Bernie Ecclestone at centre of sexism row after claiming women F1 drivers 'wouldn't be taken seriously'

Ecclestone's comments come on the same day as the launch of former Williams test driver Susie Wolff's new campaign to increase the number of women in motorsport

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone
Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone is at the centre of a sexism storm after he claimed that there may never be another female driver on Formula One because they “wouldn’t be taken seriously”.

The controversial statement came on the same day that the former Williams test driver, Susie Wolff, launched a new initiative named “Dare to be Different” in order to bring more women drivers into elite motorsport.

Last week, the first ever female driver in Formula One, Maria Teresa de Filippis, died at the aged of 89, 58 years after she created history when she made her competitive debut in Monaco before going on to race in five world championship events, making three starts in total.

Wolff announced her retirement from Formula One at the end of the 2015 season when she accepted that her chances of sealing a place on the grid were growing increasingly more unlikely, but Ecclestone’s comments will do nothing to build Wolff’s intention of inspiring the next generation to compete in a heavily male-dominated sport.

"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," Ecclestone said in an interview with Canadian broadcasters TSN.

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

33-year-old Wolff, who hails from Oban in Scotland and is married to Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff, admitted that she is more determined after Ecclestone’s comments to prove that women can compete with the best drivers currently in Formula One.

Susie Wolff announced her retirement from F1 last season

Wolff attempted to gain support last year for an all-female championship, but she has since changed her plans and wants to help women break into the main championship, where she became the first woman to compete in a practice session in over 20 years.

Wolff said: "I have raced my whole career as a normal competitor. Why would I look for a race where I was only competing against women?”

Wolff has so fan recruited GP3 driver Alice Powell. The 22-year-old Oxford driver remains the only woman to score points in the feeder series, and Powell admitted that she is setting out to prove Ecclestone wrong after his ill-advised outburst.

"Someone needs to prove Bernie wrong,” Powell told the Press Association. 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 though – that people don’t take the chance – as they think it will be a joke. We’re not a joke and it is just another factor which makes it harder for females to race at the highest level.”

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