A Neutral Track; Formula One Is Open To All

Article first seen in Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/csylt/2016/04/09/the-drive-to-attract-more-women-to-formula-one/#7f77cc507aa4 and http://www.forbes.com/sites/csylt/2016/04/17/formula-ones-new-female-role-models/?ss=self-made#4581d21c62e7)

Susie Wolff hasn’t slowed since stepping down from her role at Williams. The former test driver is described time and time again as being the first woman in 22 years to take part in a Formula One weekend when she drove in a practice session at the 2014 British Grand Prix.

To put it into perspective the last woman to compete in an F1 race was Italian Lella Lombardi in 1976 which could suggest to some that the series is a playground for men only.

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In fact, the opposite is the case.

Formula One is actually a level playing field as men have no physical advantage in all of its positions from the lowest-ranking administration roles right up to the drivers.

Unlike, NASCAR, F1 has women at the helm of its teams.

Monisha Kaltenborn runs the Swiss outfit Sauber whilst Claire Williams is deputy team boss of the Williams F1 team.

In fact, the wheels of F1 would not turn if it wasn’t for women who work in everything from aerodynamics and engineering to law. Indeed, for decades F1’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has been hiring women in key positions including his chief legal officer, who joined in 1996, and the head of the sport’s track-side advertising and hospitality division.

“Formula One at every level and within every discipline is open to all,” says Claire Williams.

Moving ahead Wolff and the British Motor Sports Association (MSA) have set up the ‘Dare To Be Different’ not-for-profit organisation aimed at advertising careers in motorsport to women.

“The format of the day was basically for us to change perceptions slightly in getting girls to the kart track, the first time for most of them, then opening up every aspect of the sport, not just karting.” Wolff adds that the aim is to break down the perceived barriers which may prevent girls from considering a career in motorsport

“It isn’t about getting young girls interested in motorsport, it is actually opening up the sport to them because motorsport is seen as something very inaccessible and if your family isn’t into, let’s say, motorsport, or your father isn’t mechanically minded or your mother isn’t, how do you then get introduced to the sport?”

Wolff herself is an example of what young girls can achieve and she says “I think it was more because of the way my parents brought me up I just never believed I was doing anything unusual. I never believed it was an unusual career path for anyone.

“I never dared to be different, I have just done what I was doing but the truth is we are in the sport and that is our perception. Everybody outside sees it in a different light and that is why, for me, we all haven’t dared to be different, but the perception for everyone else out there is that we have. So we have got to change that perception. We have got to spread the message and make sure that it is possible. For me, it is about taking some of the spotlight that I managed to gain, because Formula One is so much in the media, and shine it on other women.”

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