A lot of people are going out of their way to have a dig at Sir Stirling Moss for comments he made in a BBC interview about women drivers.
I’m a little upset, to be honest. Stirling is one of the most decent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is a true Gentleman, a legend and a hero. He is, however, 83 years old and harks from a very different time to the modern era. He doesn’t call F1 races Grands Prix. He calls them Grand Epreuves. He carries a shooting stick with him so he always has somewhere to sit.
He still calls women “crumpet.”
It should come as little surprise that his feelings on the matter of female racing drivers should be somewhat out of touch. OK, they’re not out of touch. They’re plain wrong.
But in all honesty, I must say I don’t really know why he was even asked for his opinion on the matter. Unless, of course, it is because those asking for his opinon knew precisely what they’d get…
Did he really blow a kiss to Maria Teresa de Filippis when he lapped her? Or is that still a bit of the old Moss bravado?
This is, lest we forget, a man who managed to get a date DURING the Monaco Grand Prix. The story goes that he noticed an attractive young lady watching the race and waved at her. The next lap she waved back. The next lap he signaled to her to meet him after the race. Rumour has it she did.
You can embrace that part of Stirling’s nature or you can deride it. To many, it’s all part of the legend.
The fact remains however, that while I have the utmost respect for Sir Stirling Moss and all that he has achieved, his opinions on the suitability of women to drive Formula 1 cars in the modern era is really rather inconsequential.
Far more relevant, in my eyes, is what the modern generation of drivers think about the matter. Jenson Button grew up racing alongside Danica Patrick. Why don’t we hear from someone in NASCAR, or Indycar who Danica’s been racing against these last few years? And in today’s junior formulas, there are numerous girls (for many are not yet women) racing alongside boys. Are their opinions not more relevant here than those of a man who last raced an F1 car over 50 years ago?
Last year in Barcelona, I spoke with the now Red Bull Racing reserve driver Antonio Felix da Costa about the GP3 season which lay ahead of him. We talked about the drivers he expected to challenge.
“Don’t forget Alice Powell either,” he said at the end of the conversation. “She’s won a championship, and not many people can claim to have done that. She’s a proper racer. We’re all aware of that.”
The dated opinions of the past generations on topics such as this should be left where they belong: in the past. Dragging them up for a quick headline surely stands to do the issue of gender equality in racing more harm than good, merely serving to remind people of an antiquated view which is no longer representative of the modern face of racing, whilst also serving to take a cheap shot at a legend of this sport.
A bit of perspective is needed here. Stirling’s was not it. And it was never going to be.