Alpine’s new program aims to ‘demystify’ women in F1

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon during qualifying for the 2022 Formula 1 British Grand Prix.

Alpine launched its new program, Rac(H)er, on Thursday ahead of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix which will not only increase the number of women in its F1 team but also help female drivers reach the top of motorsport.

It is “designed to build gender meritocracy across all areas of the business, from technical functions to racing and competing,” according to the team’s announcement. On the racing side of the program, it will provide training and support for young girls as they navigate the path of motorsport from karting.

According to the team’s announcement: “This program will also include deconstructing stereotypes using research with funding for scientific study to permanently remove all alleged pseudo-scientific barriers to women’s F1 competition. [fitness, cognitive].”

Only two women have started on the Formula 1 grid since the championship began in 1950, and the late Lella Lombardi was the last woman to start in 1976. In recent decades, the the only other female driver to compete in a Grand Prix weekend was Susie Wolff, who was a Williams test driver during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Rac(H)er will span eight years, aiming to accompany a female driver to Formula 1.

“We go so far as to think that we can have an influence on the way myths are constructed, and we want to demystify them: ‘Women are not capable physically’… ‘Women are not capable physiologically, mentally’… ‘Women should’ ‘t do that’… ‘There are no role models’,” Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi told the BBC. “The idea is, ‘Let’s take it all from the beginning and make sure we build the path, the same way we built the path for men.’ I am convinced that by doing so, we will multiply the likelihood that women will succeed.

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But, the program extends beyond the driver’s seat. In an effort to “debunk the myths”, Alpine strives to give men and women the same opportunities, and currently only 10% of the BWT Alpine F1 Team workforce are women.

The French automaker is working to increase its own workforce as well, which is only 12% female. The goal is to increase the proportion to 30% over the next five years, and they will also invest in local STEM programs that help encourage women to enter science and technology fields.

“The initiative is to make motorsport, and in particular Formula 1, more attractive to women,” said Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer. “And we’ve looked around the female to male ratio at Enstone and we’re around 90 per cent male and we’d like to restore that balance and make it more balanced. And at the same time start making karting more appealing to people. young girls, so that we can have a bigger pool of young girls who want to go karting and see where that takes us in the long term, you know, having Formula 1 drivers who are maybe women.

“As for the timing, the one thing I want to emphasize, especially for the team, it will always remain a meritocracy. We will hire the best engineers we can. However, from a timing perspective, we will now in universities and in our graduate programs to try to get more women to apply for engineering jobs. And it’s happening now.”

The all-female W Series was launched in 2019 as a “free entry championship” that removes financial barriers and provides equal opportunities to help women climb the motorsport ladder to Formula 1, according to their website. Jamie Chadwick, the first champion, is the one who came the closest to this jump to Formula 3, but who failed to make it. She leads the W series with 100 points, winning all four races so far this season.

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