When I got up this morning and saw that our beloved Sir Stirling Moss commented on women in racing I sensed it would be bad, but I wasn't prepared for just how awful his response would end up being. He's not just wrong, he's wrong in a particularly offensive and sexist way.
The BBC just released a very good mini documentary about Susie Wolff, the female DTM driver who just got a spot as a development driver for Williams F1. The focus on the story is the typical one: Can a woman hack it?
Even with drivers like Danica Patrick and Simona de Silvestro out there performing well in premier racing events, this is probably going to be debatable until a woman wins an F1 race (or maybe even a championship).
So far, the results haven't been great. In the history of F1 there's been one driver to win F1 points (Lella Lombardi, who got 0.5) and the last female driver to attempt to race in F1 was Giovanna Amati, who tried to qualify three times and failed. Maria de Villotta, whom many hoped would be the first modern woman to race, was injured in a freak accident.
If you only look at the past to determine the future, then you could make the argument that it'll never happen. However, this is the same fallacy that said a black baseball player could never be good enough to play major league baseball or professional basketball. A fallacy that's actually more extreme in F1.
It's been determined that racing a car is second only to hitting a major league baseball in terms of being the hardest thing to do in sports, but while the barrier to playing baseball has historically been low, the costs associated with racing makes it extremely difficult for anyone to access.
Because of a historic bias against women in motorsports, the number of women who even attempt it at an early enough age to make it professionally reduces the pool of potential drivers with the experience to get into an F1 car.
Look at the current class of FIA Formula III European Championship drivers. Out of 29 drivers there are two women. Considering that out of a class of 30 you may only have one driver make it to the development driver level (let alone get to race), that's a 93% chance it's going to be a male driver.
This is changing, slowly, with more young girls going the karting route and attempting to become race car drivers, but you can see why someone like Stirling Moss, a famous driver in his own right, might make that argument.
Stirling Moss knows now, and will forever know, more about what it takes to be a race car driver than I'll ever even begin to comprehend. Up until this morning I was a huge Stirling Moss fan.
That being said, he's full of shit. He didn't make the argument that history is against her, he made the Bernie Ecclestone argument that women don't have the right stuff to be a race car driver in an interview for a BBC radio documentary airing tonight. The sexist argument.
Here's the quote:
"We've got some very strong and robust ladies, but, when your life is at risk, I think the strain of that in a competitive situation will tell when you're trying to win. The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don't think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race."
That's beyond disappointing.
Apparently, a woman can fly a fighter jet for the Royal Air Force but a British woman driver doesn't have the mental aptitude for F1? Bullshit.
Somehow, older racers like David Coutlhard and younger competitors like Lewis Hamilton (who looks great here, btw) manage to accept it, but Moss simply doesn't see women that way.
Given all the challenges that face a woman who wants to race in F1 (the necessity to look beautiful, the pink car, the inability to have a family, the sexism) the more logical conclusion is that when a woman finally does make it in F1 she'll have to be a stronger driver than her male counterparts.
So, next time someone asks you about women in F1, Sir Stirling, just do us a favor and shut up while we still have our fond memories of you.