Mario Andretti: ‘F1 more of a men’s sport’

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Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is once again in the news for controversial statements that we mentioned here but now he has a supporter in the form of American F1 champion and legend, Mario Andretti.

As TMZ Sports reported:

“Bernie doesn’t mince words. He says what he thinks. You could be more delicate about it, but Formula 1 has been in existence for what, 66 years, and we’ve only seen 5 women try and compete and none have really been successful.”

“The bottom line is you can make assertions until the cows come home. Saying women can do it. Bottom line, they have to prove it. You can’t just come out of the woodwork and say ‘I want to be a F1 driver.’ You need to earn your way there.”

“Will it happen one day? It’s impossible to predict, but I’d say probably yes. At the same time, someone else might say, if it was going to happen, why hasn’t it happened in 66 years?”

“I think it’s clearly more of a men’s sport. Could there be some women who are competitive? Like with tennis … could Serena Williams compete with men? I think yes, but could she win a major, I don’t know.”

“If women take issue because of the statements Bernie made, then go out and prove him wrong. So far no woman has even come close.”

Comparisons of sports like tennis, boxing or cycling may not be the best measuring stick. I’m not sure the world’s top female cyclist could hang with Alberto Contador in the Alps but who knows? I think that’s his point, we don’t know so go prove it.

It has been 66 years and there are many who may suggest that women haven’t been given the opportunity and I think that’s a different story but one I’m not sure bears up on closer measure. Marussia tried with tragic results and Williams did with Susie Wolff but she hadn’t acquired a Super License.

Speaking of Susie, she tweeted that regardless of Mr. E’s comments, he is a supporter of Dare to be different and she was very polite regarding his support:

Mario, for his part, is stating the unvarnished truth of the matter but that isn’t usually a welcome stranger in these days of social media outrage culture. Don’t ask me, I’m from Missouri and our motto is, “show me”.

I’ve been as doubting over many male driver’s skills and careers as I have been females and to me, it’s all about racing on merit and earning the spot regardless of your sex. If you don’t like pay drivers, then you may not like female drivers given a grid spot to be an also-ran. It shouldn’t be contrived, it should be on merit and that will legitimately answer the question.

Hat Tip: TMZ Sports

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MichaelB

How hard is it to say that somebody shouldn’t be qualified or disqualified from F1 just on the basis of their gender? It’s that simple. Mario comes pretty close to saying it, and I agree with the sentiment that if a skilled driver comes along who happens to be a woman she should get a chance at a seat…. But she shouldn’t get that seat just because she is a woman, just like she shouldn’t be disqualified from driving in F1 just because she’s a woman… You know as well as anybody else that Carmen Jorda catches the grief that… Read more »

Negative Camber

My hunch would be that she is a great PR person for the team and does a significant job for them. I’ve written about that before and that’s, believe it or not, a vital role for these teams.

MichaelB

Oh, I fully believe it, but her title is “Development Driver,” which begs the question- is Renault actually doing something to develop her?

We’ve never seen her actually drive the Lotus or Renault F1 car, and she hasn’t had a GP3 seat since 2014. I assume that she gets simulator time, but as good as their simulator may be – it’s still not seat time in an actual car.

From what the public sees, maybe her title would best be described as “Team Ambassador,” honestly if Renault did that I don’t think anybody would hold it against her.

Negative Camber

They are, they are putting her in a different series and doing sim work from what I’ve read.

Tom Firth

She’s doing the Renault Sport Trophy Am class – A one make RS.01 Renault series. Was at Aragon this weekend, finished 8th in class out of 11 classified finishers.

MichaelB

Which brings up another question – just what is the point of the development program and her participation in it? Bear with me here…

Given that she already has experience in F3, Indy Lights, LMS, and GP3, why is she back down in Trophy Am? If the development program is to grow future F1 drivers – shouldn’t she still be in a series that she can earn Superlicense points?

Is she a RenaultSport F1 development driver or just a RenaultSport (any discipline) driver?

Tom Firth

Ok so after a lot of trawling through Renault’s Website, at no point, anywhere does it list her as a development, academy or any other sort of driver. The only reference to her in relation to a position with Renault is that she is a Renault Sport Brand Ambassador, which is basically why she is driving RS01’s around Aragon, in the Am class. The reason she is in an Am trophy class is she has zero superlicense points and is highly unlikely based on any previous results to gain them. Are far far far more deserving drivers, female or male… Read more »

MichaelB

Honestly, I don’t have any problem with her being a Brand Ambassador, and from what we’ve seen from her that’s probably a pretty accurate description of her role. In my mind, the role of Brand Ambassador is nothing more than somebody who portrays the brand in a positive light and is sanctioned by the brand they are an ambassador for. Unless she has photos taken of her in a compromising situation or get stopped for hauling drugs into a country I think she’s doing that job quite ably… To me Brand Ambassador is a marketing, not a racing position.

Tom Firth

Yeah I should maybe clarify I have no problem with her being a brand ambassador at all. I think she’s doing great at it.

EDIT – Just don’t think the F1 affiliation was a great move with Lotus. Created a fair bit of negative publicity for her, as her results didn’t back up the position. If they’d said brand ambassador from day one, would of been better. Just my opinion

MichaelB

What series? Everything that I can find is that she hasn’t driven an actual race car since 2014

Shocks&Awe

Having the title of “development driver” is probably a requisite of being an ambassador. If you simply call her an ambassador, then she’s nothing but a PR shill. Being a development driver gives her the credibility to the the PR job. And I think she does have the credibility. She may not be top tier, but it seems to me that there are a lot of good racers out there that have never gotten great results. So good but not great, is still credible in my book. I’m done enough ameteur racing to know how hard it is to be… Read more »

Tom Firth

Disagree, I’d agree with your comment for every other rung on the ladder, absolutely but if you are associated with an F1 team, Good isn’t good enough, although it seems to pass these days, more often than it should.

Shocks&Awe

You’re too focused on the driver aspect of being a “development driver”. Focus a bit more on the PR aspect, and it’s a different story. For example, Kimi would be a terrible choice for a ‘development driver’.

MIE

That brings up an interesting point. Teams are limited to 70 personnel at the track. The PR department and caterers are extra to this number. As a development driver, does she count as part of the operational team, and therefore come within that 70 limit? If so, she must be adding significant value to the team.

Peter Riva

Equality of merit? That’s your only perspective? How about the $$$$ it takes to get a super license, the years of sponsors (who all associate with male drivers for male products – Malboro, Martini, US Military, etc.) If you HAD a level playing field then perhaps you would see if there were any real competitors. If Tennis and all sports PAID women athletes equally then perhaps talented people would come foreward (and don’t use Danica as an example – without equality Internet provider GoDaddy she would never has the $$ to get where she has – NO ONE sponsor would… Read more »

Peter Riva

By the way, “your” in the above was meant to address Bernie, obviously.

Negative Camber

when do they play the US Men’s team? Not collegiate. Surely the opportunity is there to set that match up isn’t it? I agree with MIE above, motorsport is an arena where they could compete and do well. how many want to? And of those few who do, how many have the skills necessary to make it to F1? This sin’t a simple percentage equation where roughly 50% of the world is female so the grid should reflect that. I’m a fan of Simona di Silvestro and she was a Sauber reserve driver but how many young women want to… Read more »

Peter Riva

Olympic men’s vs women’s? The US soccer association would not allow it I fear. “How many want to?” Is a good question. Would Hamilton’s dad or Tiger Woods’ dad have pushed them unless there were opportunities there – larger rewards – compared, say, to accountancy? Women will never be interested in a sport that has sex barriers in addition to a even playing field. Look how many complained about Keke’s $$ help to Niki? Or Sainz’s father… or Damon Hill? Nepotism is akin to financial support. If women have less (much less) financial support because of their sex, then the… Read more »

Negative Camber

Shirley could drive! ;)

Shocks&Awe

Given the desire, opportunity, money and support necessary, I don’t think there’s any doubt that a woman could compete at the F1 level. I think it IS a simple equation. If the odds of getting into F1 are 100,000 to 1 (hypothetical number) and we’ve only had 30,000 women try, then statistically there’s no basis to say that women are incapable of doing it.

The fact that there are less women in motorsport cannot be used as the basis for saying (or implying) they don’t belong.

Tom Firth

The deltawing didn’t crap out… Meyrick crashed it.. twice.

Negative Camber

That’s right, he did have a moment and she had done a terrific job getting it in place to watch him blow it. It’s racing, that happens. :)

Jeff

A talented group of high school boys will crush the USA women’s soccer team. Men and women are built differently, nothing can overcome that. This is so overwhelming obvious that I cannot believe anyone could make a claim to the counter. My question, and I mean it in the most polite of manners, if you get soccer this wrong and have failed to understand the massive mental and physical differences between men and women at the margins, and especially at the outliers (check Nassim Taleb’s Twitter for excellent posts on fat tails), then what else about life are you getting… Read more »

MIE

There are currently only 22 F1 seats available. In the UK alone there are well over 30,000 competition licence holders, and judging from the gender split at most events, from small club level upwards, about 95% are male.
Motorsport is one of the few sports where men and women compete on equal terms, I think the lack of a female race winner in F1 isn’t due to lack of ability to compete, it is just so few women want to. So most of the really talented female drivers out there have never even sat in a racing car.

The Captain

I think a lot of it is women are constantly told it’s “a men’s sport”, so they get turned off by it. The women in our Autocross group are just as good as the guys and no one goes around acting like they don’t belong there. BUT once you hit a certain level of competition that ‘you don;t belong here’ attitude comes out. It’s a self fulfilling prophesy. You tell women they are undeserving of being in your sport, then when women don’t want to be in the sport because of that you say ‘see women can’t do this’. Which… Read more »

bobmendon

Women have been flying super high performance military jet aircraft for years. They use all the same skills and physical endurance as F1 drivers. So why the sexism in the sport?

Fred Talmadge

I think Mario is basically right, but there is no way to make this statement without controversy, especially when its initiated by TMZ at the airport. Better to just say something positive and move on, unless you really want to stir it up.

Shocks&Awe

I wonder what Lewis thinks of this.

Substitute “black man” for woman, go back to 2006 and say:
“At the same time, someone else might say, if it was going to happen, why hasn’t it happened in 56 years?”

jiji the cat

Bernie says…
” I told you so”

eggoman

It’ll happen eventually. We may be socially biased to intice boys to play with cars more. It’s part of our culture. This doesn’t mean I don’t think a woman couldn’t be competitive against a man on the racetrack. Give anyone 10,000hrs of training and they’ll be an expert.

geeyore

Yeah I know this is one of those hot button, media contrived and blatantly sexist social issues, but the fact is that no one gets to F1 – male, female, blonde hair, brown hair, short or tall – without a rigorous commitment to motorsport from an early age and then a progression through the racing ranks and feeder series such as Formula V8. It’s that simple. It’s a commitment to racing that takes decades. In that light this “imbalance” has exactly zero to do with F1. If anyone’s serious about this, they should be encouraging and financing 10-year old girls… Read more »

MichaelB

Unless you’re a Max Verstappen – in which case you jump most of the feeder series and go virtually straight from carts into F1…

MIE

But he did start karting at four and a half years old, rather earlier than most of the rest of the field who would have been eight or so when they started.
Ten is late to start if you are serious about getting to F1.

Meine Postma

I would go even as far as saying formula 1 is becoming an old men’s sport.

runnah

I’m all for gender diversity as long as it doesn’t come at a cost. I don’t want F1 to be “made easier” for women to be able to compete just to represent the gender.

Andreas Möller

It’s easy to say “just prove him wrong”, like Mario Andretti does. But the problem is that it is a far too shallow analysis. Just saying “if there are any women capable of competing in F1, they are free to prove it” completely ignores the bigger question: Why are there so few women in motor sports overall (not just in F1)? To find the roots of that, you need to go back to the kids doing the karting. Are girls encouraged to take part in motor sports? Are there enough reasonably rich parents willing to fork up the money for… Read more »

jiji the cat

Bernie and mario. The Stadler and Waldorf of F1.

Negative Camber

As a point, both Susie Wolff and Simona di Silvestro were reserve drivers for F1 teams and neither were given the main seat. Both those teams are ran by female team bosses.

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