Sport Motorsport Women ‘not strong enough’ to race: F1 boss
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Women ‘not strong enough’ to race: F1 boss

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Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has declared women would not have the physical capacity to drive an F1 car competitively.

Ecclestone, who has never been shy of airing an opinion, was speaking at an advertising conference in Europe – fitting, given his sport is a succession of mobile billboards driven at high speeds.

Ecclestone, 85, said he doubted whether females have the strength to pilot the world’s most powerful cars.

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“I don’t know whether a woman would physically be able to drive an F1 car quickly, and they wouldn’t be taken seriously,” Ecclestone said.

Ecclestone did, however, say he expected more women to be running companies in the future because they are “more competent” and “don’t have massive egos”.

Susie Wolff was a pioneer for women in F1. Photo: Getty
Susie Wolff was a pioneer for women in F1. Photo: Getty

Proving gender equality isn’t the only issue on which his views are steeped in controversy, Ecclestone said he felt Vladimir Putin should be running Europe, declared immigrants have made no contribution to the UK, and announced support for US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Ecclestone’s comments come three years after former driver Sir Stirling Moss, 86, questioned whether a woman had what it takes to drive F1.

Moss, however, did not question the strength of women – rather their psychological capability.

“I think they have the strength, but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel,” he told the BBC.

Ecclestone’s comments prompted a backlash from successful female drivers, such as Britain’s Pippa Mann – an IndyCar racer who has competed in the Indianapolis 500.

Mann tweeted: “Sigh #HereWeGoAgain.”

“Perhaps someone should remind him that IndyCar doesn’t have power steering, and we’re strong enough to drive those.”

IndyCar is something of a proving ground for female motorsport pioneers.

In the 1970s, Janet Guthrie began racing, while since the start of this century Mann, Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro have all competed.

Scottish woman Susie Wolff was the most recent woman to chase a drive in Formula One.

After seven years racing German touring cars, she was employed by Williams as a test driver, even driving in grand prix practice sessions in 2014 and 2015.

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Lella Lombardi was the first – and still only – woman to score points in a F1 race. Photo: Getty

Wolff was hopeful of being handed a chair, and wrote an impassioned call to arms for women to get involved in motorsport in an August 2015 edition of Autosport Magazine.

“In the past, we have seen pioneers such as Divina Galica and Lella Lombardi, who were trailblazers for women in Formula 1,” Wolff wrote.

“In my role as test driver with Williams, I am on the verge of breaking through the glass ceiling.

“But the sustainable progress will be made when it’s no longer unusual to see women racing and winning in motorsport.

“Ultimately, it all comes down to opportunity – giving talented girls the chance to prove themselves in the lower categories.

“There’s no question that, as a woman, you have to work harder to earn the respect initially, as there is the slight doubt from many people that you’re capable.”

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