Former IndyCar Series race winner Danica Patrick has insisted up-and-coming female drivers must challenge themselves against their male counterparts in order to reach the top of the sport.
F1 is continuing its push to nurture young female talent with the announcement that the second season of the F1 Academy will see teams in the top echelon of single-seater racing nominate a driver each.
No female driver has taken part in a Grand Prix weekend since Susie Wolff drove for Williams in practice for the 2014 British Grand Prix.
Patrick, who became the first and as-yet only female race winner in IndyCar with victory at the 2008 Indy Japan 300, has warned about the suitability for an all-female series in the quest to reach the top.
Questioned over the push to get a female driver into F1, the American told the Sky Sports F1 Podcast: “Well, you’re assuming I want that, you’re assuming that is important to me, and it’s not.
“It’s always an interesting stance I have on it. I think that what makes the sport really popular is great racing – you can have half the field out there women and have it be follow the leader, and it’s not going to be interesting to watch.
“Good racing… and that’s what we have so much of these days in Formula 1, I mean pretty much everything other than Max is a toss-up for who’s going to be second, third, fourth, fifth that weekend, and so that’s what makes it really appealing.
“So as someone who obviously was a girl, you’ve just got to come up like normal.
“I do have a little bit of… not a criticism, but an opinion about female series, is that it’s fine, it can give opportunity for some who might not get a chance otherwise to show what they can do but at the end of the day, you’re going to have to race against guys.
“So when you watch golf, you watch that a lot of times, a golfer that’s maybe not ranked as high, will rise to the occasion with whoever he’s golfing with, and I think that tends to happen in all sports.”
F1 tests vital
Adding her belief that experience in F1 machinery is vital, Patrick said: “I just think that, giving proper tests, to be able to see if a female driver is fast enough, is a great way to know if there should be a next step forward.
“But as far as anything beyond that, I think they should be racing with the guys, racing in the same series and they’ve just got to get people around them that believe in them.
“The more times that you put yourself in a position to show what you can do, the better off you are, and it’s better to be in the car than not.
“So just more cars, more track time and more opportunities to show what you can do is just always a good thing.”