As an ambitious young woman in motorsport, Emma Kimiläinen was aiming for the top. After some success in Nordic motorsport, running Finnish Formula Ford and Swedish Radical championships, she was awarded a factory Audi team DTM test seat and continued in ADAC Formel Masters and Formula Palmer Audi. Then she walked away from it all, taking a four year hiatus from racing. She’s always said that her funding simply dried up and it was time to take a break, but the truth, as it turns out, is a bit more sinister and a whole lot more creepy.
For the 2010 season, still hoping to eventually make her way to Formula 1, Kimiläinen was negotiating for a ride with an Indy Lights team here in the states. Open wheel was the goal, and if she couldn’t find a ride in Europe, the U.S. market is still a strong indicator of talent. In a recent podcast appearance, on the Shikaani Formula 1 Podcast, she finally divulged the circumstances which drove her away from the sport.
Kimiläinen was apparently told by the team that she would not need to bring any partners or sponsors to the seat, as that had already been taken care of. The team didn’t tell her up front which sponsor had been secured to pay for the 2010 season.
Through the course of negotiations for the seat, it became clear that the team’s sponsor was a “high end men’s magazine” and her signing was dependent upon Kimiläinen posing topless for the magazine. The team had apparently negotiated with the magazine that she would pose in a bikini without so much as asking her opinion, but the magazine demanded skin.
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Kimiläinen was, rightly, pissed. She told the team that she would not undress or agree to the sexist terms of the contract. She walked away from the negotiation, and didn’t race again professionally for four years. She had been in the paddock racing against Valtteri Bottas, she had taught Marcus Ericsson a few pointers, and she had shared a team with Kevin Magnussen. Had any of them ever been asked to whip out their dicks on their various paths to the Formula 1 paddock?
While things have certainly improved for women in the motorsport paddock over the last decade, there’s no denying that sexism runs rampant in racing. There is no more sacred freedom than body autonomy, and no human should be forced to do anything with their bodies that they aren’t comfortable doing.
It’s clear that Kimiläinen is still quite talented, despite a lengthy voluntary removal from the motorsport sphere. Imagine what has been lost, what talent she could have cultivated. Luckily her career hasn’t been ruined, but it was certainly sidelined by an incredibly big demand from a team sponsor. So often a hiatus is seen as a career ender, but she’s managed to mount a comeback and make it stick.
We already stan for Emma around these parts, but sticking to her guns and walking away from the sport she so clearly loves instead of subjecting herself to something she wasn’t comfortable doing only validates our appreciation of her. I can’t wait to see the W Series return, and Emma kick some serious ass at it.