Women not up to the challenge of F1?

http://f1.racing-live.com/en/index.html?http://f1.racing-live.com/en/headlines/news/detail/020925010910.shtml ]

(This link might not go straight to the page, but instead to the home page of the site. The link to follow from there is: “Women not up to the challenge of F1?” from 25 September)

Reading this got me thinking. Pure talent aside, are women really genetically disadvantaged while performing at the pinnacle of motorsport? I mean, if a woman can fly into space, then who’s to say she wouldn’t be able to cope with the physical and mental requirements of F1 or Indycar racing.

I personally don’t buy into that argument, but if women really aren’t disadvantaged in any way, why is professional motorsport the world over so dominated by men?

I don’t think it could simply be dismissed as a sexist thing. Like pretty much everything else today, racing is a business, and if a woman shows that she can race better than the next man, then she will be racing. Katja Poensgen from Germany is a good example. But she is still an exception.

So is David Coulthard right then?

Did you see Mr. Coulthard’s quote??

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a question of genetics,” he was quoted as saying in the Record. “Look at it this way, you buy little boys a tractor to play with and little girls a doll. Try it the other way and it just doesn’t work."

I was looking for left/right-brain differences, or which sex is physically more able to take a certain amount of g’s or whatever, and I get this crap comment?

I’ve a girl-friend here in town who races at the speedway, and seems to do a pretty good job at it. I don’t know much about racing though, so I can’t give really good arguments for against the quality of her racing.

May I comment though, there were and are a lot of areas in our culture dominated by men, and that some of these areas are dominated by men for no good reason besides “that’s the way its always been done” or whatever. When Marie Curie was winning the Nobel prize, she won it in a field dominated by men, and its not because she was a fluke woman-genius…its because she was brave enough to flout that culture’s conventions and do what she was good at.

Lateral G forces do indeed play a huge role in Indycar/CART and Formula-1 racing. A racing driver can routinely pull over 4g each time (s)he makes a turn. (Note that these lateral G forces are different from the vertical G forces experienced by fighter pilots – lateral G forces present no danger of having all the blood rush to your feet or head, but they do present a danger of having all the blood rush to one side of your body.)

(As you can tell from my username, I’m somewhat of a race fan, and a bit of an amateur racer myself)

I don’t really think that there is a physical reason a woman couldn’t drive an F1 car competitively, although upper body stength could be an issue, as well as body shape (F1 cars are custom built around their drivers)

However, there are definate economic reasons for it. Motorsports, as with most other sports, have a fan base dominated by men. For whatever reasons, male fans prefer male athletes (witness the relative popularity of WNBA vs .NBA, etc.)

So given the very tight relationship between sponors, teams, drivers, and fans in motorsports, it seems likely that the domination of male drivers is not in any danger.

This “sports mania gap” is one of the main reasons Title IX is such a sham and a tragedy, but thats a story for another day

I would have thought F1 racing teams would positively encourage female drivers. After all, they tend to be smaller and lighter than men, and thus easier to design cars around. I realise that F1 cars have a minimum weight requirement, but any designer would rather have a lighter driver so they can make the weight up with ballast placed low and central on the car to improve handling characteristics.

On the other hand, one of the major aspects of all racing drivers is that they are very competitive and aggressive. As an incredibly sweeping generalisation, these tend to be charateristics common in men, and less pronounced in women.

Cooties are normally bilaterally symmetrically distributed; pulling lateral g’s at professional racing levels runs the danger of the cootie distribution being forced to one side of the body. All sorts of health problems can result from this, such as total right-side hemorrhage. Next thing you know, sponsors are pulling their money, and the sport collapses.

That was a pretty vague quote by Mr. Coulthard. If I were feeling generous, I could interpret his quote to mean:

“Well, more men prefer to race than women, and this is most likely a genetic thing. Statistically speaking, more men are interested in trucks, and more women are interested in dolls, and this isn’t entirely due to social constructs, but is instead due to very real differences in the genetic make-up of people. Given the vastly smaller number of women who are likely to be interested in racing as compared to men, the idea that women, as a whole, will one day dominate the sport, or even fill as many of the top spots as men, is is rather unlikely.”

I’m sure that if he were more eloquent, that’s what he would’ve said. :wink:


Maybe women in general just aren’t as interested in this sport. I’m a man, and I still find it painful boring and pointless. I cringe everytime TNT calls it “drama.”

Does TNT carry F1? I didn’t know that.

I doubt there are any reasons why women can not compete with men in this sport. Perhaps there is some physiological reason they could not take the g’s, but I doubt it. It is probably just a case of few girls entering motorsports early in life, and thus none operating at the top level.

I would also take issue with the "men prefer male athletes…’’ Do a google search on Anna Kornikova! :wink:

But I specifically recall from Starship Troopers that women can actually take more g’s than a guy although admittedly Heinlein ain’t canon. Is this true? Anyone? Bueller?

No; the Speed Channel does, for the most part. A few races are carried by ABC (this year, it was Canada, Monte Carlo, Monza, and Indy).

There’s a venezuelan (Milka Duno) racer (woman). Of course she is not a Formula 1 racer, but… Is a woman.

Super Gnat, that is true. Studies have confirmed that women better handle G’s than men. Perhaps that’s why our current top fighter pilot is a woman.

I think it is more likely a matter of getting the sponsership than actually ability.

I don’t think that the problem is sponsorship. In fact, I think that a sponsor would rather prefer a woman, because there’s almost none in that field.

The problem is due to lack of interest from women to the sport.
When you are a boy you like cars and stuff, and if you’re interested (and have the money), maybe you would like to run in karting champioships. This doesn’t happen to women. When they’re girls, the prefer other things (just guessing. I would need a woman’s opinion).

FWIW, IRL racer Sarah Fisher got to take one of the McLarens out for a spin on Friday; it’s the first time in 10 years a woman’s done so.

Jeff got it exactly right, IMO. I guess I found DC’s quote decidedly non-pc, and therefore all the more hilarious. It does make sense though.

However, all said and done, how come there isn’t one single woman racer at the highest level of motorsport. I mean, surely there is a woman out there, who is aggresive enough, rich enough, competitive enough, and talented enough to race in F1.

As a (male) fan, I’d love to see a woman racing with the guys - I know it would make F1 more interesting, especially given Ferrari’s utter and total domination of the sport over that past few years.

I’m sure there are plenty of women with these qualities. However, something that I think most women know but that I have not seen mentioned in this thread is that women who try to break into any kind of “boys’ club” are almost always treated very, very badly. There aren’t a lot of women willing to put up with this when they could just as easily and just as successfully be doing something else.

<Insert “hugging the curves” joke here>


The question is really another one; can all humans be successful F1 drivers? It is most probably not so. Coulthard is being a first class ass-hat by not even knowing how extraordinary he is, male or female as he would be.

Here is a list of the stress that the human body has to endure during a F1 race.

Some sports doctors consider it the toughest sport in the world.

Add to that the need for an incredible capacity to take in, analyze and react to data that is essential to survive even through the first curve. F1 drivers usually do not test in at extreme high reaction speeds in comparison to other elite athletes, but test show that they have a simultaneity capacity widely beyond average.

Not less importantly, if you are of the physical requirement and the mental capacity you still have to have the incredible cool that it requires to launch yourself sitting in a box the size of a removal carton at hundreds of kilometers an hour knowing that your life depends on real time judgment calls demanding multiple simultaneous adjustments at centimeter precision. I guess you could just call it being nuts if you like.

Look for a human with the combination of all those traits and you’ve excluded most everyone in humanity from being peek performers in the area. To boot you have to be interested and happen to end up trying it even if you are capable. I am sure that just as many (or few) women have the mental capacity and mentality as men. I am also fairly certain that some women could stand the physical demands - although probably fewer.

In other words, as with any other physical sport it would be really hard to compete on equal terms and the F1 circuit would need a female competition class. However, given that it is near impossible to find human beings of any gender that can take it, and that there are due to the physical considerations even fewer women than men it would be pretty hard to fill the starting field, independent of if we played with dolls or tractors as four year olds.


Obviously my point was already made… it was a long and confusing weekend, and in my poisoned post clubbing moronhood my first read didn’t quite catch the gist of EllJeffe’s eloquent rephrasal of Coulthard’s babble.

Sorry for wasting anyone’s time.