Gender equality inevitable in F1, says Red Bull chief Horner

Red Bull chief Christian Horner said on Friday it was inevitable that gender equality would reach Formula One amid reports that a team employing an equal split between men and women was looking to enter the sport.

Published : Mar 31, 2023 10:54 IST - 5 MINS READ

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner.
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Red Bull chief Christian Horner said on Friday it was inevitable that gender equality would reach Formula One amid reports that a team employing an equal split between men and women was looking to enter the sport.

Former British American Racing (BAR) founder Craig Pollock told CNN last week he wanted to debut “Formula Equal” from the 2025 or 2026 season onwards.

The aim was to have a 50 percent split between males and females across the whole organisation, from the cockpit to the engineers and the boardroom.

He has reportedly submitted an expression of interest to racing’s governing body, the FIA, which opened up the process for finding a potential 11th team earlier this year.

Horner, when asked about Pollock’s plan, said he believed gender equality in the traditionally male-dominated sport would happen “naturally” anyway.

“I think it’s fantastic to see the amount of girls, females, that are showing interest in Formula One now and we’re seeing it at all levels,” the Briton said in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

“I think the interest is growing... it’s appealing to more women to get involved in the sport, whether that’s from an engineering basis or across all aspects of the organisation.

“As the sport does become more accessible, and we are pushing to make it more accessible, I think that it is something that will naturally happen anyway.”

Pollock, formerly the manager of 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve, acknowledged funding such a venture would be hugely expensive but said he was in intense discussions with “a Gulf-area country” about bankrolling it.

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer said gender equality was “important to everybody in Formula One”.

“So anything we can do to increase diversity in F1 I think everyone here would welcome it,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“But I don’t know anything other than what I briefly read about their (Formula Equal) entry.”

‘Ludicrous’ to stage sprint race in Baku

Holding a sprint race on a street circuit at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is a “ludicrous” proposition which will cost Formula One teams when they “trash” their cars, Horner said.

“The reality is it’s absolutely ludicrous to be doing the first sprint race of the year in a street race like Azerbaijan,” Horner told.

“But I think from a spectacle point of view, from a fan point of view, it’s probably going to be one of the most exciting sprint races of the year.

“From a cost cap perspective, all you can do is trash your car. And it costs a lot of money around there.

“So you know one race is enough in Baku. The fact that we’ve got two, there could be, well, some action there.”

Other team bosses echoed Horner’s concerns.

“As Christian said, anytime we go to a street circuit - Baku creates pretty exciting races, some pretty big crash damage bills,” said McLaren chief Zak Brown.

“(It’s) the same for everyone and it is what it is.

“It’ll be very exciting for the for the fans, and hopefully, all the cars will come back the way they started.”

Aston Martin boss Mike Krack said there was “some nervousness” about it.

“But it’s the same for everybody. So we try to keep the cars in one piece as long as we can,” he added.

The sprint format involves qualifying on Friday for a 100km race on Saturday - with points awarded to the top eight - that sets the grid for the main grand prix on Sunday.

Formula One is considering changes for the future, including turning Saturday into a standalone race.

“Hopefully, we can tidy up the format for these sprint races coming up, that they’re a bit more dynamic,” added Horner.

Three sprint weekends were scheduled in 2022, with the first held at Imola in Italy and the other two in Austria and Brazil.

Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen won the first two sprint races but has said he is no fan of them.

‘Fit’ Ricciardo would be ready to race in 10 minutes

A fit and well Daniel Ricciardo would be ready to race a Red Bull car in Formula One at the drop of a hat if required, team boss Horner said.

After departing McLaren at the end of last year’s championship, Ricciardo is taking a sabbatical from F1 this season as Red Bull’s third driver behind champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

The eight-time grand prix winner, one of the sport’s most popular characters, had “thrown himself” into his new role, Horner said at the Australian Grand Prix on Friday.

“I’d say he’s about 10 minutes away from being ready (to race),” added Horner.

“He’s in good shape. He’s kept himself fit and well.

“He’s training hard and he’s ready to go if given a chance.

“It must be very tough for him not being a race driver this weekend, but he’s thrown himself into and embracing this new role.

“Hopefully he’ll rediscover his love for the sport.”

Ricciardo claimed seven of his eight race wins during his 2014-18 stint with Red Bull before a barren two years at Renault and two difficult seasons with McLaren.

The 33-year-old has not decided on his future but told media at Albert Park “the signs are pointing towards getting back on the grid”.

“I feel like that’s currently where I’m tracking, at least in my head and just a little few other habits that I’m having or doing is pointed towards that,” he said.

F1 team bosses said Ricciardo would generate plenty of interest if he was motivated to return to racing.

“Everybody is wanting to speak with Danny after a year off, maybe he knows again what he wants to do and he will be interesting for everybody in Formula 1,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told reporters.

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