Morgan Bolton.

Let’s be honest: Formula One is arguably the most sophisticated sporting enterprise in the world, and perhaps only the logistical ingenuity of the World Rally Championship can equal it.

At the end of every race weekend, the cars are painstakingly deconstructed over a nine hour period, loaded on to a hundred trucks by 240 men and women, driven to the designated airport, where 30 tons of freight per team is loaded on to a fleet of DHL cargo planes.

Meanwhile, as teams make their way to the next venue by land and air, an additional 1 000 tons of sea freight per team, including fuel, equipment and work benches, are shipped to the next port of call.

At the new track, mechanics reconstruct the car, build the required telecommunication infrastructure and construct the paddock hospitality units and kitchens.

An impressive feat, we can all agree, regularly achieved without any complications.

And yet, however grand this sophistication looks on the outside, it hides, on the surface at least, an almost draconian division of the sexes.

Formula One, like most professional racing, remains an all-boys club, with only a momentary look-see from women since the inaugural races of the 1950s.

In fact, the last woman to race in the format was in 1976, when Lella Lombardi completed the final of her 12 races.

Fellow Italian Giovanna Amati attempted to qualify in 1992 for the Mexican Grand Prix but failed, and that was the last of any of that.

With all this mind, it was understandable why those involved within motorsport – a convocation of men no doubt – were rather chuffed with themselves this week when they announced the all-women ‘W Series’, which, according to them will create “a platform on which women drivers can improve by racing one another and from which they may then springboard their careers forward and... ultimately race successfully in F1”.

I nearly choked on my male privilege.

Surely, if you have the marketing power and infrastructure of F1, creating a segregated racing code just for women is not an act of genius, but rather an exercise in maintaining the status quo.

The male drivers do not have to go through this nonsense.

There is an already well-established road to reach the highest echelon of track racing. It starts with karting, upgrades to the lower formulas, then maybe, if you are good enough, one can get a shot at Formula 2, where you can set out your stall and show your wares.

But instead of making these integral, working parts of motorsport more female-friendly, instead of doing the graft there and creating equal participation, the patriarchy that rules over the paddock has decided on a superfluous, male-managed women’s series, with races that will last 30 minutes and winning prize-money of R7.3 million.

It’s more insulting then inspiring.

Now, I’ll admit, I could be wrong. The format could genuinely create future F1 women champions, but it still leaves the historically better funded, managed and highly competitive structures – the grassroot levels, if you so wish to call them – squarely in the hands of us blokes.

It’s in the DNA of the W Series, say its creators, “that women can compete equally with men in motorsport...”

Okay, no, well, fine... but you suspect the F1 fraternity just doesn’t believe it.



The Star

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