A fortnight ago, Carmen Jorda was named to the Lotus F1 team as a Development driver, a decision that was met with much derision, bitterness and mockery within the Formula 1 and racing community.
Here’s a female ‘driver’ who had previously gathered a reputation more for her looks than her talent, who had departed GP3 in 2014 after three seasons during which she finished no higher than 13th (2012 Valencia Feature race) and did not record a point, securing a coveted spot in F1.
The reality is that based on her driving history, Carmen Jorda probably shouldn’t be anywhere near a F1 car. During her decade long racing career, there has been no sign that she has the potential to develop into a competitive Formula 1 driver, let alone a significantly useful development driver. In fact, Lotus already has 2 other Test and Development Drivers signed in Jolyon Palmer (Current GP2 Champion) and Charles Pic (Former Marussia F1 & Caterham F1 Driver), both of whom have far better racing pedigrees.
So how did Jorda get there?
Carmen Jorda isn’t the first driver to make their way into F1 with the backing of deep pockets, let alone the first Lotus driver to do so. Pastor Maldonado brings the backing of Venezuelan oil company PDVSA (and a rumoured 45 million pounds) and Charles Pic comes with support of his family and their multi-million dollar trucking business.
The reality is, whilst there are a significant number of F1 drivers who have paid their way into seats, they still have a reasonable amount of prior success when compared to Jorda. However, at the end of the day, Carmen Jorda has a seat as a F1 development driver. She’ll spend time in the sims, helping with feedback and potentially get track time in the E23 at some point this season and in all of that I want to see her succeed.
Because Carmen Jorda’s success is a success for women in motorsport.
No one’s going to deny the fact that being a women in motorsport, at any level, is hard. Only 2 women have ever actually started a Formula One race (Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958-9, Lella Lombardi in 1974-1976). When Susie Wolff took to the track at Silverstone last year for FP1 she was the first women to participate in a F1 weekend for 22 years. In fact, 5 2015 drivers weren’t even born the last time a women participated (Giovanna Amati failed to qualify for 1992’s South African, Mexican and Brazilian GPs). In 2015, there isn’t a single female driver listed to race in GP2 or GP3. Formula Renault 3.5 has one – 20 year old Dutch, former Red Bull Jr and AVF driver Beitske Visser. FIA European Formula 3 has one – 22 year old Colombian Carlin driver Tatiana Calderon. 4 of the world’s top development competitions and there’s 2 female drivers.
There’s girls out there who’ve proven themselves worthy but when it comes to making a choice between them and a similarly talented male, it’s hard not to believe the male driver would be chosen 9 times out of 10.
Is it not harder for a team principal (at any level) to imagine a successful female driver when they have not seen one before? Is it not harder for a team principal (at any level) to take a chance on a female driver when your team is made up by men? How will they fit in?
Carmen Jorda is a women with a seat in F1. That’s a rarified position and one I wish to see the most made of.
I want Carmen Jorda to succeed because if she doesn’t, if she fails it’s not just Carmen Jorda who fails, to the racing media, it’s women in racing who fails. If a male development driver fails, in the media’s eye because he wasn’t good enough. The narrative has nothing to do with his gender and everything to do his talent.
If Carmen Jorda fails, it’s not because she’s female, it’s because she isn’t good enough. But the story, the sometimes implicitly, sometimes blatantly sexist narrative we’re fed is that it’s because she’s female. If Carmen doesn’t do well (and we’re not even sure to be honest what “do well” is defined as in her role), if she loses her seat for reasons that aren’t explicitly stated as being financial (the circumstances in which Sauber parted ways with affiliate driver Simona De Silvestro) she fails because she is a woman.
Carmen is intelligent, incredibly determined and believes women have their place in motorsport just as any other sport in the world.
Formula One isn’t a sport that welcomes women with open arms. Numerous drivers have made less than delightful comments regarding the chance of women racing competitively and that’s before you even get onto Bernie, the sport’s not so adorable sexist grandfather.
“You know I’ve got one of those wonderful ideas … women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.”
Bernie Ecclestone after Danica Patrick placed 4th at the Indy500
I do not necessarily believe Carmen Jorda deserves her spot within a Formula 1 team (I hold the same opinion for several actual drivers as well but that’s beside the point) but I will back her, support her and wish her success for as long as she holds that position. I want to see women in F1 and I want to see women succeed in F1 and if in 2015 that’s Carmen Jorda, then so be it.
Additionally, she’s handled the blowback like a champ.
Formula one is full of jealousy. There are few cockpits, so only a few can make it. Rob is obviously jealous that I’m here and he is not. I wish him all the best, that’s all I can say.