Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen expressed his concern about the limited presence of women in grassroots motorsport, asserting that this scarcity is hindering the prospects for female drivers to break into Formula 1 (F1). Verstappen, a three-time world champion, emphasized the need for greater female representation within the sport.
Historically, only five female drivers have participated in an F1 race weekend, and just two of them managed to start a race, the most recent being Leila Lombardi in 1976. Susie Wolff, the last female racing driver to partake in an F1 race weekend, took to the track in 2015 for the Williams team during FP1 at Silverstone. In response to the gender disparity, Wolff assumed the role of managing director of the F1 Academy in 2023, an all-female series established after the collapse of the W Series in 2022.
Verstappen drew attention to the skewed ratio of men to women entering motorsport at the grassroots level, asserting that the current trend makes it less likely for women to ascend to the pinnacle of motorsport, F1.
“I think if you look at the percentage of men and women in racing, I think already for men the percentage is very low to get into Formula 1,” Verstappen told RacingNews365. “So naturally for women, it’s even harder because there are fewer women.”
The Dutch driver dismissed claims that female drivers might struggle with the physical demands of driving an F1 car. While acknowledging the challenges, he emphasized the trainability of the required physical skills, adding, “I do think physically driving F1 in some places is quite tough, but I do think that it’s all trainable if you work hard for it – but it is naturally a little bit harder for a woman.”
Verstappen also maintained that team bosses do not discriminate based on gender when selecting drivers, stating, “I don’t think team bosses are people who make decisions to choose their drivers look at it like: ‘Oh, no, we only go for men.’ If there’s a woman who is beating everyone else, then naturally they will have the opportunity to get to Formula 1. It’s just that there are fewer women in the sport, and naturally, of course, the percentage to make it to the top is lower.”