F1: The ultimate boys club. Or so it used to be.
Recent years have seen a massive rise in female fans of the elite motorsport (40 per cent of global fans are women) or at least a rise in vocal fans.
I’ve grown up on F1 but only got back into it in the last few years. I’m not going to lie, the documentary Drive to Survive did influence me to start watching again, but so what? It is quite literally the point of the programme.
It is a toxic fanbase in more ways than one, but the absurdity of the anger at female fans from the wider F1 community is mind-boggling.
I can’t remember exactly how many times I’ve been asked random and specific questions about races before I was even born. This is not to say that a knowledge of the history of Formula 1 isn’t a valid way of loving F1, it’s just the extreme standards that female fans are held to.
Mairi Whittle, a master’s student at the University of Stirling, agrees:
“Whenever I miss a race, my boyfriend accuses me of not actually being into F1 and sometimes insinuates that I feigned enjoyment of it to grab his attention when we first met.
“Such as judging me whether I’m still Team McLaren or Ferrari or because I don’t know the intricacies of the modifications on the cars each season. It’s stupid. It’s a sport and I’m in it for the race regardless.”
Sian Campbell, president of the brand new Formula 1 society at Stirling, is also fed up:
“Formula 1 isn’t the first sport I have supported and been called a ‘fake’ fan just because of my gender.
“The basis of enjoying any sport is understanding the dynamics behind it, and the excitement of F1 is from watching racers push themselves to the limit.
“From my experience, I have seen men instantly connecting over the sport but when a woman tells a man she also enjoys it, the first questions are: ‘Name all 20 drivers’ or ‘Who won the championship in 1987….’ or anything else for their satisfaction to see if that woman is up to their standard in knowledge.
“The majority of people, regardless of gender, won’t know every single detail that is associated with it, because that’s normal and we aren’t computers. So who cares how someone came to like a similar interest as yourself?”
Fans aren’t the only ones ‘determining’ why women are into F1. Even top officials are patronising, with Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, saying: “It’s bringing in a lot of young girls because of all these great-looking young drivers.”
Girls and women are not these one dimensional, sex-obsessed creatures. It’s the thrill of the race that drives fans to watch. That’s what any sport is about.
The important thing to remember is that female fans are also just fans. We know and have come to love the sport just as everyone else in the world has, and it’s unfair for us to be pushed to the side just because of our gender. There shouldn’t be the stereotype of only men being the real, ‘authentic’ fans.
When I started writing for Brig, one of the first few articles I wrote were on F1 and that was thanks to a fellow female writer. It’s so nice to receive texts like ‘Are you excited for tomorrow’s race?’
As of this year, an all-female championship launched called the F1 Academy and fans were ecstatic to see this change. In hopes of expanding this to have F3, F2, and F1, I am excited to see where this program will take our female drivers.
At the end of the day, sports are for everyone. The ultimate boys club is a thing of the past and should remain there.
Don’t criticise someone because they’re a woman, but criticise them because they don’t think Hamilton should’ve won the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It’s part of what makes Formula 1 one of the most adrenaline-inducing sports for competitors and spectators alike.
Featured Image credits: Netflix, Drive to Survive Season 5.