Michele Mouton was a star of the World Rally Championship in the 1980s, finishing as runner-up in the competition and only 12 points off the pace of winner Walter Rohrl.
Mouton is the closest that a woman has come to winning a major motorsport world championship, highlighting her excellence behind the wheel and the staggering lack of development in almost 40 years since her standout season.
Female F1 drivers have lacked representation in the upper echelons of motorsport for a long period of time. The last female driver to record a point (or half a point) was Lella Lombardi in 1976. The Italian competed well against her male counterparts and made a significant breakthrough.
However, the floodgates failed to open for female drivers, with Giovanna Amati being the last to attempt to reach a Grand Prix back in 1992 for Motor Racing Developments. She failed in three attempts to qualify for a starting place on the grid and was subsequently released and replaced by future Drivers’ Championship winner Damon Hill.
At the moment, there is a dearth of female drivers competing across the tiers of motor racing, which has been analysed in research conducted by Betway. They have discovered that there are a number of factors that are limiting the pathways for drivers to reach the top. Resources are a key contributor, especially the example of Jamie Chadwick, who won the W-Series in 2019.
The W-Series was created as the first female-only motor racing championship in order to provide a pathway for women to enter the sport without having to contend with the financial costs of competing in the sport. Chadwick starred for Hitech GP, winning two of the six races to secure the title.
However, she was held back in her development by the cost of entering Formula Three. The 23-year-old has been active for Williams, who spotted her talent behind the wheel and offered her a position as a development driver. Competition for places amongst development drivers will undoubtedly continue to stymie her progression unless she can take the next step.
The FIA have recognised the high costs involved for teams competing in Formula Two and Formula Three, but whether this will ease the burden on drivers remains to be seen. On one hand, it could be the cost for female drivers of Chadwick’s ilk, although it may also be an issue of ability.
If Williams or a Formula 3 outfit were convinced that Chadwick was capable of winning with regularity, then opportunities would present themselves. There might be an element of bias against Chadwick and other female drivers due to the lack of previous success, but the example of Mouton proved that if you are good enough, then teams will be willing to gamble on your success no matter the gender.
Mouton and Audi proved the point in 1982, but no one since has been able to knock down the door. Ferrari have taken tentative steps by signing Maya Weug to their academy, but it remains to be seen whether she will make the grade and become another female F1 driver..