For Gaynor. I wish I had encouraged you more.
“You can’t, you’re a woman and women don’t race F1.”
Those were the words that my friend relayed to me years ago when we were at a friend’s birthday. As I listened to her story, I sat quietly with my mouth open in disbelief. Here was a clearly capable and spirited human who wanted to race, be the best she could be and see how far she could go.
As if it was no big deal, she played down the fact she regularly beat Jenson Button when they were karting. At the time when she told the story, Button was the new boy on the grid but we were still amazed and hanging on her every word. I eventually asked her why she didn’t take her racing career further and she told me it was because of two reasons which turned out to be one.
One was that they couldn’t afford to maintain the money required for karts, a team, transport etc. And the other reason was because she was a woman. My heart broke. I was in my late teens and women were not represented in racing back then. She’d been sold some bullshit line about women not being able to take it further than karting because they weren’t strong enough to handle the car. She couldn’t get sponsors like the guys, no one wanted to give her a chance even though she was winning races on a weekly basis… Against future F1 drivers.
The conversation moved on and so did we all. I never kept in touch with her, but that conversation stayed with me. She’s about the same age as Susie Wolff and ultimately, that’s why I’m so gutted about Susie’s retirement. No one sold her the line about not being strong enough to handle an F1 car. She knew she had to work to tame the beast and she did. She put the work in, probably more than physically stronger humans, so she could drive one. She had family around her that knew anything could be beaten. It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being as good or better than other humans and that’s what they saw.
It was someone else’s narrow view of the world that brought my friend’s dream to an end.
“No one has done it so how could you?”
Sadly, we didn’t have access to the internet back then to find out about other women who had raced but who knows what may have happened. There is also the industry as a whole to consider but when you are racing, the results a speak for themselves.
The podium doesn’t see gender, it sees winners.
The most striking thing about the Susie Wolff statement is that she said you have to see it to believe it and that’s true. But there’s also something else to take away and that’s you have to believe in yourself to see it happen. If you have a dream that shatters an industry then you have to beat then rest of the people who are in the running.
Make it Goddamn obvious that you are the best.
Never EVER think you’re any different because you’re a woman. You may have different tactics and push harder in different ways, but the results are the same. On the starting grid, ready to race… How you got there is down to you and ignoring what has come before you.
I’m very grateful that my parents never saw me as a girl, they saw me as a human who had to put the work in just as much as everyone else. And now, I plead for the parents, families, friends and loved ones to do the same to all humans. Encourage others to follow their dreams when it seems ridiculous and when industries aren’t used to women competing.
Give them a reason not to ignore you.
Go out there and win.
The results don’t lie.
If you want to highlight this and pass the message on, recommend this. Thanks x