Formula One is a difficult territory, governed by millions, and most significantly males. Look into female participation in Formula One, and there is very little to show for it.
It has been given a significant boost this season by Claire Williams, daughter of Frank, working as Team Principal for Williams. Also Williams has given female participation a boost by hiring Suzi Wolff as a development driver for the team.
It is a great boost for female participation, but it is only the beginning. There are more females with a desire to race in Formula One, and not many with more desire than Alice Powell. Alice caught the driving bug at a young age, learning to drive by six. Even before then, racing was in her blood.
I believe when I was two or three I used to be obsessed with watching bikes. Then I started watching Formula One and I was a huge Schumacher fan. I used to ride around on a bike pretending it was an F1 car as you do as a child. I just loved the speed.
Her love of speed was rewarded at the age of 8, when she got her chance karting. It was, as usual in motorsport, male dominated. Powell experienced this problem early on in her career:
I started karting when I was 8, so I’ve raced for a while now. I noticed it a lot more when I started, when people gave me a strange look saying: “is that a female?” You’d also hear comments, you still do now mind, but less than before. That’s a good thing. It’s tough, but it’s getting a lot easier from when I first started that’s for sure.
It didn’t stop Powell going on to be successful.
A 16 year old Powell, in 2009, achieved her first big success, driving in the Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship, becoming the youngest female driver in a Formula Renault race. Her success meant that she ended the year winning a great accomplishment for burgeoning women drivers, the British Women Racing Driver’s GoldStar’s Elite Category Award.
Her early success has propelled her to the GP3 series in 2010. While there, she once again broke down barriers to women drivers, becoming the first woman to score points since the series inception. More significantly for Alice, the series has produced F1 drivers such as Esteban Gutierrez, who made his name racing in this series. More recently, Daniil Kyvat joined Toro Rosso after racing in GP3.
Unfortunately, Alice was unable to continue in the GP3 series, and instead signed up for the F3 Cup. Her first season was a huge success, as she finished 2nd after winning five races. Alice has not given up on her Formula One dream, but acknowledges the difficulties of achieving it:
It is a huge ambition of mine. Yeah, it will be hard because of the money, so it really isn’t easy at all.
Alice explained that if she was to achieve it, the path would not be easy:
It’s getting noticed and getting the funding which is also very important. It’s hard to get the funding if you’re not from a really wealthy background, which I’m not. I love my family to bits, but they’ve not got the money to move me up the ladder. The only really obstacle is funding, it is millions of pounds to get into Formula One.
Even if her Formula One career was not to be, Powell is fast becoming a flag bearer for women racers, something which she would love to be. Citing the success of Danica Patricks in the USA and Suzi Wolff at Williams in F1, she said:
I would certainly like to be a flagbearer. I still get a lot of young girls come up and ask for advice, which is really good. Even girls who want to be engineers and mechanics. All the advice I give helps them, and Suzi is obviously more well known than me in Formula One. If a female got into Formula One then obviously there would be huge publicity and it would encourage more women to come into the sport.
Suzi Wolff will become the first woman to participate in a Formula One weekend since 1992. Alice Powell represents the next generation who would like to emulate and go further than Wolff.
With a promising career underway, who would bet against Powell?