Motorsports has come under scrutiny in recent years for failing to adequately address diversity and inclusivity issues at the top level.Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has been particularly outspoken on the matter, although his comments have not always found favour with people in the sport.
The British star has generally focused on race issues rather than the gender imbalance in motorsports, although he has called for more opportunities to be given to female drivers.As highlighted by recent research by Betway, the number of women currently competing in major racing series is extremely low.
There are a couple of notable examples in the German Touring Car Masters (DTM), with Sophia Florsch and Esmee Hawkey going wheel to wheel with their male counterparts.However, opportunities for female racers to compete at a high level against males have historically been few and far between.
Jutta Kleinschmidt is one of the world’s most successful women drivers having claimed victory in the 2001 edition of the Dakar Rally.Undoubtedly the best example of a female competing equally with men is Michele Mouton, who narrowly missed out on winning the 1982 World Rally Championship.
She outscored teammate Hannu Mikkola that season, claiming victories in Portugal, Brazil and Greece to help Audi win their first manufacturers’ title.Mouton is now the President of the FIA Commission for Women in Motorsport which works to identify and promote the next generation of female racers.
She has been involved in several sporting initiatives in recent years, including the ‘FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars’ scheme and the ‘Extrem E Rallye’ series.The latter programme has proved to be a big hit, with each team consisting of a male and female driver who share a car and have equal driving duties.
In recent interview with Le Figaro, Mouton said she is proud of the progress made in recent times, but believes there is still plenty of work to be done.“Over the past two years we have seen a real surge in female racing talent, with fantastic opportunities at the highest level,” she said.
“At the top of the pyramid, we are now able to bring women into the highest categories of motorsport. Already six women in the World Endurance Championship!
“In the Indy 500, we have Simona de Silvestro, Katherine Legge and maybe soon Tatiana Calderon who has just done encouraging tests.“In Extreme E, we have nine women sharing the wheel with male drivers in nine professional teams.
“Today the sport is calling for women and if we give them the best conditions, we can hope to have a woman in Formula 1 soon.”Mouton’s last comment regarding F1 is hugely important, with the series widely viewed to be the pinnacle of motorsports worldwide.Giovanna Amati was the last female to compete in a Grand Prix in 1992, and teams have failed to offer chances to women since then.
However, the ‘FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars’ scheme has already produced one female who has been signed by Ferrari, sparking hope that the glass ceiling will be broken in the coming years