- Mohammed Ben Sulayem working with Domenicali to ‘improve access and the pyramid for women’s entry and progression’.
- No woman has raced in F1 since Lella Lombardi in 1976
International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to increasing female involvement in motorsport.
‘Since its foundation, the FIA has always supported and nurtured women in motorsport,’ said Ben Sulayem in a statement ahead of last weekend’s Formula One Belgian Grand Prix.
‘Motorsport is unique as under FIA regulations, women and men can compete on equal terms.
‘We will continue to actively encourage the participation of women, whether that be through our FIA Girls On Track Rising Stars programme, the presence of women in our race control, operations and technical teams, and other departments throughout the organisation or in partnership with our ASNs [National Sporting Authorities] with female volunteers and officials.
‘The FIA and FOM [Formula One Management] are committed to greater opportunity for women in the sport. Stefano Domenicali and I are working together to improve access and the pyramid for women’s entry and progression.
‘Throughout history, women have made their mark in motorsport, on and off track, and it is our desire, under my leadership, that the trend will continue for years to come.’
Ben Sulayem’s comments came after Formula One president and chief executive Domenicali admitted he did not expect a woman to race in the series imminently.
“Realistically speaking, unless there is something like a meteorite, I don’t see a girl coming into F1 in the next five years,” he said.
Despite this, Domenicali said it was “crucial to give the maximum possibility” for women to race in the series, adding that he is “totally dedicated” to making that happen.
The last time a woman took part in a Formula One race was back in 1976, when Lella Lombardi finished 12th at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Ben Sulayem and Domenicali’s quotes have again highlighted how far Formula One, and wider motorsport, still has to go to improve female participation.
Formula One’s various efforts include promoting the female-only W Series by running races as part of its support calendar. Evidently, far more is needed to ease women’s journey to Formula One.
Teams look to be taking note. In June, Alpine launched a new programme aiming to improve equal opportunities in motorsport. Don’t hold your breath, though. Laurent Rossi, chief executive of Alpine, told the BBC that discovering a competitive female Formula One driver was an “eight years’ programme”.