Mohammed Ben Sulayem insists FIA is committed to women’s racing

Michelle Foster
Toto Wolff and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in the Mercedes garage. Hungary July 2022

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem in the Mercedes garage. Hungary July 2022

After criticism of Stefano Domenicali for his comments about women getting to Formula 1, Mohammed Ben Sulayem insists the FIA will “actively encourage the participation of women” in motor racing.

The Formula 1 CEO recently earned the ire of Sebastian Vettel and other drivers when he poured cold water on the prospect of a female racing in Formula 1 in the near future.

“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. “That is very unlikely.”

He did, however, add that he is working to improve the system, as to be “able to give the chance for girls to be at the same level with the guys, they need to be at the same age when they start to fight on the track”.

His comments did not go down well with Vettel, the German calling on female racers to prove the Italian wrong.

“I know Stefano and I think it was, I haven’t read exactly, but it was a very unlucky choice of words,” said the Aston Martin driver.

“It’s important we don’t say these things because there are sparks everywhere. I don’t see a reason why we can’t have a woman on the grid.

“I think the challenges we are facing, they can be faced by women. So I do the opposite. I encourage every girl at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table to speak up and prove Stefano, in this regard, wrong and all these people wrong.

“Let’s say certain things can’t be done by you, because you are a girl or a woman, I think this sort of stereotype thinking is slowly disappearing but has to disappear completely.”

Such has been the backlash, the FIA president Ben Sulayem has now weighed in.

The 60-year-old released a statement on Saturday in which he heralded the efforts the FIA are making to include women in motor racing both on and off the track.

He reckons such is motor racing that women can compete with men on “equal terms”.

“Since its foundation, the FIA have always supported and nurtured women in motorsport,” Ben Sulayem said. “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 with female volunteers and officials.

“The FIA and FOM 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.”

Formula 1 does promote the all-female W Series which races on the support programme at selected grands prix.