Why Bernie's women-only F1-style series just might work

Bernie Ecclestone's suggestion of a female-only Formula 1-style racing series has met with derision in most quarters. But Pablo Elizalde thinks we should take the idea seriously...

It has become almost a tradition to have a controversy every time Bernie Ecclestone speaks to the media about his ideas to make Formula 1 more appealing to the fans. 

The F1 supremo's long list of suggestions has ranged from artificial rain in the races, to medals for the winners, to shortcuts to help overtaking, to awarding points in qualifying. The examples run and run.

The latest controversy has erupted after the Malaysian Grand Prix, where Ecclestone suggested an F1-style championship only for female racers. 

"I thought it would be a good idea to give them a showcase," Ecclestone told The Telegraph. "For some reason, women are not coming through – and not because we don't want them.  

"Of course we do, because they would attract a lot of attention and publicity and probably a lot of sponsors." 

A harsh reception to the concept

The suggestion, as usual in recent times, has not been well received.  

Susie Wolff, the only current female racer with an active role in a Formula 1, laughed off the idea, and she has not been the only professional driver to do so. 

"Why would I ever look for a race where I was only competing against women?" Wolff said. 

"I can hand on heart say it would not interest me at all to win such a race. I would rather not be in the race because what am I winning? A race where they've just looked for any girl to make a grid up." 

She's right, of course.  

Or is she? 

Not enough women in racing

Wolff's comments highlight the current problem with women in racing: there are not enough of them, and very few have the results to justify a position at the top level, let alone to be the best at it.  

Using other sports that require superior physical strength as an example may seem pointless in this case, since both men and women are equal once the visor goes down.  

Not many women, if any, could cut it with the best tennis, football or basketball players in the world. Most women would agree with that. 

And yet, there are plenty of female tennis, football and basketball players out there, not only having successful careers, but also acting as role models to young girls all over the world.  

Thanks to women-only competitions, there has to be more girls who think a career in sports is possible, and it's only logical to think that the more people competing, the stronger the competition will become.  

Why motorsport is different

Racing is different, yes, because there are cars involved, and physical strength is not going to make a big difference because a woman is perfectly capable of meeting the requirements to compete in Formula 1.  

But in the same way the sports reserved exclusively for women are helping set new benchmarks, and increase the number of professional female athletes, a female-only version of a racing series would boost the chances of more women taking racing seriously as a career choice.  

Wolff is a good role mode. She has shown decent pace every time she's been out sharing the track with the best drivers in the world, and has raced against them throughout her career – right from karting.

But a few practice outings a year is not enough to show that a woman can be successful in Formula 1 or in any other form of racing, really.   

An idea for an imperfect world

In an ideal world, there would be as many female as male racers, and they would be fighting it out on the track regardless of their gender.  

And there is no doubt that the female drivers angry at Ecclestone's suggestion could be capable of competing at the highest level. There is no denying that.  

But the world is not perfect, and the only way to have more successful female racers is to have more female racers. That applies to everything in life.  

How many boys start their racing careers with the clear goal of reaching F1, aware that if they don't make it, they can still have a successful career in other series? 

Having a female-only series would not be about discriminating women, but about increasing the size and the strength of a group that is in an overwhelming minority right now.  

Then there would be more, stronger female racers who would push each other to be the best among them, and perhaps end up becoming better than their male counterparts.  

There is no need for the series to be an alternative to F1, and Wolff or anyone who sees it as a lesser competition could pass on it and use the traditional route to try to reach the top instead.  

As a plan to get more women in racing, it might just work. 

Maybe, just maybe, Ecclestone is onto something this time. 

Be part of something big

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Susie Wolff , Bernie Ecclestone
Article type Commentary