As difficult articles go, this one is probably pretty close to the top of the list: women in motor sport or, more specifically, women in top-level motor sport. I know that by writing this, I’m setting myself up for a fall, but bollocks to it, whatever I write can’t be any more offensive to women than Samantha Brick was, right?
Anyway, the internet is a bit of a buzz today with the news of Williams F1’s latest driver signing. A new development driver is hardly news, but this one’s a girl. I’m sure that many-a-Twitter feed is doing backflips at the moment, ‘OMG, finally a woman in F1, it’s so great, you go girl’ etc. But mine is not one of them. I think it is terrible news.
The woman in question is Susie Wolff (formally Stoddart) and I find her appointment to be, well, offensive, and terrible news for a sport that has always offered a level playing field for women. The chance for a woman to be at the top is there, and Michelle Mouton proved it several times in the most bonkers cars, and against one of the strongest fields the World Rally Championship has ever seen. She was mega. Probably still is.
I am not some kind of misogynistic, tiny-willied moron who thinks that women can’t drive. In fact, put me in any sort of car against Susie and I wouldn’t see which way she went (if anyone wants to set this up, I’m happy to be ‘embarrassed by a bird’) but I’m afraid we’re talking relatively here and this woman – in the grand scheme of top level motorsport and by all measurable parameters – can’t do the business.
Susie had been in the DTM for six seasons at the end of 2011, scoring a whopping four points. In total. Now, you don’t see many blokes being courted for Formula One drives having been in the points twice in 61 races, do you? So what on earth is she doing being handed Williams overalls?
That would be a second X chromosome, mixed with a dash of husband-on-the-Williams-board and sprinkled with ‘doesn’t she look nice in a bikini’, which is pretty sad really. If Williams specifically wanted a female, there are plenty of actually talented women in motorsport to choose from. Just off the top of my head: Alice Powell, Louise Richardson or Jessica Hawkins.
That would be a second X chromosome, mixed with a dash of husband-on-the-Williams-board and sprinkled with ‘doesn’t she look nice in a bikini’, which is pretty sad really.
The unfortunate fact is that Susie happens to have a husband on the Williams F1 board and a pretty face. Regrettably this appointment is based on nothing more than nepotism and marketability. Williams F1 say that her husband wasn’t involved in the decision, but that’s a bit like saying to someone ‘I’m not going to force you to do this by pointing a gun at your head, but I’m just going to put this gun here on the table, just in case’. We’re not idiots.
But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt (and not just for libel reasons); if he genuinely wasn’t involved, I almost think that’s worse, because it points to a decision based on nothing other than how she looks rather than how she can drive. Because she certainly can’t drive, and she certainly looks nice.
And that makes motor sport look bad. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than positive discrimination, because it undermines the achievements of people that are just good at what they’re doing regardless of the colour of their skin or whether they’re hangy or holey between the legs. It’s bad for the sport, and it’s bad for the women who are just great drivers. It sets a precedent that is so far out of date it’s beyond laughable and means that women coming in to F1 will continue to have the ‘well it’s just because she looks good’ cloud hanging over their heads. And that’s pretty naff.
Williams F1, and everyone involved in this deal, should be ashamed of themselves.
I could really/didn’t want to include this in the article, but I think Williams should offer a public apology for including this from Bernie Ecclestone as the final word in the press release:
"If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team.”
Also, things are better ‘behind’ the car in top level motorsport – it’s looking like the Peter Sauber will be succeeded as Team Principal of the Sauber F1 teams by Monisah Kaltenborn and Leena Gade lead the #2 Audi to victory as Chief Engineer in the 2011 Le Mans 24hr.
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