Sebastian Vettel has urged potential female racing drivers to “speak up”, after comments by Formula 1 chief Stefano Domenicali.
No female driver has competed in a Grand Prix since Lella Lombardi in 1976, while the Italian is also the only woman to have scored points in F1, finishing sixth in the 1975 Spanish GP.
Other women have tried to qualify for a race since, including Giovanna Amati in 1992, while Susie Wolff is the most recent female to take part in a weekend practice session, doing so at Williams in 2014.
The Grove-based team also currently has Jamie Chadwick, perhaps the most promising female talent, in their academy, with the young Briton set to win the W Series title for the third time in 2022.
However, asked about the prospect of seeing a woman compete in F1, Domenicali had a rather derogatory response.
“Realistically speaking, unless there is something like a meteorite, I don’t see a girl coming into F1 in the next five years,” he said.
“That is very unlikely.”
Vettel, who has become a champion for equality in recent years, was quick to respond to the F1 chief.
“It was a very unlucky choice of words,” he said. “I don’t see a reason why we can’t have a woman on the grid.
“It’s statements like that which I guess women or girls are probably confronted with when they are growing up and sharing their dreams, sitting at breakfast saying ‘I want to become a racing driver’.
“And the father might just have read exactly statements like that and say: ‘You do like other things, why not focus on other things?’
“Maybe they do focus on other things and drop racing or the idea. It is important we don’t say these things because there are sparks everywhere.
“I encourage every girl to speak up and prove Stefano wrong in this regard, and all these people wrong who say certain things can’t be done by you because you are a girl or woman.
“This type of stereotypical thinking is slowly disappearing but has to disappear completely.”