As racers, we want to compete against the best drivers – regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or gender – and prove we are the best at what we do.”
The above words from British racing driver Charlie Martin formed part of a wider body of criticism aimed at the creation Formula W, the female-only racing competition that launched last year. Most of the criticisms centred around the idea of “segregation” of women in motorsport, and how that could ultimately lead to fewer chances for women in F1. Of course, advocates of Formula W will say that it could provide a gateway into F1, especially as the FIA has decided to award super licence points to the drivers.
Regardless, we aren’t going to have that debate here. Instead, we are going to look at other sports that have had both success and failure with integrating the genders to see if there are lessons that F1 can learn. The overall lesson? Motor racing is certainly not alone in having gender as a hot-button topic.
There have been several attempts to give female golfers a chance in the men’s tournaments, but it hasn’t gone too well. Annika Sorenstam was the first female player in modern times (since 1945) to play a PGA Tour event, but she failed to make the cut. However, Sorenstam, one would argue, got there on merit as one of the best female players in history. The Swede decided not to enter any more men’s tournaments, instead choosing to focus on building the profile of the women’s game.
On the other hand, Michelle Wie played over a dozen men’s tournaments in the 2000s, despite not having earned her spurs on the women’s tour. Wie was a precocious talent and became a decent golfer, but the decision seemed to be cooked up by sponsors hoping to cash in on the teenager. It left a bad taste in the mouth and still gets talked about today.
A really interesting one. The statistics of horse racing at lower levels suggest that there is little difference in the performances of men and women jockeys, but the latter tends to get overlooked in the high-profile events. That’s changing of late, but very slowly. For instance, Bryony Frost will get an opportunity for several rides at the Cheltenham Festival next month, including the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on 6/1 shot Frodon.
You can get odds & tips by 888sport for this upcoming event, but it’s enough to know that Frost is leading the charge for the women at the festival. Others like Lizzie Kelly have also had some success at the top level, winning Grade 1 races. However, it’s a case of women needing to fight for their spot at the top. If you look at other equestrian sports, there is no reason why women can’t succeed in horse racing. The evidence is irrefutable.
Capping off with one of the few sports that potentially allows men and women to go head to head in direct competition. Unfortunately, there is only one example of a woman competing in the sport. That came last year when Fallon Sherrock became the first female player to compete in the PDC World Championship.
Sherrock made it to the third round of the tournament, beating two male competitors along the way, and she has now cracked the top 100 in the world rankings. A one-off story, but someone has to be the first trailblazer. Who knows? Fairly soon we could be talking about someone like Jamie Chadwick doing the same in F1.