Women Struggle to Get the Right Fit in Their Racecars
The last woman to appear on a Formula One Grand Prix entry list was Giovanna Amati of Italy, who entered three races for Brabham in 1992 but failed to qualify for any of them.
Susie Wolff became the last woman to take part in a Formula One weekend in 2014, when she ran in Friday practice for Williams at the British Grand Prix. Wolff retired from competitive racing in 2015 and is now team principal of the Venturi Formula E team.
This decade has had several women affiliated with Formula One teamsas test, reserve and development drivers. Simona de Silvestro, the 2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, worked with the Sauber F1 team in 2014, but was dropped before driving during a race weekend.
Beginning in 2015, the Lotus F1 team (now Renault) had a multiyear association with Carmen Jordá of Spain.
Tatiana Calderón, 25, a Colombian racing for Jenzer Motorsport in GP3, a feeder series to Formula One, has been Sauber’s development driver since 2017, and spent two days testing the team’s racecar last weekend.
“I did four or five seat fittings with my first team in GP3,” Calderón said. “It’s difficult to find the right angle for your arms to give them the most power, and because GP3 has no power steering, it’s critical. That’s when I learned that two centimeters (0.8 inches) can make a hell of a difference.
“Finding the right position was tough. I’m quite short, so my pedals were too far away. I couldn’t put anything on the back of the neck because it’s in the regulations — you cannot put something to rest your head. Then we were too close; I was hitting my legs when steering.”
The time spent finding her ideal seat position cost Calderón half of her first GP3 season.
“Finding the right spot was really tricky,” she said. “Here is the best strength-wise, but I crush my legs, so I have to move the pedals. If you’re not comfortable, you cannot focus on what the car is doing, or on really breaking those limits and pushing for more.”
When a driver reaches Formula One, they are “couture fitted” to their car. Teams customize seats and steering wheels, ensuring that controls are easy to use at racing speeds.