Motorsport in general is still very much dominated by men. Traditionally women are seen as less mechanically aware, worse drivers, and in some nations, religion and culture are also factors.
While on the racetrack men still rule, females are increasingly growing interested in this traditional domain of the testosterone-fuelled ‘rev-head’.
Last weekend marked the start of the 2012 Formula One Grand Prix motor racing season, with the first race meet held in Melbourne. No longer simply relegated to the often demeaning role of ‘grid girls’, many women now populate the stands.
Formula One, also known as F1, is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the peak international motor racing body. The ‘formula’ refers to the set of rules with which all racers’ cars must comply.
In years gone by, t-shirts emblazoned with ‘Pole Position’ written in diamantes and strategically placed across the chest, featured as part of the F1 marketing and merchandising efforts. The sport of Formula One has always been controlled by men at both an organisational and track level. The only women seen were skimpily clad or part of the WAG contingent. Since the establishment of the World Championship for Drivers in 1950, only five female racing drivers have entered a Grand Prix, and only two were successful enough to qualify and start a race.
But recently, women have found themselves an increasingly key market demographic in maintaining and improving the popularity of the sport. Online forum sites are populated by ladies keen to discuss motorsports. One group, ‘F1 Women’ has the tagline, “Who says Formula one is just for men?”
In the managerial sphere, Monisha Kaltenborn became the first female CEO of a Formula One team for Red Bull Sauber in 2010. Last year media speculation had Australian Allsports Management CEO Judith Griggs as a likely successor to current Formula One boss, billionaire Bernie Ecclestone.
Women may be seen by some as just the pretty faces wandering the ‘paddock’, but over the next few years their participation in sports such as motor racing only looks set to dramatically increase.
Kira Spucys-Tahar is on Twitter: @kismet91