The door could be opening up for Danica Patrick to make a move to Formula 1, but the question remains: Is she up for the job at the pinnacle of motor sport?
In April, the sport’s newest F1 team owner, Gene Haas, said that the world’s most famous female racing driver will not be making the switch from NASCAR.
Patrick, 32, drives for Stewart-Haas in America’s premier tin-top series, but the 61-year-old Californian said in April that it would be “impossible” for any of his existing drivers to juggle NASCAR while also preparing for Formula 1.
“I don’t know too many drivers that could be successful from going between NASCAR [and F1], and I wouldn’t expect any of our current lineup of drivers to want to be able to do that,” Haas said. “That would just be almost – it would be impossible to really accomplish that and survive.”
But perhaps the subsequent decision to delay Team Haas’ grand prix debut until 2016 has changed things, because the team’s newly instated principal is not denying that Patrick could be in line for a drive in the new team.
Gunther Steiner, who in the past worked in upper management at Red Bull and Jaguar, confirmed to Speed Week in Montreal that he will be Haas’ Formula 1 team boss.
“I will be the team boss,” Steiner said in the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve paddock.
He clarified that the Formula 1 team will be completely separate to Haas’ NASCAR operation, which is in collaboration with the driver Tony Stewart.
“Tony wants to make money with racing, Gene wants to spend it,” Steiner smiled.
But what about Patrick, the diminutive American driver whose early pedigree was in open wheel racing, including her famous Indycar win in 2008?
“It’s too early for [choosing drivers],” said Steiner. “But, you know, everything is possible.”
Meanwhile it is no secret that a woman in Formula 1 would be a major PR coup as triple world champion and Mercedes Team Chairman Niki Lauda explained, “For ten years. I’ve told Bernie Ecclestone that he’s dopey for not getting a woman into formula one.
“If we could get a woman into the top six, you would immediately have twice as many fans in front of the TV,” he is quoted by Bild newspaper.
In 2005 Bernie Ecclestone said, “I’ve got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.”
But has since changed his tune, telling ESPN last year that Patrick would “hardly want to give up the exposure she has in the USA to come here and maybe not make it. All the things that people worry about – whether a woman can cope with the g-forces and all that – she has proven that she can.”
But Helmut Marko, Red Bull advisor, has questioned Patrick’s track record, “You have to look at Danica’s results in the road races. It’s not enough.”
As for Patrick she has gone out of her way to downplay a foray into F1, “I always said unless it would be something I would want to do for real, as in race a Formula 1 car, I don’t see any point in testing it. It’s a lot of work to get fitted in a car comfortable enough to be able to go drive it.”
But when linked to the failed USF1 project a couple of years ago Patrick said, “It’s very flattering. I think that any time you are in the same sentence as Formula 1, it’s a flattering thing.”
Whatever the case, and irrespective of her success on track, Patrick is arguably the world’s most famous female racing driver and Formula 1 under the right circumstances is something that she and her management team would have to consider. Whether they decide to pursue the option, should it arise, is another question altogether… but as Steiner says “everything is possible.” Watch this space! (GP247-GMM)