Autoview Motorsport & Motoring

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Time for the Racy ladies to show their F1 class?

Maria DeVillotta

It's been nearly 20 years since we last saw a female competitor in Formula 1, and that's a great big fat shame, although with a little bit of luck, all that may soon be about to change! Maria De Villota, daughter of former F1 driver Emelio De Villota is rumoured to be close to signing a deal with Renault... errr...Lotus....Renault as one of their reserve drivers for 2012. Maria recently completed the necessary 300km required in an F1 car to qualify for her superlicence and the indications are that she will be having a further run in a 2009 spec Renault F1 car at the Circuit de Catalunya on the 4th December.

So why has it taken so long???? Formula 1 is a sport which not only requires a driver to have great skill behind the wheel, there is also the grubby matter of financing. Even despite the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement), Formula 1 is still hugely expensive and the teams, particularly at the lower end of the grid, have to generate as much income as possible in order that staff get their wages, materials can be purchased and the wheels can keep turning. For a talented driver making their way through the sport, the costs are still massively expensive and out of the reach of most. A friend who works for a top Formula Renault team, told me a couple of years ago, that for the privilege of making his teams car look good for a season, the driver would be required to bring €680,000. Considering that this is just one year in what will probably (if lady luck is kind!) be a 5 year (give or take) apprenticeship through the lower Formulae, the financial obstacles to success become more apparent. And with Karting being the usual feeder for car racing these days, it's normal for parents to find themselves funding these early years, at anywhere from £6,000 - £10,000 per season. And I've heard talk of people spending a great deal more.

So, the point is that, motorsport tends to appeal more to boys than girls in the first instance and wealth (or relative wealth!) is a factor in the families decision to compete, and a bit like the proverbial sausage machine, the more that goes in the top, the more that comes out of the bottom! So, with less girls taking part in the first rungs of the ladder, there are less who are competing alongside the boys in cars, and fewer still who are going to have the opportunity to progress to the very top of the sport, with only 24 drivers on the Formula 1 grid at any one time, space is severely limited!

One of the very best ladies to come through UK karting is Tiff Chittenden, daughter of tin top and sports car racer Mike Chittenden, Tiff and her talented sister Tamsin competed at the top level of UK Karting for many years. Tiff had already run a few races in Formula Renault in 2006, when she won a second British Karting title with the 2007 Rotax Max DD2 championship. Her Formula Renault season was a difficult one, with a limited budget, and a poorly funded team, it was a steeply uphill challenge. Her true class as a driver and competitor, came to the fore in 2007 with that Rotax championship, but lack of funds has meant that the opportunity her talent deserves has been sadly lacking. Outings in the Porsche supercup and Aston Martin GT4 challenge, have allowed Tiff to show her class on occasion, but what Tiff really needs is a Vijay Mallya or Ron Dennis to guide her to the big time Tiffany click here if that's you!

Tiff Chittenden

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