young female drivers”, he added.

Another thing that Dr Aversa considers to be pushing away women from this sport is the perception that is really dangerous, as used to be in the past.

“F1 needs to change this perception by introducing little girls early on to the sport, introducing the families to the sport, making them understand that it is indeed a dangerous sport but is not as dangerous as it used to be, and it’s definitely less dangerous than, for example, downhill skiing. Somehow, there is this idea that racing a go-kart is incredibly dangerous but sliding your kid down a mountain at a 100 km per hour is not.”

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons


  • José Bourbon

    José Bourbon was born in Lisbon, Portugal. He completed his first degree in Social and Cultural Communication at Universidade Católica Portuguesa, in Lisbon. In the summer of 2015 he had the opportunity to work alongside some of the best journalists in Portugal during an internship at Expresso, one of the most famous newspapers in Portugal. He also played a part in the creation of BETup – an entrepreneurship news website that he worked on for six months. José currently writes for Winept, a Portuguese website dedicated to wine, but sports journalism is his main passion, specifically tennis and football. It goes without saying, José is also a Sporting and Portugal fan.