The first time I watched an F1 Grand Prix was the race in Australia in 1998. I’d been persuaded by a friend who loved Canadian driver, Jacques Villeneuve, to watch and found myself gripped. Being a Scot, my instinct was to cheer for my fellow countryman, David Coulthard. I was thrilled when he led the race, then devastated when he pulled over and let Mika Hakkinen win due to a “gentleman’s agreement” made before the race had begun. As disappointing as the situation was, I couldn’t help but adore the spectacle I’d just witnessed. It’s that kind of exhilaration that has kept me tuning in to watch every race since March 1998.
The drama is just part of why I’m a fan. I love the pre-race interviews with the drivers who can be either insightful or guarded and often humorous, the anticipation when the red lights go out, the horror when someone crashes, the relief when drivers walk away from mangled wrecks and the bliss when my favourite team or driver win and receive their trophy on the podium. I have the whole spectrum of emotions while watching a race. It just makes you feel alive.
Being a female fan of a male dominated sport means most of my girlfriends find F1 boring, or they just don’t get it. To them, it’s a bunch of foreigners driving in circles. To me, it’s so much more. However, there are advantages to being a female fan. A shared love of motor sport is the only thing I have in common with my middle aged male boss and fills awkward gaps in conversation during lunch breaks or trips away from the office. When my male friends roll their eyes because I don’t understand soccer’s offside rule, I counter that with a sarcastic sigh when they ask me to explain how KERS works.
The only thing that ever concerned me, as a female fan, was the lack of merchandise available for women, but it has greatly improved in the last couple of years. Ferrari even sell their very own bikini, although I can’t imagine any of the female fans I know wearing one while watching a race.
My husband doesn’t share my passion for F1, but was extremely understanding when I suggested we got married on a Friday and delayed the departure for our honeymoon to the following Monday so that I didn’t miss any of the French Grand Prix coverage that year. He’s accompanied me on several trips to the David Coulthard Museum in Twynholm, Scotland and humoured me when I suggested that, if our son grows up to become an F1 fan, we make the family holiday each year a trip to a different Grand Prix. I even joke that I planned the birth of my son for February to ensure I didn’t miss any races due to childbirth. Obviously I’m not serious, although my friends and family are skeptical.
Women who don’t appreciate my love of the sport can be critical of the lack of female participants, but it’s honestly something that never occurred to me until I heard men discussing whether it was wrong or right. All the current F1 drivers are men, and the majority of people involved in the sport are male too. I genuinely don’t care. I’m sure if there were any women out there with the skills and talent to participate, they wouldn’t be denied the chance to race. I don’t believe in positive discrimination, so until such a woman comes along, I’m content to keep watching while men dominate.
Lacey Dearie is an indie author from Ayrshire, Scotland and a new writer for the Silo. Her first novel, The Tangled Web became #1 in the Amazon UK Free Download Chart in January 2012.First published in Silo print edn. Summer 2012.
If you would like to read more about The David Coulthard Museum, please visit the website www.dcmuseum.co.uk/museum
Supplemental– http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2008/04/21/where-are-all-the-women/ [circa 2008 data]