MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Taking a break in the paddock after watching Max Verstappen during a practice session Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne teenager Kaitlyn Bourne was loving her day at the track.
The 17-year-old Bourne, who was wearing a clear plastic poncho over a Red Bull sweater on a wintry day at Albert Park, is a massive fan of Australian Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo, who is sitting out this season.
But Bourne, who comes from a motorsport-loving family and watches every Grand Prix race, hopes that one day she will have the chance to support a female F1 driver.
“It is still a very male dominated sport, so it would be good to bring in more females. I think it could happen,” she said.
There has not been a woman driver in a Formula 1 race for more than 40 years. But with estimates suggesting that 40% of current Formula 1 fans are female, the motorsport industry is making a concerted effort to ensure that changes.
The highest-profile female driver in recent years has been Danica Patrick. The now-retired American is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel car racing — her victory in the 2008 Indy Japan 300 is the only win by a woman in an IndyCar Series race.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said this week in Melbourne he believes gender equality in the sport is inevitable.
“I think it is fantastic to see the amount of girls, females, that are showing interest in Formula One now and we’re seeing it at all levels,” he said. “I think the interest is growing. It is appealing to more women to get involved in the sport, whether that is from an engineering basis, or across all aspects of the organization.
“As the sport does become more accessible, and we are pushing to make it more accessible, I think that is something that will naturally happen anyway.”
Horner was responding to reports that a team evenly divided between men and women from the cockpit to the executive offices was looking to enter F1 within two to three years.
Former British American Racing founder Craig Pollock told CNN last week he hoped to debut “Formula Equal” from the 2025 or 2026 season.
FIA chief executive Mohammed ben Sulayem posted on social media that he had instructed his staff to consider launching an “expressions of interest” process for prospective teams.
Pollock said he had interest from financial backers for his proposal to field an 11th team.
“Our ambition is to deliver and build opportunities and pathways for women to get to the very top level inside motorsports,” Pollock told CNN. “The concept and the idea is to try and build a Formula One team (that is) 50% male, 50% female, which is extremely hard to do if you have an existing Formula One team. It’s a lot easier with a clean sheet of paper.”
Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer said the importance of equality in Formula One was clear to all participants.
“So anything we can do to increase diversity in F1, I think everyone here would welcome it,” he said.
Bourne, whose interest in Formula One increased via the Netflix hit series Drive to Survive, said the introduction of the W Series in 2019 was a step in the right direction. That series was criticized for not including any female drivers, even from the W series.
“I think it is getting better. I know there is a women’s series now. So that is good,” she said.
Aaliya Ally, who is also from Melbourne, was attending the race with a friend.
“In terms of gender equality, I think it is good that there are more opportunities for women,” she said. “But I hope that it continues to get better and better and that they keep expanding it.”
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