There are many reasons why there currently isn’t a female driver behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car, and one of those reasons has to do with the sexist mentality found at the top of every racing team’s board of directors. Cue in Red Bull Racing’s Helmut Marko who, despite being called a “consultant” to the team, basically calls the shots at the F1 squad along with team principal Christian Horner.
Marko recently went on record with the Kleine Zeitung newspaper about whether women have what it takes to compete at the pinnacle of motor racing. During the brief interview, Marko presented multiple reasons why he thinks women wouldn’t be able to cope with the physical and even psychological demands of Formula 1.
“Wheel-to-wheel fighting at 300 kph (186 mph) means you must have some brutality,” Marko told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper. “I don’t know if that is in the female nature.”
“These are huge physical demands,” Marko added. “And that is maybe too difficult and too strenuous for women.”
While Marko is free to voice his personal opinion, these comments are anything but constructive at a time when diversity in all sports is a priority to the bodies that govern them. In fact, the recent creation of the W Series, an open-wheel racing series specifically designed to give women a sort of ladder to get to Formula 1, shows how desperate the top echelon of racing drivers is for inclusion.
“There are now power brakes, but still you have to go in there with a lot of effort,” added Marko. “You’re encased, and temperatures in the cockpit are (100-120 degrees). The hot cables run past you. We’ve seen top drivers who were just about to collapse in Singapore, and I think the physical strain is way too big (for women). You have to be fit in Formula 1, and you need an insane power from the shoulder.”
According to Jim Leo, founder of PitFit Training in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the fitness coach for male and female IndyCar drivers (and even McLaren CEO Zak Brown), Marko’s opinion on the subject is “misinformed.”
“It doesn’t require massive strength, other than the neck, to drive in F1,” Leo told The Drive. “This is not just my view but that of many drivers who have driven both F1 and IndyCar.”
If Marko thinks that women can’t cope in small, cramped, and hot cockpits, maybe he should have a word with Courtney Force, 12-time NHRA race winner. Or perhaps Marko thinks the cockpit of a top-fuel drag racer that rockets to 325 miles per hour in a matter of seconds resembles the presidential suite at the Four Seasons?
Call me passionate about this subject, but as the father of a seven-year-old girl who races go-karts and rides dirt bikes—rain or shine— something tells me Marko’s opinions are a load of BS.
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