Alpine’s New Program Aims to ‘Debunk Myths’ About Women in F1 – Sports Illustrated

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon during qualifying for Formula One British Grand Prix 2022.
IMAGO / PanoramiC
Alpine launched its new program, Rac(H)er, on Thursday ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix that will increase the number of women not only in its F1 team but also assist women drivers in reaching the pinnacle of motorsport. 
It is “designed to reinforce meritocracy across genders in all areas of the company, from technical functions to racing and competition,” 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 motorsport pathway from karting. 
Per the team announcement: “This programme will also include the deconstruction of stereotypes using research with the funding of a scientific study to definitively break down all the pseudo-scientific alleged hurdles to F1 female competition [fitness, cognitive].”
There have only been two women who have started on the Formula One grid since the championship began in 1950, and the late Lella Lombardi was the last woman to start in ’76. Over the last few decades, the only other woman driver who participated in a Grand Prix weekend was Susie Wolff, who was as a Williams test driver during the 2014 and ’15 seasons. 
Rac(H)er will span eight years, aiming to support a woman driver to Formula One. 
“We go so far as to think we can have an influence on the way the myths are built, and we want to debunk them: ‘Women are not capable physically’ … ‘Women are not capable physiologically, mentally’ … ‘Women shouldn’t do that’ … ‘There are no role models,’” Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said, per BBC. “The idea is: ‘Let’s take everything from the beginning and make sure we build the path, in the same way we built the path for men.’ I am convinced that in doing so we will multiply the probability of women achieving.”
But, the program extends beyond the driver’s seat. With the aim to “debunk myths,” Alpine is striving to give men and women the same opportunities, and currently, only 10% of BWT Alpine F1 Team’s workforce are women. 
The French car manufacturer is striving to also increase its own workforce, which is only 12% women. The goal is to increase the proportion to 30% in the next five years, and they will also invest in local STEM programs that help encourage women to enter scientific and technical fields. 
“The initiative is to make motor sport, and specifically Formula 1, more attractive to females,” said Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer. “And we looked around at the ratio of females to males in Enstone and we’re about 90% males and we’d like to redress that balance and make it more balanced. And at the same time, start making karting more attractive to young girls, so that we can have a greater pool of young girls who want to go karting and see where that brings us in the long run, to, you know, having Formula 1 drivers that perhaps are female. 
“As far as timing, the one thing I want to point out, especially for the team, it will still remain a meritocracy. We will hire the best engineers that we can. However, from a timing perspective, we’re now going out to universities and in our young graduate programmes trying to entice more females to apply for engineering roles. And that’s happening now.”
The W Series, which is all women, was launched in 2019 as a “a free-to-enter championship” that eliminates the financial barriers and provides equal opportunity to help women climb the ladder of motorsports to Formula One, according to their website. Jamie Chadwick, the inaugural champion, is the one who has come the closest to make that leap to Formula Three but has failed to do so. She leads the W Series with 100 points, winning all four races so far this season. 
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