Stefano Domenicali: F1 boss does not expect a female driver in the next five years

Formula 1 President Stefano Domenicali
Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali says he believes the racing calendar could include 24 events next year

Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali says he does not expect a woman to drive at the top level of the sport in the next five years.

Domenicali said it was “crucial to give the maximum opportunity for women to come to F1 – we are totally dedicated to that”.

But he added: “Realistically, unless there’s something like a meteorite, I don’t see a girl coming into F1 in the next five years.

— It is highly unlikely.

Domenicali added that F1 is “working to see what we can do to improve the system”.

Only two women, both Italian, have ever started an F1 World Cup Grand Prix.

Maria Teresa de Filippis competed five times in the 1950s, and Lella Lombardi participated in 12 races in the mid-1970s.

Lombardi is the only woman to score points – she won half a point to finish sixth in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.

F1 is promoting the women-only W series by running its races at grand prix this season.

Domenicali said: “We are very pleased with the partnership with Formula W.

“But we believe that in order to give girls the chance to be at the same level of competition as the guys, they need to be at the same age when they start fighting on the track at the level of Formula 3 and Formula 2.

“We’re working on it to see what we can do to improve the system. And you’ll see some action soon.

“We want to build the right parameters with the right approach for them to start driving against the guys, at the right age, with the right car.”

Jamie Chadwick
Britain’s Jamie Chadwick has said she would be “happy to be a guinea pig” for female drivers in Formula 1

Two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick is aiming for F1, however has said she is not sureexternal link whether women will be able to cope with the physical demands currently required to get there.

One problem is that while F1 cars have power steering, those in F2 and F3 do not.

Chadwick said: “Without power steering and driving big, heavy cars, many women struggle, even if they have been successful in go-karting.”

Speaking at a wide-ranging press conference ahead of the season’s resumption in Belgium this weekend, Domenicali did not elaborate on his plans to ease women’s path to F1.

South Africa and Belgium’s future

Domenicali confirmed he was in discussions to hold a race in South Africa at the Kyalami circuit near Johannesburg, but did not say whether the event would enter the calendar in 2023 or 2024.

“I’ve always said we want to have a race in Africa and today the most likely place to have it is South Africa,” he said.

“Discussions are ongoing. We are looking for a very solid and clear long-term commitment. It will take time. I think we will clarify that in the next few days.

“The commitment to be in Africa is one we want to make, but we want to make it right.

“The calendar will be defined in the next couple of weeks at most.”

The return of South Africa was seen as a threat to the historic Belgian race at Spa-Francorchamps, but Domenicali said people should be “very careful” before saying this year’s Belgian Grand Prix would be the last.

He said discussions were ongoing and added that the Belgian GP organizer would spend “a lot of time in my office this weekend”.

China is pushing to return to the calendar next year for the first time since 2019, having missed the past three seasons due to the country’s Covid restrictions.

Domenicali said: “Covid is unclear and all the major sports leagues are waiting to understand what is happening and we think we will have clear guidance on what is the scenario for China going forward by the end of this year.”

He pointed out that the Chinese Communist Party held elections in October. After that, Domenicali said, “the first point will be to understand what are the Covid regulations used in that country and then we will see how the situation will develop”.

Max Verstappen in the Belgian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen took victory in the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, where Formula 1 will meet again after the summer break this weekend

Asked about China’s human rights record, and whether its growing isolation on the international stage could put the race under threat, he said: “The political line of sport is always very thin. We always have to be careful.

“But we have always said that we want to put the spotlight on our positive values. In all the countries we will highlight what we think is the right thing to highlight. If that doesn’t happen, we will make the right decision to move out. “

This comment, BBC Sport understands, should not be interpreted as a suggestion that the Chinese Grand Prix is ​​under threat as a result of the country’s current stance on human rights and geopolitics.

Domenicali said Saudi Arabia would remain on the calendar despite concerns from drivers after one rocket attack on a nearby oil refinery during this year’s race weekend in Jeddah.

And of the country’s pledges to improve its human rights record, Domenicali said: “They are pushing to change what they think is the right way to go forward.

“You can’t expect a millennial culture to move overnight, but we will help with our spotlight to ensure that what they promised will be delivered. Otherwise, things will be different.”

He said he believed the calendar would be 24 races next year, which would be the longest in history, saying “the market has been asking for this number”.

He added “23 or 24 runs is the tipping point, maximum”.

Fewer races, he said, were not possible because the historic races in Europe “cannot be expected to have the financial strength to cover the money that the others pay” – a reference to higher fees charged by organizers in the Middle East and elsewhere.

And he said the calendar would look “different from the last couple of years” in 2024 because the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is being moved to early March.

He did not explain the ramifications of that, but it is likely to mean Bahrain and Saudi Arabia cannot start the season as they have done this year and are expected to do so in 2023. Australia is likely to revert to its previous slot as the first race.

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