Female drivers need to ‘feel welcome’ in Formula 1

Date published: October 29 2021 - Henry Valantine

Danica Patrick at the Indy 500. Indianapolis May 2021.

Danica Patrick has said female drivers need to “feel welcome” if they are to progress up the motorsport ladder and into Formula 1.

The former NASCAR and IndyCar driver moved to Europe to race in the junior categories growing up, but she admitted that she did not feel “equal” when doing so, and felt on a more level playing field upon returning to the States to continue her career.

When it comes to Formula 1, her name was linked with a move across from IndyCar, but no move ever took place, and she feels Bernie Ecclestone’s past comments have not helped in terms of the wider attitude towards potential female Formula 1 drivers.

Ecclestone said back in 2005 that “women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances” when referring to Patrick, and she said that the culture of motorsport – in Europe in particular – needs to change if a female driver is going to reach Formula 1 one day.

“I can remember some negative things that Bernie Ecclestone said about me, so maybe say nice things!” Patrick told RACER when asked how female drivers’ chances of reaching Formula 1 can be improved.

“Make people feel welcome! I’m sure you can drum up that quote…

Danica Patrick on Sky F1. Austin October 2021.

“I can definitely speak to this in terms of domestic in the States and in England — I definitely didn’t feel like I was as welcome in England as a girl. So I always felt like England and Europe were more behind in their social structures and their hierarchy of who does what and gender dynamics. I don’t know, for me that’s how it felt.

“I felt like I was way more welcome when I came home. I felt like people were genuinely excited to have me around; I felt equal, but it didn’t feel like that in England. So maybe that’s part of why you don’t see as many females come through and up the ladder to go to Formula 1.

“What changes that? The people in charge have to change their attitude. It’s like a cultural thing, it’s like a cultural norm. You can see it in the States all over the place — all kind of different cultural things really getting pushed through and lots of narratives and a lot of drama around it. There’s a lot of initiative here to make things not normal, normal.

 

“I don’t know if that’s as much of how it goes in the old world, you know? I don’t know if that’s normal. I haven’t lived there in a long time, so I would imagine that it’s better than it used to be, of course. I was there in 1998-2001, so over 20 years ago. I’m sure it’s different now, but I know the States progress so even if the world is progressing at the same rate, when I experienced it at the same time we were in different spots.

“I know that’s maybe a controversial answer but I had direct experience of it so that is what I felt. I mean, the boss said something about washers and wearing white! I mean, what?! There you go, do I need to say any more when the man in charge of the series is saying things like that?”

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