Jessica Margetson | Website Editor
The return of the hit Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’ has been long-awaited by Formula 1 fans all over the globe. Season 5 hit our screens amid the F1 Pre-Season Test, and fans were disappointed in the lack of female representation.
Women spoke for only 1.54% of the entirety of Season 5. This totalled just 6 minutes and 7 seconds out of a total time of over 6 ½ hours. Unfortunately, only six women are identified on screen throughout the season. In four episodes no women are identified at all. Formula 1 journalist Jennie Gow provides insight in four episodes but, in the other six, this is done by Will Buxton. Buxton’s colleague at F1, journalist Laura Winter, is shown interviewing the drivers in various episodes but is never named on screen.
Numerous women working in prominent roles within F1, including Red Bull’s Principal Strategy Engineer Hannah Schmitz or team-affiliated drives like Jamie Chadwick, could have been featured if the show wanted to improve female representation on screen.
F1 is attempting to improve the number of female drivers by introducing the F1 Academy – aimed at creating a pathway for women to the top of the sport. When launching the new category, Formula 1’s Head of Sustainability Ellen Jones said,
“In 2019, we launched our sustainability and diversity and inclusion strategy and made a commitment to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, breaking down the stereotypes associated with a career in motorsports and encouraging people from all backgrounds to get involved”.
Most recently, Susie Wolff was appointed as Managing Director for the all-female F1 Academy. Susie Wolff was looking at starting a career outside motorsport until Formula 1 chairman Stefano Domenicali approached her about running the new Academy. Wolff has spent a career trying to prove that women can race at the very highest level of motorsport, and to help create ways to make that possible. Taking charge of it, Wolff says, was too good an opportunity to miss.
“In the end, it was something I had to do and really wanted to do.”
For Wolff, one of the biggest factors behind the lack of female representation at the top of motorsport is the lack of representation of women in F1, and thus the small number of role models for girls to look up to.
“I saw a terrifying quote that if you look at [Netflix’s] Drive to Survive, I think it’s 1.8% of screen time features a female. How should a young girl, who’s eight, and maybe loves F1, how can she visualise herself getting into that paddock if she can’t even see participation or women working in the paddock?”
‘Drive to Survive’ has been both celebrated and criticised for bringing a diverse group of new fans into the sport but at the moment it does little to dispute the idea that working in F1 is only for men.
Having said that, there’s plenty to look forward to the 2023 season, with the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix on the horizon, three rookies and the return of Nico Hulkenberg, who is joining the Haas outfit.