Opinion: Danica Patrick shouldn’t be America’s ambassador for F1 broadcasting

Elizabeth Blackstock
Retired racer turned pundit Danica Patrick.

Retired racer turned pundit Danica Patrick.

Sky Sports has renewed its contract with Danica Patrick that sees the former NASCAR and IndyCar racer serving as a presenter for seven Formula 1 broadcasts in 2024 – but it’s high time to find a new American representative.

Patrick has often been unfairly maligned throughout much of her career for one reason or another: for showing or not showing her body, failing to live up to high expectations, sharing her opinions, for remaining in racing or retiring, and, primarily, for being a woman in a male-dominated space.

Her pivot to presenting has offered her a way to continue her involvement in motorsport since retiring from active competition. As F1 continues to grow in America, Patrick has since become something of a spokesperson for the American audience; unfortunately, her continued growth as a personality has led her down several unsavory paths.

Dismissive of Women

In July of 2023, Formula 1 debuted its first broadcast aimed at kids; Patrick was one of the adults offering guidance to a commentary and presentation team composed of teenagers.

During that broadcast, a commentator named Scarlett asked Patrick when we could see a woman racing in Formula 1 and Patrick dismissed the idea outright.

“I think the nature of the sport is masculine. It’s aggressive,” Patrick stated before continuing, “the mindset that it takes to be really good is something that’s not normal in a feminine mind. In a female mind.

“For me, if someone tries to make it difficult on me, I would go into an aggressive kill mode, right? … And that’s not a natural feminine thought.”

Regardless of one’s views about the ability for women to compete against men in Formula 1, a child-focused broadcast is not the time or place to actively discourage young women from pursuing their dreams — especially as F1 intends to invest so heavily in F1 Academy, an all-female racing series, in 2024.

Reducing any gender to essentialisms is harmful, and it’s especially inappropriate to share those dismissive views with young audiences.

Misinformation

Patrick hosts a podcast titled “Pretty Intense;” in the Apple Podcasts description, she describes the nature of the podcast as asking “certain questions” or encouraging people to challenge their long-held beliefs.

However, this podcast has provided platforms to the kinds of people that share misleading or false information.

She has interviewed controversial political figure Robert F. Kennedy, who the episode description lauds as having “revolutionary honesty about corporate corruption, vaccines and autism, CIA involvement in the JFK assassination, [and] the pharmaceutical industry.”

Many of the claims that Kennedy makes in the podcast are questionable or have been entirely debunked; for example, there is no concrete evidence that vaccines result in autism spectrum disorder, which is something that Kennedy has hinged many of his political beliefs around.

Other episodes have platformed the idea that aliens are directly responsible for human DNA, that humans choose the circumstances of their lives before being born, that we can reverse the biological age of our DNA, and that climate change is not real.

There is no crime in discussing one’s beliefs, but many of the concepts on “Pretty Intense” are hot-button topics that go unchallenged, which can create the illusion that these beliefs or ideas are actually facts.

While motorsport is inherently political, there is a big difference between offering legitimate discussions of controversial topics and endorsing a misinformed idea of that topic — something that should have been on the radar when it looked at continuing its partnership with Patrick, especially considering F1’s push to become climate neutral.

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Platforming Insensitivity

On September 19, 2023, Sherry Pollex, the former long-time partner of NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. died after a long battle with ovarian cancer.

Pollex and Truex dated for over two decades before they ended their relationship in January of 2023; the details of the situation were not released to fans or media, but Truex and Pollex repeatedly stated that they had split on good terms. After Pollex’s death, Truex released a touching but carefully worded statement — and Patrick took to Instagram Stories to call him out.

“I avoid negativity at almost all costs,” she wrote on her Instagram story. “But this is the most insensitive disconnected statement from a guy that I have never liked. And obviously for good reason. I don’t care what happened between them but this is as cold as it gets. A PR rep wrote this guaranteed. You’re free from this now Sherry.”

It was a strange move, one that fans quickly referred to as ‘insensitive.’ It was a shocking response to an undoubtedly complex situation, but it isn’t the first or only time Patrick has taken to social media to share something that could be harmful or in poor taste.

Just before the 2023 holiday season, Patrick shared an Instagram post of photos from her visit to Turning Point USA, a conservative group in America that was founded by Charlie Kirk, who was ‘cancelled’ for sharing misinformation about the highly publicised death of George Floyd in 2020.

More recently, the group has played on far-right fears that race and sexuality are brainwashing children to launch a campaign against teaching certain elements of history in schools.

While Patrick is free to share her political beliefs, supporting an organisation that has been regularly accused of hateful rhetoric should be a cause for concern.

Perhaps such a divisive presenter is not the right choice to appeal to a growing American audience.

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