‘The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don’t think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race.’ And BAM, we’re back in the 1950’s, thank you Sir Stirling Moss. No, do not adjust your sets, we haven’t just warped back to a time when women were mainly meant to bake pie and live in the kitchen, looking after children, cleaning the house, possibly working part time as a secretary and slowly developing a bad gin habit out of pure boredom, this is in fact a quote taken this week from legendary F1 driver, Sir Stirling Moss, when asked about the possibility of women racing in the top races. The fact that he was being interviewed for a Radio 5 Live special tonight (21:30) tonight on women in F1 should have given him a clue that perhaps this wouldn’t be quite the right thing to say, but then again, everyone is also entitled to their opinions regardless of how far off the mark and down right sexist they are.
The part that raised the most eyebrows in Sportist HQ was that Moss thinks its entirely the mental side of the race that women won’t be able to handle ; “We’ve got some very strong and robust ladies, but, when your life is at risk, I think the strain of that in a competitive situation will tell when you’re trying to win.” So there you have it, despite all the training preparation, drive and ambition, ladies, with their strong bodies but tiny lady brains, will probably just break down and weep in their cars. And nobody will ask them what’s wrong as they’ll all know it’s women’s issues because of their tiny lady brains and the issues that no one talks about.
At 82 years old its easy to see Sir Moss’s comment as a very good example of a massive, cavern like generation gap. From his above comment I know many men who would also struggle to concentrate if their lives were at risk whilst they tried to focus on winning.However back in Moss’s day a) many women didn’t have the opportunities or enjoy the freedom they do today (although Sir Moss’s younger sister, Pat Moss, is still regarded as one of the most successful female rally car drivers of all time) b) The cars were a lot more dangerous. This is in no way saying that modern F1 is like a bob about in a ball pool, however the teams now come equipped with armies of engineers, scientists and mechanics working around the clock to make the cars as safe as humanly possible under the circumstances.
The idea of the generation gap as one of the reason’s older men come out and say ridiculous things is the approach Susie Wolff has taken in response to Moss’s comment. Wolff is now in her 2nd season as William’s development driver and desperate to earn herself a permanent spot in the F1. She also goes on to point out that thanks to these tough economic times its not her as a woman struggling to gain sponsorship and secure a seat, but her as a young, relatively unknown driver, in a pool with many other young drivers trying to make their way into the limited spaces in the top competition. Still, with comments like Moss’s and a follow on one from Mr F1 himself Bernie Eccleston speculating that although there’s no problem with women competing against men, they won’t ever make the top teams, it puts a slight dampener on Wolff’s ambition and optimism.
All quotes taken from this bbc article http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/22083547. Image from there too (thanks!)