The comments made by ex-racer and current member of the FIA’s Womens Motorsports commission, Carmen Jordá, regarding a separate championship for women were met with some derision by her peers and observers alike.
Easy for those already in the sport to dismiss it, but why not? History and the statistics speak for themselves. For whatever reason there has been a dearth of female drivers, Formula One in particular, and every other sport I can think of has separate competitions for men and women.
Between the first, Maria Teresa de Filipis in 1958 and the last, Giovanna Amati in 1992, there have been but three other female Grand Prix entrants. These were Britain’s former Winter Olympics team captain Divina Galica, the South African Desiré Wilson and the only one who met with any success, both for longevity and results, another Italian, Maria Grazia Lombardi – better known as Lella. That is five in total of which only two managed to qualify and actually race.
All of these women were accomplished racers in both single-seat and sportscars, Lombardi and Wilson went on to race several times at le Mans but with the exception of Lella Lombardi and a single start for Maria Teresa de Filipis they all failed to qualify for a single Grand Prix. And little wonder as they were driving outdated machinery in some cases two years old, or for Giovanna Amati a hopelessly outclassed Brabham, the team folding mid-season. Some of their entries were no more than a gimmick.
Apart from De Filipis who belongs to a different era, the only one who ever had a competitive car at her disposal was Lella Lombardi when she was employed as a fourth works March driver for much of the 1975 season. She scored half a point for finishing sixth at the Spanish Grand Prix (thus becoming the only female to score world championship points) and also finished an impressive seventh at the Nordschliefe. Team-mate vittorio Brambilla actually won a race. She was still with March for the opening race of the 1976 season in Brazil but her car, although still sponsored by Lavazza, was now painted in the blue and yellow of Sweden. And sure enough she was replaced soon afterwards by ‘SuperSwede’ himself, Ronnie Peterson. She did manage to qualify for one more Grand Prix later that year in RAM Racing’s year old Brabham – no mean feat. Overall, she made nine Grand Prix starts.
Her entry for the 1976 British Grand Prix along with Divina Galica is the only Grand Prix in history to feature two women. Unfortunately, neither was to qualify.
In more recent times Maria de Villota, Susie Wolff and Carmen Jordá herself had spells in Formula One but none of them apparently as a genuine race seat contender. Maria de Villota’s first outing in a Marussia at Duxford Airfield ended catastrophically and Susie Wolff was restricted to four Friday morning free practice sessions for Williams. Carmen Jordá was a Lotus/Renault development driver without ever driving the car in competition.
GP3 has seen several up-and-coming women drivers and in 2012 Carmen was joined by Vicky Piria and Alice Powell whilst more recently there has been Beitski Visser. But their careers have all stalled, at least in an F1 direction. At present there is Tatiana Calderón now in her third season. She is also a Sauber F1 test driver but at the age of twenty five and yet to drive in practice, is she ever likely to race?
Alexandra Mohnhaupt, highly rated in her home country Mexico, has won races in the NACAM series as well as competing in British F4. For 2018 she was to be team-mate to Jamie Chadwick in the British F3 Championship but she never raced the car and returned home to complete her studies. Meanwhile Jamie has since made history by becoming the first female British F3 winner. Let’s hope it’s onwards and upwards for her.
And this brings me back to Carmen Jordá.
Why not a Women’s series, not instead of mixed competition but to run alongside it, a championship using a representative single-make car offering a level playing field in which to demonstrate skill and race-craft in full-on competitive conditions? If races were held as a Grand Prix support event, even better. Bring them to the team managers and those who make such decisions rather than the other way around.
Carmen specifically spoke about the ‘physical issue’ for woman so let them show otherwise and hopefully if deserving, be given their chance with the men because there does not seem to be any other way they are going to get it.
Note: Many of these images are taken from original prints, negatives and slides that are nearly 40 years old and are therefore not reproduced to the same standard as current day digital images. All reasonable attempts have been made to ensure these images are reproduced to the best possible standard, however, in some instances colour casts and blemishes may be present.