[box] While the Coalition may have hoped to score political points with the reappearance of its "illegal boats" billboard this week, it has shone a spotlight on its feeble grasp of international law. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is wrong to say that the Refugee Convention says asylum seekers are "illegal". [/box]
[box] Some would argue that it is necessary to remove all religion from the political process and that until Bahrainis stop thinking about being Shias or Sunnis there cannot be a truly democratic country. If you go back in history you see many nations going through similar religious troubles, notably in Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries when Catholics and Protestants murdered one another in large numbers. We do not live in a perfect world, but sport is one of the few ways in which nations can unite, transcending internal divisions and thinking as a group. Thus looking at a much bigger picture one has to say that the Grand Prix is a good idea for Bahrain. No doubt some will disagree…[/box]
[box] If your idea isn't spreading, one reason might be that it's for too many people. Or it might be because the cohort that appreciates it isn't tightly connected. When you focus on a smaller, more connected group, it's far easier to make an impact.[/box]
Sometimes a public figure will say something that makes you want to check your hearing just in case you didn’t hear it right the first time.
“I think women have the [physical] strength,” former Grand Prix winner Sir Stirling Moss said to BBC Radio 5 Live, of female F1 drivers.
“…but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel.”
He goes on: “The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. 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. I just don’t think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race.”
Well, well, well…
To be honest, my first reaction was a very diva-like “Oh no, he didn’t!”, with the side-to-side head movement to boot!
On further thought, however, there unfortunately is a little more to it than just that, as it has clearly started a conversation on the prospects of women competing alongside men on the F1 grid.
Firstly, we have to remember what era Moss hails from. The 1950s and ’60s, during which he raced and probably formed his opinions on such matters, weren’t exactly the most egalitarian.
When you put it in context, given the fact that women were only really allowed to vote only thirty or so years before, that attitude (unfortunately) makes a little more sense.
At that time, women weren’t even allowed to run in the Boston Marathon! The first lady to do so only officially competed in 1967. Check out the video of what happened when she ran:
Fast forward a few decades, and the first female fighter pilot in the US Airforce was only accepted in 1993. Two decades ago only…?!
There have always traditionally been ‘male domains’ and ‘women’s domains’, and it is only really in the last few decades is that starting to change. It’s slow going though…and traditionally technical areas, like my field of engineering, still have less than 10% (9.6% in Australia!) female representation.
It is true though that Formula 1, and motorsport in general is one of the few sports where men and women compete head to head and not in separate series. That in itself, is a strange type of egalitarianism, but that isn’t enough.
There is no question of whether women can be Formula 1 drivers – they have already proven they can. The first woman competed in the 1958 Monaco GP, Maria Teresa De Filippis, in Moss’ era (has he forgotten being snapped with her, pictured above?):
While she never achieved a points finish in F1, Maria Teresa de Filippis’ very presence on the grid in 1958 was a victory for women’s participation in motorsport.
The last woman to compete was Giovanna Amati, in 1992, although she failed to qualify on each of her three outings in a Brabham.
Sure, females only have half a point combined between all five of them, but that is beside the point. Clearly, women do have the capacity to compete in the sport, whether Moss likes it or not.
Outside F1, there are a heap of awesome women who race and they are all inspiring.
Danica Patrick in undoubtedly the most high-profile. She became the only woman (to-date) to win an IndyCar Series race in 2008 before making a full-time switch to NASCAR racing last year.
Finally given a competitive engine and team in which to race, Simona de Silvestro has proven herself to be a frontrunner in the IndyCar Series.
Take the case of Venezuelan Milka Duno, the former IndyCar racer who has shown excellent pace in the Daytona endurance scene. She’s more than just a racer, however. Duno is a qualified naval engineer with four master’s degrees and has published a book for young children on the impact of an education.
That’s what I’m talking about.
F1’s Famous 5 Females (L-R): De Filippis, Lombardi, Galica, Wilson and Amati
But the true issue underpinning Moss’ comments is that this highlights the strongly held belief one of the most respected men in Formula 1, and ‘kind-of, sort-of’ backed by Bernie Ecclestone himself, who said he could not see a woman racing for a top team in the near future.
“There’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t be able to compete with a man,” he said recently, when asked about women’s roles in F1 in the wake of Danica Patrick claiming a historic pole position in the season-opening NASCAR race.
“Unfortunately, the way things are, I don’t imagine a lady will ever get the chance to drive a Red Bull or a Ferrari.”
If the top men in the sport (a sport where support is paramount to success) can’t even fathom women competing on the same level, how is it ever going to happen?
“Regretfully, the problem is that many ladies who could compete probably as well as the guys won’t get chance.” Ecclestone added.
Why won’t they get the chance? Is it because the movers and shakers won’t give them a chance?
The problem with comments like this is that they back up sexist views that do nothing to help women that do want to get involved in motorsport and are interested in racing, engineering and all manner of technical things.
If the guys at the very top aren’t even giving the idea a chance, no matter how archaic or old school they are, people subconsciously take it in. It isn’t about affirmative action or making allowances, it is about being open to the idea.
Is it fear of change? Possibly.
Is change going to happen anyway? Probably.
There was once a time when men didn’t think women could run, and that it was bad for their health.
There was also once a time when men didn’t think women could compete in Formula 1…and win.
I can’t wait until the day we can joke about the ludicrousness of such a statement!
Professor Sid Watkins, 1996, Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One. Macmillan, UK. ISBN: 0-333-65774-8
For someone who has grown up watching Fomula One in the last decade or so, it is easy to forget how dangerous a sport it is…and how fatal it used to be.
The recent and extraordinarily sad passing of the books author, ‘The Prof’, is made even more acute while reading this eloquent text as his personality, wit and straight attitude shine through, saddening readers by reminding us such a great character no longer watches over the paddock.
Life at the Limit was written after the death of Professor Watkin’s friend and inspiration to many, Ayrton Senna in 1994. Chapter one details that fateful weekend…
“Sid, there are certain things over which we have no control. I cannot quit, I have to go on”. Those were the last words he said to me – Page 8, The Professor and Ayrton’s Last conversation
The book takes you through the recent history of Formula One through the unique lenses of a man of medicine, a man who didn’t miss much. Although slightly outdated now (the majority of the book focuses on the seventies, eighties, and very early nineties), the Professor does a wonderful job of taking the readers through the development of safety within the Formula One scene, and it is interesting having major races and individuals referred to not by their typical characteristics such as wins, but by the crashes involved and the injuries sustained!
There are two things that particularly strike me about this book and meant that it was more than just your average lazy Sunday afternoon paperback (and no, the answer is not that was a hardback…).
Firstly, learning about the history of safety within Formula One and the truly calamitous accidents that occurred with frightening regularity was quite sobering. In today’s day and age, accidents in the top level GPs are more often than not a spectacle rather than a true cause for concern, and so it is easy to forget that only 20 years ago, any accident could be deadly – as it often was.
The Professor details his exploits in trying to convert die hard racers and obstinate racing officials to his cause, and often the situations he found himself in were quite amusing! Told in his amusing, dry English manner I found myself laughing aloud a number of times…and also feeling his pain as he was faced time and time again with the prospect of pulling another close friend or colleague out of a crushed cockpit. It could never have been easy, and although he is the cynical neurosurgeon you could feel the emotion behind some of the pages.
The second thing I really enjoyed was the personal aspect of the book; Watkins knew everyone there was to know in Formula One and was quite close to many of them. The stories of the race drivers and officials in the early years were a nice touch, humanising them for someone who just knew their statistics. They served to remind that these, were just men (really talented men mind you) doing a dangerous job that they loved, in an environment that was often unforgiving. There are so many names that they occasionally blurred together, but I definitely feel like I had taken an enjoyable trip down F1 memory lane…
All in all, Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One is an great read for someone who is looking to learn a little about the history of safety in the sport, or any fan who is looking to learn a little more about the great Professor and the personalities of his time. Stories about Bernie that you’d never hear about, the antics of Nelson Piquet, the trials of organising helicopters for transport or the practical jokes everyone seemed to play on each other…it’s all here, and all worth checking out.
I would say 4 out of 5 flags.
Enjoy…and if you have had a read, let me know what you think!