Formula One motor racing is a sport that has taken over many of our screens in recent years, with it growing over 6.2% in TV viewership from 2016 to 2021. The audience associated with the sport is predominantly men but this is changing, women’s interest in the sport has sky rocketed with the release of Drive to Survive (DTS) in 2019. Female viewership grew 34% between 2021 and 2022. This is a great change to see and hopefully can lead to an increase in women in Formula One.
Drive to Survive
DTS has done a lot for the sport and making it more accessible to those not able to get directly to the track or able to devote hours of their weekend to watching the races. It is recognised that the sport is highly dramatized for entertainment purposes but it is undeniable that the tactic is not effective. One thing that can be said is that the representation for women is not there. Over all four seasons only 40 minutes include a woman speaking. In a lot of cases it is the “wives/girlfriend of the men in the sport” who are named but not given their own title, such as Tiffany Cromwell. She is an Australian road cyclist and is shown in the show multiple times across seasons 3 and 4. She is referred to exclusively as “Valtteri’s girlfriend”.
“You’ve got to remember they (Netflix) are making a TV show as well, but for what it’s done for the sport it’s phenomenal. F1 is bringing in a young generation. It’s bringing in a lot of young girls because of these great looking drivers” Christian Horner stated this in an Interview with TalkSport.
This has the potential to continue to isolate female DTS audience. It is projecting a negative stereotype that we see across many sports, Women’s opinions are often not valued and put down to sexual attraction. This is undermining and places women as less valuable than men. We want women and young girls to feel worthy of the space they take up in the sports world. We don’t want to turn away all of these new views because they don’t feel welcome and represented. Or push away female fans that established their passion for the sport before drive to survive was a concept.
Women in Formula One Currently
There are many powerful and greatly talented women doing great things in the world of F1 at the moment. The problem is they are not being spoken about enough or being given the screen time by the major broadcasters to show young fans that they are there. That the young girls watching this can make formula one their reality.
Wolff participated in two free practice sessions for the Williams team in 2014 and 2015, she made history as the first woman to compete in a Formula One race weekend in more than 20 years. She also worked for Williams from 2012 to 2015 as a development driver.
Wolff joined the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship as a team principal and co-founded Dare To Be Different, a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage more women to participate in motorsport. She is now the managing director of the new F1 Academy, an all-female single-seater racing championship with its first season in 2023.
Lissie is an F1 Presenter,current producing race day content for F1 Track TV. She is a Content Creator with over 220k followers on tik-tok alone. She is the host of the Going Purple podcast, in addition to all of this she has been working with Alpine for the A523 launch as social media host.
Clare Williams is a former Deputy Team Principal of the Williams Formula One racing team. She stepped down from her role as Deputy Team Principal in September 2020 following the sale of the Williams team to investment firm Dorilton Capital. However, she has remained involved in the sport and is a member of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission.
The W Series, an all-female single-seater racing championship , is won by Jamie Chadwick. She won the competition in 2019 and came back in 2021 to defend her reign. Chadwick has taken part in testing and simulator work for the Williams Formula One team as well as serving as a development driver for the team. In the 2020 edition of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, she was named for the entertainment category.
Jennie Glow is an F1 Drive to Survive expert and BBC News head correspondent for F1. She also is an English radio and television presenter and journalist. In 2010 she was the presenter on BBC Sport’s coverage of MotoGP motorcycle racing.
What the Fans think
I spoke to 3 Irish young women about F1 and the culture following the sport to try understanding on a personal level, how this is impacted real fans. The three women all became interested in F1 at different times and in different ways. All three have a wealth of knowledge on the sport and well-constructed ideas on the subject.
21 year old from Fan since childhood, grew up around the sport from her Father and Grandfather, would go Go Karting (often an entry sport for children into motorsports) when visiting her Grandfather in the UK. She got back into the sport when Drive to Survive came out yet once she was up to date she fell out of interest with the show. Shes a Mclaren fan with Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen being her favourite drivers.
20 year old from Kilkenny, Grew up with Formula One on the TV and has been following the sport since. Shes a Mclaren Fan and her favourite diver is Charles Leclerc. She has a love for motor sports in general especially Motor GP which was a staple in her household. Olive has followed Charles’s journey through the ranks from when he was a junior driver.
Fiona is a 20 year old from the midlands of Ireland. She found the sport through Drive to Survive in August 2020. Her love for the sport developed quickly with the personality for the drivers, specifically Daniel Ricciardo pulling her in. She has found her place community online and doesn’t mind the occasional Thirsty Thursday. Her favourite team is Ferrari and her favourite driver is Carlos Sainz.
We expanded on the previous subjects and spoke of the divide of communities in the sport and how this divide is really down to the idea of respect and in a lot of cases men refusing to talk technically with women and those who support opposing teams. In order to make female fans comfortable we need to see more women in formula one and encourage their participation in all areas. This means recognising publicly their place in the team. There is a hesitancy to bring up the sport around men out of fear of ridicule. Lets make Formula one a safe place for all fans.
The highlights of these three interviews are linked below.
For more news on these seasons pre-season testing, click here.