Formula 1

Formula 1 must serious consider all-female division

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On Monday, Bernie Ecclestone touted the creation of an all-female motorsport series to run alongside the current Formula 1 championship.

The debate on female participation in F1 has been in the spotlight for a few years following the tragic incident of Maria de Villota who died in 2013, a year after suffering head injuries in a testing crash which saw her car hit the back of a team truck when returning from a straight line speed run.

Next was Susie Wolff who became the first women driver since 1992 to take part in a race weekend earning Friday practice appearances at both the British and German Grand Prixs.

F1's biggest hope

The Scot also drove for Williams in pre-season testing at Barcelona as she became the first reserve for the Grove team following Felipe Nasr's departure to Sauber.

After Valtteri Bottas injured his back in Australia, there was the prospect that Wolff would be first in line to replace the Finn if he was unable to recover in time for last weekend's round in Malaysia, but almost immediately the opportunity was shot down as deputy team boss Claire Williams said the 32-year-old was only a developmental driver at the team.

Indeed last Thursday at Sepang, Williams announced Adrian Sutil as their official reserve driver pushing Wolff down the list.

Jorda's Lotus role causing controversy

Wolff is no longer the only female driver with a role on the grid as GP3 racer Carmen Jorda was appointed developmental driver at Lotus and will make also make a Friday practice appearance at some point this season.

Most are highly sceptical of Jorda's role in F1, however, seeing it as a financial move from the Enstone team based on the lacklustre performances the Spaniard has recorded in GP3.

"They could race before the main event, or perhaps on the Saturday qualifying day so that they had their own interest"

But the fact Jorda's credentials are being compared to other drivers who could have taken that position that shouldn't be considered wrong.

Ecclestone wants to offer platform

For now, the chances of a female breaking the male-domination on the F1 grid appears bleak and the F1 supremo believes more should be done to try and increase female interest in motorsport.

"I thought it would be a good idea to give them a showcase," Ecclestone is quoted by ESPN.

"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.

"We have to start somewhere so I suggested to the teams that we have a separate championship and maybe that way, we will be able to bring someone through to F1.

"They could race before the main event, or perhaps on the Saturday qualifying day so that they had their own interest.

"It is only a thought at the moment but I think it would be super for F1 and the whole Grand Prix weekend."

Female championship should be stepping stone

The idea has been met with a largely negative response as some say it would hold female drivers down from making the step up to F1, however, if done properly it could be a good first step to making the pinnacle of motorsport.

The emphasis would have to be on giving female drivers a platform to prove that they can compete to a high level and taking away what may be a risk element for the current F1 teams to bring capable female drivers onto the grid.

The best way to do that would be via some kind of partnership program with one of the current teams who could supply a chassis or some mechanical part to the cars used in the female series and as a prize offer a race seat to the champion.

The most likely team willing to do that is Red Bull who could offer a Toro Rosso seat or it could be used as a financial incentive to a smaller team for Ecclestone to provide a cash sum to take the champion on board.

The creation of a female championship, however, must not be considered an absolute must for a female driver and there must remain the equal opportunity for any driver regardless of gender to participate in any championship whether it be F1, GP2 or Formula E.

Mixed gender F1 would send strong statement

In a time where the TV audience is also dropping it would open up motorsport to a new demographic and can help inspire future generations of women to take up motorsport and maybe one day find a female Lewis Hamilton who could take the challenge to the man himself.

It is not a long term solution and should not be considered as such, it is about breaking down a barrier that has hindered F1 and all sports for such a long time as the sight of men and women battling it out on the same track, golf course or football pitch remains far too rare indeed.

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