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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

When asked to imagine Formula 1 fans, most people picture middle-aged men, sitting around a TV watching younger men drive around in silly shapes for two hours on a nice Sunday morning. However, according to Ellie Norman, the Director of Marketing & Communications at Formula 1, approximately 44% of F1 fans are women. And oh my god do these women ever face astronomical amounts of criticism. 

When women are interested in anything male-dominated, we’re often faced with misogyny in the form of pop quizzes on the subject, and a constant disregard for the knowledge we hold. Ask any male F1 fan if he’s ever been tested on what DRS means (it’s drag reduction system btw). The answer will probably be “never”, as these tests of knowledge seem to only be reserved for women. These tests aren’t limited to sports either, as young women wearing 80s band tees are often faced with the magic question from strangers, “Can you even name three songs?”

On top of this criticism, we’re also told we only watch sports because of the attractive men. While you would think it’s just silly male fans with a superiority complex who hold these opinions, Christian Horner, aka Red Bull Racing’s Team Principle, once said that the F1-based Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive is “bringing in a lot of young girls because of all these great looking young drivers.” Yes, because we can see the drivers’ beautiful faces when they are wearing massive helmets, tucked away in their tiny cars, and travelling at high speeds of over 200kph.

While Drive to Survive has brought a lot of women’s attention to the sport, with women making up 40% of Grand Prix ticket sales as opposed to the 25% in previous years, the show has begun to take on a negative connotation within the Formula 1 community. I’ve noticed when scrolling through TikTok comments or Twitter posts of (typically female) F1 fans voicing their opinions, that they’re hit with floods of comments dismissing their opinions by calling them “Drive to Survive Fans”. Now yes, the show has dramatized or completely twisted certain situations to be more interesting (cough cough Mclaren’s 2021 “rivalry”), but the entire point of the show was to help F1 gain more fans across the globe, which it’s done successfully. So, why the hatred towards the show? I think misogyny and male superiority complexes play a large role as these men no longer see themselves as “special” or “unique” because F1 has grown so much in popularity—especially among the female fanbase. 

But on top of this online misogyny and gatekeeping, the male fans of Formula 1 have taken this disrespect towards women off the internet and into Grand Prix. 

Following the Saturday qualifying race of the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, the official F1 social media accounts posted a statement discussing how they recognize the “unacceptable comments” some F1 fans were subjected to during the race weekend. These fans were women who experienced misogynistic, racist, and homophobic comments along with inappropriate touching during what should have been a fun Grand Prix weekend spent cheering on their favourite drivers. While this inspired Formula 1 to begin the “Drive It Out” campaign, with the goal of getting rid of any and all hate within the sport, it’s been brought into question how seriously this is being taken or if it’s all just another public relations move. 

So please, as a woman and an F1 fan, just let me cheer for drivers because of their talent and speed. So what if we think drivers are hot? The fact that Carlos Sainz has the most perfect hair I’ve ever seen on a man shouldn’t take away from the fact that I know the difference between a soft and a hard tyre. When women are accepted and feel safe in the F1 fanbase, we can complain about Ferrari’s horrible strategy, and debate the 2021 championship together.

Victoria is a third-year Bachelor of Arts student at Queen's University studying English. She is also a lover of music, romcoms, Formula 1, and is always open to book recs!