F1: Bernie Ecclestone says female drivers would not be taken seriously

The Formula One chief also suggested the sport may never see a female racer again

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The Independent Online

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has claimed a female driver “would not be taken seriously” in the sport – on the same day that former Williams test driver Susie Wolff launched a scheme to increase the number of women in motorsport. Ecclestone also suggested the sport may never see a female racer again.

Lella Lombardi was the last woman to start an F1 race, in 1976 in Austria. Her only predecessor, fellow Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis, died at the weekend aged 89. 

But yesterday, when asked if he anticipated the return of a female driver to the grid, Ecclestone said: “I doubt it. If there was somebody that was capable they wouldn’t be taken seriously anyway, so they would never have a car that is capable of competing. 

“There was a girl that was driving in GP3 for a whole season so it is not something that hasn’t happened.”

He was then asked: “But it is not going to happen in the main event?” He replied: “No, I don’t think so.”

Wolff became the first woman to compete at a Formula One race weekend in more than two decades when she took part in practice at the 2014 British Grand Prix, but retired last year claiming her dream of reaching the starting grid was “unachievable”. 

Yesterday she launched the “Dare to be Different” initiative, and one of its ambassadors, Briton Alice Powell, who became the first female winner of the Formula Renault series in 2010 and has competed in GP3, said: “Someone needs to prove Bernie wrong. It would be a shame if a team would turn down a female to race in F1 because they would not be taken seriously.

“That is one of the issues, that people don’t take the chance, as they think it will be a joke. We’re not a joke and it just makes it harder for females to race at the highest level.”

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