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“Formula E considers women to be an important part of the fanbase”

In our Women’s Week Special 2016 we take a look at the fantastic women in Formula E. This time we sat down with three female fans of the sport and discussed their opinions.

How did you get into the series?

Laura: “I heard about it online, and thought it sounded fascinating! Certain drivers started to get linked to it, and my interest grew. The notion of a ‘green’ motorsport seemed very different and progressive to me, so I was very curious how it would develop. When I watched the first race, it was such a breath of fresh air! No-one seemed to have a clue how things worked yet (including the commentators, which was hilarious!) and obviously it was a very eventful race! After one race, I was totally hooked.”

Sarah S.: “In 2012, FIA planned to bring an electric single-seater series into the world of motorsports. Being a racing junkie since 2002, I was really excited about it as I want to see something different than you see in Formula 1, junior single-seater series and other professional racing series.”

Sarah C.: “When the new series was announced, the driver lineup was so interesting – and there were two teams based in the USA, along with a race in our country as well – so I figured I’d at the very least keep tabs on it since a lot of the names were familiar to me. Once the actual racing got going and everyone became familiar with the logistics, I was hooked. The camaraderie between teams, fans, and media just served to keep that rolling – Formula E’s fan retention rate must be through the roof compared to other series.”

As a female fan, do you think your support is seen differently?

Laura: “I’m sure there are many people who judge female fans differently, but luckily I haven’t met anyone in Formula E who feels that way! I’ve had issues in other series – mostly Formula 1 – where people are surprised a woman is a fan of motorsports. They can be curious at best, or confrontational at worst, but I hope those people aren’t the norm! I think it’s sad to ostracise a whole gender based on stereotypical concepts of what people ‘should’ be interested in. Some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans I’ve met are women!”

Sarah S.: “Honestly, it’s not because of the gender. It’s all about how much you appreciate the sport. As a female fan, the support in motorsport would be highly appreciated in terms of knowledge, passion and commitment. I could remember I observed a lot of female fans were supporting one or few drivers. Since a lot of emerging talents are doing very well in junior single-seaters such as GP2, Formula 3 and Formula 4, it’s about time to support everyone as they are deserve to be the stars of the future. Who knows, maybe they will be in Formula E in the future.”

Sarah C.: “Only by virtue of there being far fewer female fans overall, which is a problem with all of motorsport. That said, I think that the way we’re viewed differently by teams is beneficial to us; it seems like the teams do a very good job of interacting with and providing a great user experience to men and women on a pretty equivalent level, which can’t be said of a lot of other sports/series. From the perspective of the series itself, I honestly think it considers women to be an important part of the fanbase – but I also think it’s still stuck in the old way of doing things in terms of off-track experience.”

If you could make any improvement to Formula E, what would it be?

Laura: “Honestly, I would like to lose the Grid Girls. I realise that they’re seen as ‘glamorous’, and part of the heritage of motorsport, but I don’t think it’s needed. I’ve always seen Formula E pride itself on being progressive and different to other series, and that’s what made me fall in love with it. There are women working in every aspect of Formula E – in the garages, in PR, we even have a female driver! – and grid girls are one aspect I’ve never felt ‘fits’ with how the series promotes itself.”

Sarah S.: “Increasing more fan interaction by having teams conducting a fan event (such as the DSVR Fan Friday by DS Virgin Racing), a pre-race concert like you have seen in F1 Rocks and a roadshow or demonstration in a host city. Besides that, the Formula E Fan Site operators on Facebook should make a collaboration with the race organisers and its key partners not only just to promote Formula E, but also to promote the support on the electric vehicles industry, the environment and innovation.”

Sarah C.: “Get rid of the flipping grid girls/dancing girls on stage. Honestly. This is the most technologically advanced motor racing series in the world; let’s get with the times socially as well. Take a page out of WEC’s book; take a page out of soccer’s book, for goodness sake, and have grid kids/mascots. As a woman, it’s uncomfortable and disingenuous to me that a series claims to want to cater to everyone and still demeans a sizable chunk of their fanbase. “

Do you think motorsport will be equal in the future?

Laura: “I can only say – I hope so! I think things are changing, thanks to the visibility of women in the sport, like Simona. I feel as though more young girls are aware that motorsport is a hobby they can turn into a career, whether it’s engineering, driving, journalism, there are so many ways to get involved. We’re every bit as passionate as men, so even if it takes time? I think we’ll get there!”

Sarah S.: “I’m sure motorsports will be equal in the future, as long both male and female have the respect as well as enjoying the passion. Otherwise it won’t be fun if there’s a misunderstanding and hate between two parties.”

Sarah C.: “That’s the hope, honestly. I think it’ll take one or two drivers punching through the glass ceiling with sponsorships and being successful at the next level – the rate at which young women drivers drop out around the age of 16 is immensely higher than boys, and that’s where the equality work needs to be focused – if that can succeed, then yes, I think the scales will start to equalize.”

Andrea Perilli and Antonia Grzelak | e-racing.net

Image courtesy of FIA Formula E Media, Laura and Sarah C.