Will Formula 1 Soon Have a Female Driver? Fan’s View

I think with Danica Patrick racing in the IndyCar series more as a novelty than a serious contender, the issue of women in professional motorsports can be a sensitive one. To me, the field should be open, if they can drive as well as men, let them race in Grand Prix races.

The Williams FW31 car in a testing session.
Wikimedia Commons

I think we are finally seeing some strong female drivers who have a real chance at breaking into the ranks of Formula 1. As reported on autosport.com, Spanish racer Maria de Villota will join the Marussia F1 team as a test driver for 2012. She is the most serious female possibility to join an F1 team since British driver Katherine Legge (another strong contender to make it to F1 and current IndyCar racer) tested with Minardi in 2005.

Maria de Villota will test for the Marussia team during the upcoming F1 young driver test period in Abu Dhabi scheduled for later this year. She is no stranger to racing and even raced in the Daytona 24 Hours race, along with Spanish F3, like the minor league of Formula 1 racing. She drove in the Superleague Formula Championship and first drove a full F1 car last season. de Villota tested a Renault R29 at the Paul Ricard track in France.

Formula 1 does have a history of female drivers, going back to the early days of the sport. The first female driver to qualify and start in a Formula 1 race was Maria Teresa de Filippis. In 1958 she qualified for and raced in the Belgian Grand Prix, the first of seven she would later enter. Another Italian woman, Lella Lombardi raced from 1974-1976, with 17 entries and 12 starts and she has the most race starts by a woman driver in F1.

In a 2006 article in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, de Filippis was asked why she thought more women hadn't followed her into F1, since 1959 when she left the sport. "Maybe they just don't feel like it. Then, of course, there is the question of money. Many backers don't believe that a woman can compete on equal terms. It's a shame because I think there would be huge interest if a woman was given a chance in Formula 1."

A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter - @thefredsherman.

More from this contributor:

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Updated Thursday, Mar 15, 2012