Why AREN’T there more women in Formula 1, eh?

Lella Lombardi being an absolute ledge as per

Look, I can’t believe I’ve even let myself get into this but it was Friday and I’m tired and it’s been such a terrible week and just let me live, sometimes you have to write a reactive thinkpiece even when you know you should be better than this.

It’s true that a lot of male motorsport journalists thoroughly avoid the “minefield” of talking about women in F1 — or motorsport in general and that, given nearly every journalist is a man, perhaps they could consider changing this and giving some ladies some coverage. Not, preferably, in quite as spectacularly self-owning a way as Joe Saward has bravely plunged on into this week, though.

Actually to be fair to Joe, because underneath all the vitriol I’m actually quite a reasonable and kind person, it is probably a brave move to come right out and say “ladies, we’re barely humouring you.” And he’s probably going to be massively confused by the fuel-line fire that is blowing up in his face about his kindly deigning to think about us.

The awful thing is he probably actually means well, it’s just that this reveals how unbelievably dire the view of women in motorsport really is. How completely misunderstood any of the issues are. How naiive the very critical thinkers who purport to know about F1 are about it, even. Ayyysus.

In some ways I feel bad getting my massive corrector pen out on someone who’s clearly attempting My First Big Think about ladies in motorsport but seeing as that appears to have come 30 years into his career thinking about motorsport in general I suspect Joe will survive the burning criticism of I, an internet human who occasionally gets flung a press pass. Sorry mate, we gotta talk about this.

Mr Saward’s argument was, in some ways, one of encouragement. He’s not opposed to more ladies in motorsport, he’s just massively confused about them.

The idea hinges around the fact that if women were just better at motorsport, we’d be right up there — because people get to F1 on merit, not nepotism or opportunity, as we all know. The problem is that not enough ladies are trying and those that are aren’t trying hard enough so, honestly, we can’t expect there to be any. He also forgot there have been any ladies in Formula 1 which feels like a bit of a massively crushing omission.

Joe, with three decades of motorsport experience, manages to make it sound like he thinks it would be a completely reasonable assumption that an incredibly well-qualified and experienced engineer would be selected by business-minded, cash-strapped team boss Monisha Kalternborn purely on the basis they share a gender, even as he praises Ruth Buscombe’s breakthrough into the sport. It’s… it’s not good fam. But I think it is, frighteningly, honest.

Which is a whole other thing we need to talk about. So let’s see if I can finish this before I head off to Brands Hatch for the Blancpain GT, cus fuck am I missing that to bash my head against this particular pitwall.

This is mega-long and I haven’t edited it and I can’t be bothered cus clearly no one else is but the TL;DR is that the reason there aren’t more ladies in motorsport is not a lack of talent, it’s that it’s difficult enough to get a race seat and ripping a dude out of it and installing yourself is nigh-on impossible because we keep coming up with damn fool notions like the fact they must have earnt it to be there as though driver selection is a science and not an exercise in unregulated HR. To get more women into motorsport we need to help out with a couple of crowbars to pry whichever lad thought he’d got that top team ride out, to reward teams who give chances on developing girls in the junior categories.

You need to rep for ladies on the track, around the track and behind the scenes, if you really want a change. Maybe you don’t, maybe your sad lad ass wants its go in the GP3 seat but don’t come telling me every single one of these white dudes earnt their every chance like it’s even a statistically plausible narrative, let alone critically valid and brave insight.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THE LADS:
I’m not trying to put you off. Do have a think about ladies in motorsport. The absolute last thing I want you to do is not do that. Any mental flailing is better than a DNS. Just like, maybe attempt to stay on your line enough not to spectacularly bin it at the first corner because you have literally no idea how to drive this discourse.

It’s important to talk about what we observe, as journalists, so…

you only think it’s a meritocracy when you’re on the top

No person, looking at entry to F1 with a critical eye, could think it is a meritocracy. It’s literally not possible. Unless, of course, you think that the merits society is looking for are a complex mix of rich dads and willingness to consume energy drinks until your heart explodes.

Which, I guess, in late-stage capitalism, is hardly inaccurate. But to suggest it in conventional sporting terms is just straight-up a nonsense; good drivers are dropped or passed over, bad drivers can stick around or get there with cash, teams and deals and opportunities live and die on complex sponsorship deals and risks that backmarkers grip to, white-knuckled and the frontrunners get perversely funded to avoid. F1 is a meritocracy like the Facebook algorithm is — some quality content you love is gonna float to the top occasionally but statistically it’s a lot more likely to be sponsored nonsense of only tertiary interest.

Obviously ‘good’ and ‘bad’ has a threshold here in that I doubt I’d be allowed a go in an F1 car even if I had absolutely stackloads of cashola, thanks to my foolish omission to get a super license. Daft really but you can’t remember everything eh.

But ‘not absolutely any rando with a wodge being allowed a go on the brum brums’ is not a level playing field. Let us consider the fact that even winning F/GP2, the official feeder series to Formula 1, is not any kind of guarantee you will get there — even if you’re in a junior driver programme for an F1 team. Even if you do make it, being in a feeder F1 team doesn’t mean you’ll make it into a competitive car. You can literally be backed by the team that’s dominated the hybrid era and find yourself tootling round with last year’s engine and a major question-mark over your future in the sport.

F1 is run on whimsy and luck and circumstances. Ok, yeah, you can game it with grit but it’s essentially a giant roulette wheel of pitfalls and you could go as absolutely all-in as you want, be as talented as you like and still never have anything happen. Just ask the slew of last year’s GP2 departees, the endless list of ludicrously talented Red Bull Friendly And Caring Programme offcuts lighting up other series.

Even as a journalist, PR or engineer it’s almost essential to have strong networked connections (family, etc.) into motorsport to get an in. Obviously you do get the odd breakthrough but if your mum and dad we’re taking you down the racetrack every weekend as a kid you’ve probably blown your chance of some of that before you’ve picked your AS Levels.

And that’s mostly just the blokes, of course.

I have been to Abkhazia and it is not full of F1 drivers

Weird niche here but Joe brought it up -

Formula 1 just wants good people — and they really don’t care whether they come from Abkhazia or Merthyr Tydfil

As yr friendly local Caucasus correspondent the only possible route into F1 I can think of, from Abkhazia, is that there are some massive, gaudy oligarch mansions in Sukhumi/Sokhom and I guess that’s yer cash sorted. And Sochi Autodrom is only 30 minutes away from Gagra so provided you’re not an ethnic Georgian incapable of crossing the border that’s convenient.

Otherwise the structural difficulties of coming from a (depending on yr mileage, trying not to get too deep into this here) annexed/unrecognised region that has almost no economy and recent, devastating wars will probably screw up your chances. You can’t get car bumpers in Abkhazia, fam, let alone an F1 drive.

While we’re talking ‘bout the Caucasus, which is one of my favourite topics after motorsport anyway and since we were just right there for the Russian Grand Prix, let’s chat Chechnya, another war-torn zone of that part of the world. Been on the news a bit for the last few decades for universally bad reasons, the most recent of which is the horrifying tragedy that is the attempted, systematic and apparently politically unchallenged extermination of the homosexual population.

Now even imagining F1 doesn’t care if you’re gay or out - which is a fiction - you’d have to think its particular brand of not caring would be an aggressive form if it thinks that carting the show off to the vicinity of homosexual death camps and canoodling with the head of state that could and is refusing to stop this grotesque crime is the sort of thing you’re likely to feel cool with.

Formula 1 is difficult to get into if you’re a white bloke with money from Western Europe. There’s only 20 drives and there’s a heck of a lot of junior category talent that has to fall away to hone it down from that. And you don’t have to be a white bloke with money from Western Europe to go here but it takes an exercise in evolutionary psychology too far to not notice that it gives you a damned good start.

(Statistically you should probably also be Finnish, I guess —no idea what their immigration process is like but worth a thought, if you’re in F4 or whatever eh)

As for whether F1 cares if you’re pink or brown. Mate, look at this absolute shambles over the colour of a flippin’ car:

No homo, ey. Can’t believe he hasn’t deleted this tweet, what an embarrassment.

F1, as the pinnacle of motorsport’s complex tier of filtering systems, is homogenous, bound by its own traditions beyond the safe and sane limits and wrapped up in its own lore. The thing about being someone who fits into that, within it, is that you won’t even notice — everything in the environment will be telling you you are normal. Or perhaps extraordinary, even, in somewhere styled as a the absolute top step of a technologically evolutionary ladder.

Of course you can be a woman, be non-white, be LGBTQAI+ in motorsport and you can make it and you might find that you have virtually no barrier to doing so due to your own talent but that sounds like a really unlikely story unless you’ve got ducks in such an enormously long and incredibly precise row you’re going to have to refuel halfway down it. Breaking the mould is all very well but it tends to make you come out a bit weird and end up in the factory remainders.

what even was this bit?

Keep thinking about this paragraph. It’s so bad it feels mean to highlight it but I kinda… I gotta… someone thought this was a good insight man. I can’t even. I need a drink.

It is easier for women to raise money but what is really required is an extraordinary talent. The people who drive F1 cars all have astonishing ability and it is difficult to find such talent when the drop out rate of girls after karting is a serious problem. We thought that Sauber had found a bona fide female competitor when it announced a development deal with Simona de Silvestro a few years back, but she failed to break through, largely because she could not raise the money required.

…eesh. And this is someone educating future motorsport personnel. This breaks my heart.

Anyway, logical fallacies aside it’s obviously not easier for any women in any sport to raise sponsorship money — a list of the highest-paid sportspeople in the world alone would have to smack you in the face with this fundamentally objective truth at about the same speed as Serena Williams serves.

Motorsport is interesting in this respect as a lot of the gendered sponsorship asymmetry is due to the lack of TV coverage for womens’ sports. But hey we can compete with the dudes here! Equal repping — so in theory #brands want to be on that nosecone whether you’re a boy or a girl.

So why are girls dropping out of karting? Fortunately I know some girls who do karting so could actually ask, like a journalist. Big thank to my internet daughter F for answering:

F-

I’ll try and tell you what I have experienced in karting in Hungary. So firstly, when you start karting you immediately get the looks that tell you: you’re just a GIRL and there are only a few people who don’t judge just because of your gender. After a while you’ll get more accepted, unless you crash a lot because you’ll be told that you are a shitty driver and girls can’t drive anyway 
If you are good though, it’s okay as long as you don’t try and get into a better team because most of the time it’s really hard to get into a better team if you are not extremely rich or in a good friendship with a team leader. 
I’ve seen girls finishing magnificent races and getting podiums, still after a while the quality of the team starts showing and they just can’t get better 
While some boys with the same or worse talent get to go to better and better teams and then eventually to higher categories and these girls get stuck there, hovering between 3rd-8th places during races.
And they lose the fun of it, so they give up and find another hobby

I think Joe was actually vaguely attempting to get at a point that would help somewhere, which is that normalising women racing in the lower categories would help to pull more in and inevitably increasing the pool increases the likelihood of some getting through. What he didn’t follow through here is that there are talents in that pool already, getting overlooked. That some mediocre dudes are going to have to step the eff back if some ladies are going to get those race seats and opportunities.

F concluded:

I’ve only met about two or three girls in a top team in the last two years. So I definitely feel like girls have worse opportunities unless they put something very very impressive on the table (like winning a Euro race) while boys who have just a tiny bit of talent are racing with the best engines and all that stuff.

When we talk about those twenty seats at the top, a man is going to have to be overlooked to get a woman into one. And men get so extra about that because they got here on merit, dammit!

The other kart racing girl I spoke to, had some more of those financial specifics:

I think it’s a lot harder for girls to get the sponsorship needed to pay for seats in good karting teams like the Tony Kart works team which is like €5,000+ a season. To a certain extent the teams also discriminate and it takes more to impress them as a girl than it does for a guy, in my opinion.
Moving up to Formula racing is quite difficult sometimes purely because sponsorship is shit. Really masculine brands don’t wanna know and feminine brands like hair parlours and sh*t don’t think you’re advertising to the right audience.
So I only ended up doing like 2 f4 races in the end because of money mainly. But in some ways it’s a good thing because you stand out purely because your a girl so scouts for trams and stuff are more likely to notice you.

Which is a good positive to end on, I guess. There are some chances, it’s just there’s a lot of obstacles.

you will never break the chain

Ayyy there are loads of ladies doing really well in motorsport at the minute. It’s great. I’m so excited about Tatiana Calderon and Jamie Chadwick that I’ve interrupted my 24/7 stanning of Simona de Silvestro to give them more time. I’ve flung myself so hard at Electric GT I think I broke the website earlier because it’s got some of my favourite ladies from other series in. I spend a lot of time worrying about Carrie Schreiner and Sophia Floersch’s careers. I feel like I don’t rep hard enough or talk enough about ladies in motorsport for someone who cares this much.

It’s cus I don’t. I know in my awful little heart I’m going to end up giving undue attention to the F1 blokes and their Instagram dogs or whatever because it’s easier to watch and it’s what everyone else is talking about and damn, that’s the problem.

You know who’s a lady who broke through? Alice Powell. Last lady to be in GP3, before Tatiana and the only other points-scorer. Alice was a really good shout to progress — first woman to win a Formula Renault series (indeed, two) but never set the world on fire in GP3.

Probably cus she was in one of the less reliable teams. We all know the spec formula have varying levels of reliability and engineering capability in the teams and Alice’s teammates didn’t really do much better. She didn’t get another chance.

And if she’d been Alan Powell then yeah, strong possibility I wouldn’t have even noticed her career and assumed she’d got there on cash if I ever did, had a quick season in a Grand Prix series despite not really having the skills and then headed off to university.

But Alice was a champion. She deserved a bit more of a chance. Normally someone would get one, with her previous record. But how long are you gonna spend as a back marker? How much are you gonna fight for sponsorship to feel like it isn’t working?

Will Buxton wrote a column last year about Formula 1 backmarkers and I think about it a lot when you look at the racing records of a lot of ladies who’ve managed to fight their way into one of the more noticeable motorsport series.

Imagine what it must take to then have to adjust a competitive instinct which has forever been focussed on victory, to one which, at best, is hoping to bring home just one solitary point. Imagine having to come to terms with that. Sure the house in Monaco, ridiculous car and little black book filled with Victoria’s Secret models’ phone numbers can ease the pain, but these guys exist to win. Having to learn to live without that most addictive of drugs, to have to go cold turkey while you watch those around you soak up the taste of success, must be galling.

Which is all well and good when you’re one of the F1 lads getting a bit looked after but I don’t remember seeing any lady racing drivers rocking out down the Boulevard Princess Charlotte with Harry Styles and Zayn on their arms to make up for having to tediously try and hope the car doesn’t blow up at the back of the grid every weekend with an unsupportive, struggling team and little hope of being picked up into a junior programme.

Still get a little thrill every time I think about the fact Tatiana Calderon and Marta Garcia Lopez are both in F1 team’s junior programmes. Six year old me is terribly excite and full of hope.

Alice is now going to be in Electric GT and I am massively, massively excited; I still think she deserves a seat somewhere, what she did was massive.

If you’re talking about women in motorsport, make sure you can list at least ten. I mean it. And you should be talking about women in motorsport so you’re going to have to get your sad asses onto Twitter and find some and follow them and get interested in their careers and go to their races and talk about them like you do the men.

I don’t care if you follow Carmen Jorda and like her Insta, that is really not trying hard enough and in Formula Talking About Ladies In Motorsport 2k17 we have minimum standards for your discourse license.

inevitable section talking about grid girls

When we have The Discourse™ about ladies in motorsport there’s one thing it always tends to focus on or be sparked by, which is them purdy models who hold the signs showing the men in onesies which car is theirs.

Now, I am all about glamourous ladies. I am all about glamourous ladies at motorsport. I am sometimes, in the right light and if my top hasn’t exploded and I haven’t poured coffee down myself yet, one of them. I am absolutely all-for more ladies at the tracks wearing absolutely whatever the fuck they like and if that includes contouring and necklines by Agent Provocateur then more power to you love I’ll sit here in me Primark kecks feeling envious.

I’m also all for glamourous ladies being employed. I don’t reckon you need to censor your glamour or suppress your femme to be in motorsport, that’d be rubbish — dress however you want so long as you’ve got your regulation fireproofs on at the specified times.

Do I feel an awful sinking sensation when I see grid girls in lycra catsuits rolling out in front of a collection of teenage, male F3 drivers? Yes. I’m not even against the titillation, really — I mean we’re all here cus it’s hella fun seeing something go fast and you get the little adrenaline burst of arousal about the cornering and it’s not that motorsport can’t be sexy, it’s that its bedroom repertoire is off-puttingly basic.

Many grid girls may themselves be mega fans of motorsport. Many of them may just be turning up to get paid — I don’t care either way, it’s a booking and we’ve all sometimes done things that aren’t passion projects for cash. I don’t even care if they just wanna fuck the drivers — fair play, many of them are quite fuckable and their Instagram stories suggest they definitely know it. We can all be into a bit of consensual objectification.

But I do notice Formula 1’s driver parade doesn’t feature them down to their skin-tights with nicely buffed hair. Hmm.

Grid girls are not the only place you see women round a race track. From the gate marshalls to the team bosses to the hospitality to — yes!- some of the cars and bikes and whatnot. So what does it really

Because it’s weird, man. It’s really, reallyweird. Why are there suddenly ladies in tight clothing mutely holding estate agents’ boards for some very expensive parking spaces in the middle of this grid full of engineers and things? Why is it happening?

Why is it only ladies? Why don’t we have sexy grid boys if we’re all so open-minded and naturally only basing this on who is the sexiest in the world? Why don’t more boys apply to be grid models in order to break into motorsport? The GP2 lot spend ages in the gym already they could earn a bit of extra cash. Oof.

Last year I was in Marrakesh for the Formula E, which was great. I, naturally, wore a ballgown to the track because I was a bit confused about what the modesty requirements were and any excuse to wear something black, sweeping and covered in sequins. That isn’t really relevant I just wanted to briefly tell you that wearing ballgowns is GREAT.

The e-Village at Circuit Moulay del Hassan was small and friendly and good fun. Kids go free so there were loads of ’em and I was massively heartened to see a lot of Dads Taking Their Daughters To Motorsport. It warms the more decayed and bitter areas of my frozen heart.

And there’s all these teenage girls eagerly getting in the playseats and having a go on the sims. They’re SO into it. There’s some girls in the karting team that are doing demonstrations. I’m like ‘ah, this is so great, Formula E is saving motorsport and look at these brilliant girls all smart enough to be digging it’ and just like, basking like a lizard in this wonderful scene. And also the Moroccan sun, which is a bit nicer than Silverstone.

I’m like, well, this is great — me, I’m here as an adult lady on me own and there, there’s the future of motorsport and we can all be terribly optimistic about …why the heck are Formula E using models to promote #Fanboost still?

Things that would’ve made sense for #Fanboost: WiFi at the circuit. Things that make no sense at all, especially in the context of being in Morocco where yeah, standards of dress are different and no, it’s not really cool to ignore that: models in skintight lycra standing awkwardly and silently behind the drivers during the signing. Suddenly all the girls didn’t go in to get postcards, even though they’d clearly been mega-curious up until then.

I was like ‘wow this makes me feel terribly uncomfortable and unwanted and I’m the sort of dickhead who rocks up to a circuit in a desert wearing a ballgown.’ To a teenage girl it’s crushing: this is the only place you’ll fit, behind the drivers being considered ornamentation for even their fan appreciation. It made me depressed.

The Fanboost ladies are super beautiful and glamourous and always look like they’re having a great time, it seems like a really fun job. It’s just such a regressive notion, isn’t it? This idea that the racing isn’t exciting enough, you’ve got to augment it with women doing nothing other than, I don’t know, reassuring yourself that watching blokes spray each other with champagne is totally heterosexual.

Positive end to this: next day me and a bunch of glamourous ladies who were all sitting by ourselves at different tables became united in furious French hand gestures at two blokes who tried to get the bar to turn the Brazilian Grand Prix over to some kind of legsport. It was a proud and beautiful moment and I think of it often.

(Reader, I womansplained the race to them once they’d finished apologising to us all for this affront and I have no regrets)

Anyway, if you’ve got this far down let’s end on a personal note:

“i genuinely thought women weren’t allowed to be racing drivers till i was about 13”

When I got this Whatsapp message I had to stare at it for a bit. It was from a friend seven years younger than me when I’d just asked her which team she wanted to drive for when she was little, fearing L was going to say Ferrari and we’d have to stop being friends. The reality was far worse.

My first thought was “that can’t be right. There can’t be people born in the mid-nineties who thought women weren’t allowed to be racing drivers.” This was also my second, third and ninetieth thought.

It’s haunted me for months, thinking about this. When I was wee I had no idea there had been female racing drivers because the internet hadn’t been invented, so as a five year old I tootled on into my parents’ kitchen and vociferously declared I wanted to be the first lady Formula 1 driver. My family laughed heartily at this ambition, which confused me.

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, after all. And I was the sort of plucky, annoying child with big ambitions and an immediate desire to do anything anyone told me I couldn’t. And my parents we broadly supportive of doing the sort of things that can be boasted about to relatives - “the dog’s been behaving much better since we got him done and Hazel, of course, has been tremendously busy with her first World Drivers Championship win” is quite the round robin so why weren’t they encouraging this?

Actually I think it was just that a family of weedy, right-on intellectuals was not expecting either of their children to bark out a desire to be taken karting. But they did tell me girls couldn’t and I was gobsmacked — this was the first thing I’d ever heard this about and I had all the helicopters and trains and books about longhaul trucking I wanted so why not this? Baffling. It’s burnt into my brain as a particularly embarrassing moment, this rebuff. Was it such a non-sequitur to want to drive the fast cars?

I settled on the ambition of marrying Ayrton Senna instead as this seemed far more reasonable and within the lane I hadn’t realised I was meant to stay in, which is a sociological contortion so horrifying I wish I could time-travel back and slap myself.

And I’m fairly weird. Imagine if I’d had any desire to conform. My family weren’t being mean — there were millions of other barriers to even going karting (not having the cash or the access to a track being pretty high up there) but they thought they were being realistic. Girls can’t do that. That’s the presumptive norm.

I know lots of female F1 fans. We all wanted to do it, of course — I hardly know of anyone who’s a fan of it who didn’t want to be a driver when they were a tiny. But I didn’t really know how to get in so it just died off into kinda absentmindedly fancying the drivers by the time I was 16 and Jenson had turned up with his lovely hair, which isn’t the sort of thing that helps you make career choices and just gets you in trouble for Being A Bad Fan.

Which is a whole other essay. Anyway, conclusion time.

why are there so many dudes in motorsport?

Oh, this is an interesting one. What draws dudes to motorsport? Why do they like it? There seem to be so many who are fascinated by it and want to participate.

Is it because it looks cool as heck? Yes. Is it because they see people they admire and relate to in the cars and think ‘that can be me, looking cool as heck there?’ Yes, yes it’s that too.

When I watched my man Damon Hill win the 1996 world title I inwardly seethed. Not about Damon winning, that was properly brilliant and I still hate Ferrari to this day. But it was a few years after the whole ‘girls can’t be Formula 1 drivers’ thing and I was still salty about it all.

Of course, as I’ve spent ages explaining above, hardly anyone gets to be a Formula 1 driver these days and you might have a terrible time doing it even if you do. But there were earlier eras when you just bought your car, rocked up and tried not to die.

I’m not suggesting we should go back to the killer years of F1, that was a bad time. But at one point there was less of a Fort Knox-esque barrier to being in F1. And you know what, there were more women.

Not millions, by any account but in the 50’s-70’s there were women driving in F1. That was when ‘pay driver’ was Niki Lauda’s bank loan for a car — the sort of thing you can do on the remortgaging of your parents’ house that has to take place before you can fund your first season in karting, these days. If you could get it together and rock up, you had a chance.

Which is interesting, isn’t it. Because if there were women driving in Formula 1 in the 50s (shout out Maria Teresa di Filippis, an absolute badass) then why didn’t teams pick them later, when selection kicked in? Was there no one good enough?

Hmm, well, when you consider the err quality of drivers who have had their turn in Formula 1, to the mechanical dismay of their vehicles and presumably financial satisfaction of their teams, it seems a bit odd that there’s never been a woman even given a crack at a couple of Grand Prixs in a half-cooked Minardi or something.

The entry gates to Formula 1 are manned. As they are all the way down the tiers of motorsport. When people look for the next F1 driver, they look at the F1 drivers before and they see men and they look for boys.

Formula motorsport, especially Grand Prix motorsport, has an issue with the way it treats women — it’s boring to carp on about grid girls but if you see women as silent ornamentation to the cars, you won’t see them in them. There’s a dress code for drivers, after all, and flammable lycra isn’t on it.

The popular imagination of female drivers and engineers and team bosses that Joe is asking women to have is already in little girls, teenagers, women who are fans of the sport. Have I entertained a pathetic ten-minute fantasy about being a Formula 1 driver like 20 times in the past year despite the fact I’m 30 and consider walking up two flights of stairs quite enough exercise, thank you? Hell yes, yes I have because it looks cool as heck.

There’s not a lack of female desire to be or imagination of motorsport. There’s an army of dudes in the way who are patting each other on the back and telling themselves they’re just better when, well, they’re not.

There is a reason there are not more women driving in motorsport: they are not being picked. You can either accept that as the structural truth it is, that men are being picked and yes many of them are very good but that they are being picked over women or you can, well, live a lie.

We can have all the grassroots programs and inspirational campaigns we want — we should, that’s really excellent stuff. But it also needs saying again and again and again for everyone at the back: unless you stop just picking men, you can’t pick women. And that’s the only way you get in.

If only it flipping was a meritocracy, man.

(For the record if anyone ever suggests I could have a go in a Formula 1 car I would forgo all sense and weep like a child and hurl myself upon it and probably break the aero with my clunkin’ great knees before I’d even been strapped in. Still eighteen months younger than Damon Hill’s debut, just saying.)