Formula-1 season this year promises more than it can deliver: a woman driver.
Susie Wolff is lined up with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas as the Williams team drivers for the 2014 season. Sounds like a great victory for women? Not quite.
Although Wolff is an experienced racing driver — she has taken part in German Touring Cars Championships — what Williams is offering are few practice sessions in British and German Grand Prix where the media would be interested in the story.
It is not likely that Wolff would ever see the grids this season.
The F-1 PR machine is however active in labeling this as a breakthrough for women. That is not true. In fact Formula-1 had its first female racing driver back in 1958 when Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis raced four times and failed to reach the qualifying time for two other Grand Prix, including the Monaco Grand Prix.
In the same year, 14 men also failed to make the grade including one famous Bernie Ecclestone.
Another Italian, Leila Lombardi raced in 12 Grand Prix in 1975-76 and became the only woman to score a championship point with a six-place finish.
British Divina Galica also raced in the same year but failed to qualify.
There is also South African Desire Wilson who qualified in 1981 for her home Grand Prix and famously overtook Nigel Mansell before spinning out on lap 51.
The record proves that women were there from the early years, albeit with a poor record of achievement.
Most experts agree that there are no physical or psychological barriers for women not to do well in motor racing.
The reason for past failures was mainly to do with poorly designed and funded cars.
The sport pits humans interacting with machines not men versus women.
It seems obvious that if Formula-1 wants to attract new audiences and energize the sport, it should attract women in competitive cars. Wolff would hopefully change the status quo.
But this is unlikely while a recently published list of the “50 most powerful people in Formula-1” is exclusively occupied by men.
Adel Murad is a senior motoring and business journalist, based in London.
Email: [email protected]