Bernie Ecclestone: Female F1 driver wouldn’t be taken seriously

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Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone does not think that a female driver will race in a grand prix in the future, and believes that a woman would not be taken seriously even if she did hit the grid.

The last woman to start an F1 race was Lella Lombardi in 1976; she’s also the only woman to have scored a point (albeit only half a point, in 1975) in the sport’s history.

Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman to have started a Grand Prix; she died last week at age 89. Giovanna Amati, Desire Wilson and Divina Galica have also participated in Grand Prix weekends, but have not qualified for a Grand Prix.

Susie Wolff became the first woman since Amati in 1992 to take part in a grand prix weekend when she represented Williams in practice at Silverstone in 2014, but announced her retirement from motorsport in November without ever starting a grand prix.

Speaking to Canadian radio station TSN Toronto 1050, Ecclestone said that he doubts a woman will race in F1 or that she would be taken seriously anyway.

“I doubt it,” Ecclestone said when asked if a woman would race in F1.

“Because if there was somebody that was capable, they wouldn’t be taken serious anyway, so they would never have a car that is capable of competing.”

The highest-profile female driver now in F1 is Carmen Jorda, who worked as a development driver for Lotus in 2015 and previously raced in GP3.

Ecclestone made reference to Jorda in the interview, saying that having a full-time female racer had happened in F1’s support series.

“This female driver business – there was a girl that was driving in GP3 for a whole season, so it’s not something that hasn’t happened,” Ecclestone said.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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