Guest Author - Christine Blachford
With the new USF1 team gathering steam, talk has turned to who they would possibly sign up to drive for them, if and when they hit the grid. Co-founder Ken Anderson has said he wants the team to have American drivers, and all the discussion at the moment revolves around Danica Patrick.
The IRL driver is currently one of the top female racing drivers in motorsport, and is the only woman to have won an IndyCar race, which she did so in 2008. Patrick does court controversy though, as she isn't afraid of using her good looks to attract media attention. She is a regular in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and has modelled for several magazines in a similar fashion.
The controversy comes over whether she is good enough to drive in F1. There is no doubt that she has talent, and winning a race certainly boosted her career, and opinions of it. However, the statistics do seem to show a tend to do better on oval racing rather than circuit racing, such as would be required in F1. There's nothing to say she couldn't do it, but as yet, we don't know.
When the USF1 team expressed an interest in Danica, they did so by suggesting she creates a lot of media hype. This isn't exactly a testament to her driving skills, but even so, it could be just what the sport needs. Bernie Ecclestone has done his best to strip F1 away from North America, so creating a stir with a new F1 team and the first female driver for over a decade would be a real boost.
Patrick was scheduled to have a test drive for the Honda team at the end of 2008, but that was scrapped when they withdrew from the sport. As of now, she says she hasn't been approached by USF1, but is extremely flattered by any rumours linking her to Formula 1. She has said that she's not necessarily interested in travelling the world, though, and a global sport like F1 needs someone willing to travel and enjoy the spectacle in all the different countries that they visit.
Personally, I think it's too early to tell whether Danica would be a good fit in the car or not. It would be great for there to be a female F1 driver, but she shouldn't be there for that reason alone. Perhaps once we have seen a couple of tests, we'll know more.