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Could Danica Patrick Be Formula One’s Next Female Racer?

Could Danica Patrick Be Formula One’s Next Female Racer?

Last October I posted about the history of the fairer sex in Formula One. It wasn’t a long post though, there have only been five ladies to have competed alongside their male counterparts, and only one who has scored a world championship point. And even then it was just a half-point as the race was stopped early. So I think it’s fair to say that the ladies have been vastly under-represented in Formula One for a very long time. Approximately 58 years, actually (and that’s just the organised championship). But over in America, female racers are getting more of a look-in, and recently a race was won by a woman; Danica Patrick. Of course, the media have reinvigorated their interest in the Wisconsin-born driver, and now there is even talk of Patrick hopping over the pond to have a go in F1. And it’s about bloomin’ time, I say…

Currently, Danica drives for Andretti Green Racing in the IRL IndyCar Series and started competing at this level in 2005. That year Patrick won the Rookie of the Year prize as well as the Most Popular Driver award (which we really should have in F1 just for comedy value). Danica scored 325 points and finished twelfth overall. Since then, Patrick has continued to improve both in results and the continued winning of the Popular Driver award. Currently, Danica sits in fifth in the 2008 championship. The Motegi round of the championship in Japan saw Patrick win for the first time, and now there is talk of the young star testing for HondaF1, the link being that Honda currently supply engines to Andretti Green.

Every driver would love to drive a Formula One car at some point in their life, so yeah, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a real, proper test. Danica Patrick.

Patrick went on to say that she had been recently asked to demonstrate a Formula One car in America, but refused because the organisers would be making her in to a show that would be embarrassing for her. But Patrick clearly wishes for a serious test, and given her ascent in IRL, perhaps the young racer deserves one.

Honda have denied any discussions with Patrick have taken place, but also said that they would be more than happy to offer Patrick a chance to test one of their Formula One machines. Katherine Legge was, I believe, the last lady to test a Formula One car, that being a Minardi back in 2005. However, the last female driver to attempt qualification for a race in F1 was Giovanna Amati, who competed in 1992. Unfortunately, it was with Brabham and the Italian driver didn’t really get anywhere with it. Skip forward 15 years though, and Formula One could be about to see its sixth woman to compete in the sport. I’m not going to hold my breath, but I might keep my fingers crossed.

[poll id=”9″]

Oliver White

11 comments

  • Not the proper place but…

    How can we go through another May 1st without remembering how sad we were 14 years ago. Magic is gone… but the magic is still alive… he was more than a racer he was a good man and his name is still raising money for the kids in Brazil.

    To me, and forever, he is one of the very great racing drivers, if not the greatest of them all… with Jimmy indeed ! I miss you champ !

    Sorry for using this space, not so sorry for what I wrote 😉

  • If it comes down to a raw question of talent I don’t think her chances are any greater than, say, Marco Andretti’s. But the whopping PR value of having not only a woman, but an American woman in F1, may be too much for Honda to resist.

  • Living in Canada I’ve had many opportunities to see her drive and she is good, but not good enough. Let’s face it, she just won her first IRL race and that doesn’t make you an instant success.

    Being a woman, this grabs headlines and so it should. It’s a great step forward for women race car drivers, but Danica needs more than that.

    Remember also that IRL is ovals and not road race circuits so her success and top skill resides in oval driving. Turning left and winning one race doesn’t mean you can be an F1 driver.

    Danica is also in talks with NASCAR as well and if she leaves the newly formed league here and goes to NASCAR, she would be better suited for it.

    Don’t get me wrong, she is a good driver and is great for the sport, but she isn’t ready for F1.

  • @Ago: That’s okay, May 1st should be remembered in some way, if not for Senna (and others who have passed from competing in F1) then for what was learned from that weekend and how the sport has become safer. It’s just an enormous shame that often it used to take the death of a driver before safety was improved.

    @Keith and F1-ToGo: Interesting to see that the voting is just about even as I type this (8 votes to 9 in favour of yes). Clearly some others feel Danica’s talent isn’t enough for Formula One.

  • At the moment she’s won a single Indy race, mainly do to team strategy. I don’t think she’s achieved the level of a Bourdais, Montoya, Zanardi or da Matta in U.S.-based open wheel. Based on that, she’s not ready for F1 (or NASCRAP, for that matter). Does she deserve a test? Sure, if Honda wants to give it to her. That’s the only way she’ll get the experience, but a competitive F1 seat? That a ways off.

  • @C.D.: Good point, I can’t disagree with your sentiment. Bourdais, Montoya, Zanardi, da Matta, even Villeneuve all achieved more in the US before heading over to Europe and F1. Didn’t da Matta do it the other way round? I’ll check, but before his shocking accident he had acheived more in the States than he had in F1.

    But as I type, it is 59% in favour of Patrick being able to succeed in Formula One given equal opportunity and a half-decent car. Where are all the pro-Danica commenters?

    Irrespective of potential success, I think it would be great to have Patrick in F1. Might shake up a few of the old traditional types and will give me someone prettier to look at over a race weekend.

  • da Matta won CART in 2002 before his F1 foray, so he had more American success than Danica in both his pre- and post-F1 phases.

    As for Patrick’s likely success in F1, I’m not really in a position to judge as I don’t know very much about her capabilities in IRL anyway (I saw her come third in a race last July, but that’s all I’ve seen of her). If she has the merit to be in F1 and wants to be there, she should certainly be there. However, it would be wise for her to at least consider doing a year or of GP2 first to acclimatise to the European way of motor racing, and also to strengthen her claim to an F1 seat with team bosses.

  • As ever, a wise voice shines through, Ali. GP2 is increasingly becoming very close to F1. Obviously not necessarily in terms of performance, but definitely in terms of perception, attractiveness and ‘inter-motorsport social-standing’. Glock made into F1 prior to GP2 (back in the F3000 days), skipped to America, then returned to GP2 before getting a second chance in F1. Was it humiliating for him to take an apparent step backwards? Maybe, but it paid good in the end. Well, for now at any rate. Maybe Bourdais would be doing better (not that he’s not doing well) if he had been given the opportunity to race around Albert Park, Sepang and Sakhir before hand.

    I think Patrick has merit to be in F1 simply because she wants to be. But whether or not she has the talent to be there is another matter. The unfortunate thing is, as with most other drivers, male and female, is that you just don’t know until they try.

    And it’s still 59% in favour of success, 41% against. So far, for me, the most interesting poll I’ve run.

  • What has Honda got to lose by signing her – atm they are trailing around at the back of the midfield and it’s hard to see that things could get much worse for them.

    However, what has Patrick got to lose by signing to Honda? If she does and does not fare well because of the car, that will be overlooked and the blame laid squarely on her shoulders as a driver, and a woman. Her entire sex will be judged by her performace.

    The backlash may even be enough so that it becomes even more difficult for other women to step up to the plate.

    If I was her and definately wanted an F1 seat, I’d make sure it was in a more competitive team, or at the very least that Honda’s star was in the ascending phase.

  • the term “equal opportunity” is rather tricky in F1 …

    few tests would definitely do no harm to F1. the fact that she is woman and well known among the racing fans in US would sure help to promote F1 in the US probably more than Scott Speed’s short Red Bull / Toro Rosso F1 career

    whether she could succeed in F1 or not that is too early to tell. we haven’t seen her driving F1 car yet 🙂

  • I think Danica Patrick would be fantastic for Formula One, for many different reasons.

    Without sounding too condescending, she is female, good looking, American, and an extremely fast and talented race car driver.

    I have been very fortunate to see her race for the last two years at the St Petersburg Indycar series race and she drove very well on those occasions. If F1 wants exposure, especially in the United States, it needs a sensation the American race public can identify with.

    Just look at Spain’s interest in F1 before the arrival of Fernando Alonso, and compare that to what it is now! Ofcourse, comparing the two is a little bit much, but my point is you have to

    give the audience one of ‘their own’ to cheer for, and someone that is good and with a chance to achieve success.

    F1 has suffered in America because of the lack of American drivers making the transition, being good enough in other words, to compete in F1. It is a sad state of affairs that America’s last F1 champion was Mario Andretti thirty years ago, and with all the good will in the world, Scott Speed was no Mario Andretti.

    Just look at Great Britain, with her imput into F1, her knowledge and understanding of the sport. Until Lewis Hamilton came along, viewing figures in Britain were floundering for F1, but in less than a year had seen nearly a 45% rise on those from 2006.

    Why? Because Hamilton has the ‘look’ aswell as the speed. Image, image, image, is what sells the quickest, and by aquiring Patrick, F1 could finally crack America once and for all.

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