For the uninitiated, the Formula One is the most prestigious circuit in automobile racing. Formula One cars are the fastest, most technologically advanced in the world, with speeds reaching over 230 mph. Their competitions, dubbed Grands Prix, often take place in glamorous international destinations, such as Monaco, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi (and also some less glitzy ones, like Montreal, Canada, Baku, Azerbaijan, and Austin, Texas).
The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s
The first time a woman raced Formula One was back in 1958, when Maria Teresa de Filippis of Italy hit the track at the Belgian Grand Prix. De Filippis, who started racing after her older brothers bet her she couldn’t drive as fast as them, faced similar skepticism from her male peers throughout her brief racing career. She was once barred from competing at the French Grand Prix when the head of the race reportedly told her, “The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s.”
It took 15 years before another female driver, Lella Lombardi, would return to a Formula One track. She went on to make history as the only woman to score a point at an F1 championship, after finishing sixth at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1975. She retired a year later, and no woman has managed to qualify for a Formula One Grand Prix race since. Less than a handful of female drivers have tried and they’ve all failed.
The disparity between men and women
We’re all aware of the gender inequality in competitive sports. Let’s remember the recent highly publicized battles for equal pay in tennis and U.S. women’s soccer. But in the racing world, the disparity between men and women is perhaps the worst of all. With racing, the problem is not that there are differences in the prize money. No it’s worse. Women can’t even seem to make it onto a track.
The last to try was Scotland’s Susie Wolff, who only made it as far as a test drive. Looking back to the main issue why there was a lack of women in the Formula One Cars it has been blamed on the grueling physical demands of driving Formula One cars, which require an enormous amount of upper body and neck strength in order to endure the high pressurized environment inside the vehicle.
Meet: Tatiane Calderon
In February, Tatiane Calderon was hired as a development driver for Swiss racing team Sauber, a position usually given to drivers with the greatest potential, and which is seen as a stepping stone into Formula One. Tatiane Calderon performed well in the GP3 series, an F1 feeder and Sauber’s CEO Monisha Kaltenborn (the first woman to head a Formula One team) gave her the job which basically includes shadowing the company’s drivers, and engineers and she will also train rigorously in order to prepare herself for the physically challenging F1 cars and tracks.
It all has started in a go-kart
Calderon started loving the smell of racing cars when she was a little girl. She visited a go-kart track with her sister and the rest was history. Moving to Europe was making her able to compete in a variety of racing series.
Tatiane Calderon won the British Formula Three Championship as the first woman ever. Calderon never really cared about being one of the only girls in this sport and grew up with the aggression from her male competitors. If she will make it to the Formula One? Well, she has one male driver on her side: Lewis Hamilton, one of the top-ranked F1 drivers, bemoaned the lack of female drivers and wished he could see “more ladies in the paddock.” Team Sauber seems like a good bet for her, because aside from Monisha, who’s the head of the team, there’s also a female chief of strategy and a woman in charge of communications.
Tatiane Calderon,we wish you the best of luck – welcome the challenge you’re facing. Pressure is a privilege here. Pressure can sometimes bring the best out in you; it means there’s an opportunity there for the taking.