Damon Hill doubts female drivers could succeed in F1

1996 Formula One World Champion Damon Hill poses with grid girls during the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 20, 2003 in Northamptonshire, England.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Damon Hill has sided with Bernie Ecclestone amid a renewed debate about whether women are able to go head-to-head with men in F1.

F1 supremo Ecclestone caused a stir last week when he told Canadian radio TSN that female drivers would "not be taken seriously" as they climb the ladder towards a career on the grand prix grid.

The timing of the 85-year-old Briton’s comments was awkward, as the first woman to ever race in F1, Maria Theresa de Filippis, has just died at the age of 89.

"Someone needs to prove Bernie wrong," Alice Powell, a young British racing driver, is quoted by The Times.

"It would be a shame if a team would turn down a female to race in F1 because they would not be taken seriously," she said.

Ecclestone also made the comments in the same week as the launch by Susie Wolff of an initiative — called "Dare to be different" — to encourage women to aim for careers in motor racing.

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In 2015, Susie quit her role as a Williams test driver, with husband Toto Wolff declaring last week: "I’m sorry that she did not get the chance (to race in F1), as I am convinced that she is good enough for a good mid-table team."

1996 World Champion Hill, however, admitted at the weekend that, like Ecclestone, he also has his doubts.

"I’m absolutely assured by my wife and my two daughters there is no reason in the world why a woman couldn’t beat a man," he told ITV, "but I do have my doubts.

"Actually competing with and succeeding against the guys, I think is extremely unlikely. I think it’s very, very tough even for the guys to be competitive," Hill added.

"Would a female footballer do well in the premier league?"

Asked specifically about Ecclestone’s comments, and Powell’s retort that someone needs to "prove him wrong," the former Williams and Jordan driver answered: "Bernie likes to say something which is controversial and he’s challenging you.

"He likes to say something provocative and hopefully some people will say ‘OK, we’ll prove him wrong,’ " added Hill. "But it shouldn’t be done on the basis of that, it should be on the basis of ‘Is there someone out there — a girl — who absolutely above everything else wants to become a Formula One world champion? ‘"

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