A friend and contributor of Badger has taken on the hot potato of a topic that is women and F1 – based on results from a fan survey to investigate what it is about F1 that has so many women hooked – to get us started, Rachel’s favourite quote from the survey:
I love the sound of those finely tuned engines, how the soft purr or the loud roar gives me goosebumps and how the first time I saw a real F1 car, I thought it was one of the most beautiful pieces of machinery I had ever clapped eyes on. I love the structure of the sport, how its constantly evolving and becoming bigger and better. I love the high stakes, the passion, the glory, the emotion. I love how the start of a race makes my heart pound in my chest and how the sight of my favourite driver on the podium can bring me to tears. There is nothing like it, because there is nothing like Formula 1.
A few weeks ago, whilst watching the Canadian GP along with a bunch of other BadgerGP fans, I decided to write a post about why women are into Formula 1. A couple of comments were made at the predominantly male gathering that made me want to question further how and why women follow this sport that is seen as a male area; comments included both protestations about women liking F1 too and that there were more women interested in the sport. This was the same weekend that the fact a woman, Leena Gade, was engineer to the winning Le Mans car had been seen as unusual enough to make headline news.
Anyway, the following day, I quickly put up a survey and tweeted about it. If I’d thought about it a little more I may have a) used a different survey engine b) created the survey in such a way as to make it easier to analyse; nothing but loads of free text fields made it hard. But then again, I didn’t expect such a response. I had over 300 responses to this off the cuff decision. This meant two things – I had to pay to get access to the results and it took me a lot longer than expected to analyse them. That, combined with a few other things, means it’s been a while, but I’m finally pulling all the results together.
First of all I need to thank everyone who responded and spread the word. The results were overwhelming to me and it’s just brilliant. It’s not a true representative survey, as it was self selecting to Twitter users (or those who know Twitter users) and is biased towards British people as far as I can tell. But it still tells a story of the women who love the sport of F1. It made me laugh and sometimes caused a little tear. The stories involved are wonderful and I’ll share a few of them. There’s no names or details, as I said I wouldn’t, but I hope to paint a picture for you all.
I had 312 responses. At least 2 of these were false – one pretending to be Nico Rosberg, the other giving completely silly answers (you know who you are…). Everything else looked fine, so that gives 310. As far as I can tell, the majority were from the UK. I don’t know the ages…as I said, if I had thought a little more I would have asked the demographic questions. From the answers, the women range from mid-teens through to early 60s at least, so it is a pretty wide range.
Why do you like the sport?
The quote at the beginning of this article sums up the sentiment of many who answered my survey. I was curious as to why women liked the sport and for almost everyone who answered, it was the whole package, everything that is involved in it. I’ve been asked a number of times if it is attractive drivers that the women fans are after. Only 1 person answered the drivers alone; only 13% mentioned drivers in their answer, usually about skill of the driving, although the occasional pretty face was mentioned (usually Jenson Button and Mark Webber).
If you wanted to pick out one word that got repeated again and again it was this: EXCITEMENT. That was the most common factor in why women watch the sport. It’s exciting. From the politics and gamesmanship off the track to the sheer speed and adrenaline on it. To me, politics was a surprisingly common call out, people love the human drama involved in the sport, it all adds to it.
I’m going to call out the BBC again for what makes it interesting. The programmes around the races have opened up the sport for many, increasing their interest
BBC coverage is excellent with behind the scenes interviews and features.
The BBC coverage has done most for the sport, they explain so much and make it interesting.
Great show on the BBC and great community on twitter.
On that last quote, I was expecting slightly more mention of the use of social media to open up the sport to more, but that’s probably a personal bias. It was there but mentioned only a few times.
I think that if i asked the same question to males only you’re going to get the same sort of answers. it’s just an exciting sport that reaches all levels, the human relationships, the technology, the brains required in the sport and the challenge of the races.
The passion, the speed, the skill, the engineering, the sounds, the smells (have to be there for that one!), the history … I’m a petrol head and it’s the pinnacle of motorsport.
Engineering, aerodynamics.speed and the drivers ability
The cars, the speed, the atmosphere… everything! I fell into it by chance and was immediately hooked.
The cars, drivers, all the technology and strategy involved is fascinating.
I like everything about it. The technology, the racing the pit stops. I am also fascinated by the business side of things & management in such a high paced world (I am a businesswoman).
I love how the whole team work together so hard to hand over a car for 1 person to drive. All their hard work in that persons hands driven to the max. I love the fans opinions & the build up from practice til race
Length of Fandom
I asked was how long had they been a fan. There is some anecdotal evidence that the sport is getting more popular with women recently, so I wondered if that was true.
The average length of fandom was 15.5 years. The shortest was 6 months, the longest 56 years. I had to make a choice when someone said they had been a fan as long as I remember – i picked a number of 20 years for this, although if I take these numbers out, the average only drops to 15.1 years.
Some choice quotes:
Around 3 years- since i realised that I didn’t want to be an F1 widow every Sunday, i learnt to embrace it and now love it!
12 years, I discovered it on a holiday in Sicily with friend she had to work so I went to the pub with her brother a mad Tifosi who made me support Ferrari in a race I had no idea what was going on, but at the end of it this nice Irish man gave an interview in Italian and some how my love of the sport was born mainly out of lust, but I grew to love it all.
Fifty five years! My father was a F1 fan so I started at the age of twelve watching Stirling Moss, Graham Hill et al! Also watched Campbell and Bluebird on Coniston Water. My father was an aeronautical engineer and draughtsman – he also built the instrument panels in the Wellington Bombers for Vickers Armstrong in Manchester. I have had a background in this kind of thing – generally regarded as “men’s interests” – I was brought up with it & I am a “one off”!
I’ve watched F1 since I was a baby. My mum used to put me in front of it to keep me quiet haha
I kinda fell out of love with it when MSC was winning so consistently despite me being a MSC fan. It just became boring. Fernando pulled me back a bit and Lewis reignited the love of the sport for me.
I always loved it when I was young but lost interest during the Ferrari domination/ITV era. Picked it back up again in 2009 on move to the BBC
There were quite a few tales of people who watched for a while, went away but have come back to the sport in recent years. The last lady was not the only one to mention the BBC as a reason for their return.
Are other family members interested?
I asked this question to try and find out how many women had started watching the sport growing up. I also looked at those who mentioned a specific parent.
- 79% say another family member was interested in the sport
- 35% say their father was the one who got them interested
- 10% say father and mother were interested
- 4% say their mother alone was the parent interested
- 18% say their partner got them involved in the sport
Other family members children, siblings etc. In the majority of cases, interest wasn’t spontaneous, from watching TV, or by having some form of experience. There were a few that did get interested in that way. In my case, it was because my employee became a sponsor of McLaren. Spending a whole afternoon hanging around the garage at a Silverstone test gave me the bug, also why I like the behind the scenes, team, tech and data far more than the ‘front of house’ drivers (or is that just because I’m a geek?).
This has implications for getting more women into the sport. In most cases, it’s someone they know who has the best opportunities to get them involved, so the current moves to ‘bring a friend to F1’ are good options. Providing close-up opportunities are not as scaleable, but still valid, i think especially if you can do it at a younger age.
Some choice quotes:
My husband is, but when I started following no one in my family home watched
Yes. Mum. Brother. Sister. Nephews. Inlaws
They have little choice, I WILL talk about it, and watch it. 😉 but yes, my partner and my sons like it.
Yes, it’s all my dad’s fault
Oh yes sig other & dorts aged 4 & 9 yrs
My dad is interested and so is my mum, Ive also got my nan to start watching some of the races and shes 90!
Not really, my hubbie watches it, but doesn’t get into it as much as me!
Do you watch all the races?
The answer to this is a resounding yes. The only reason for not watching live were work, family commitments or travelling. Even then, the recorder or iPlayer gets used.
Do you travel to races?
I asked if the women had traveled to races and if not, why not. 49% of the respondents had traveled to a race to watch it live before; just over a quarter of those had been to Silverstone only, indicating the strong British tendency in the results.
Of those had not traveled, as expected, the reason was financial. Some were just no, it was far too expensive, others were it was too expensive at the moment, as they were students or were currently raising a family. These latter two groups tended to say they would go in the future.
Interestingly, one other reason that was noticeable was lack of someone to travel with. Personally, I’m happy to travel alone (I went to testing this year alone), but for many, it is a problem. This is where I think social media can help, it allows you to find like-minded people to share such a trip with.
Some choice quotes:
No – tickets are too expensive, travelling is too time-consuming, and I avoid flying for environmental reasons
No- but mainly because of funding
I would love too but it’s expensive so haven’t saved up enough yet – when I go I want to do it properly and get a paddock club ticket!
No. Husband has not dragged me there yet. But we are planning on Austin 2012!
Yes Silverstone 11 years ago. Would love to go again but very expensive.
Never been but would love to, the cost is a huge reason. Also being the only person I know interested in F1, I’d have noone to go with
What’s your favourite team?
Given the British bias, it’s not too surprising that the favourite team was McLaren, with 35% of the respondents saying they were their favourite team. 15% said they did have a favourite team and 10% had more than one – but I only counted the first mentioned in the graph. 10% said they supported the team their favourite driver was at, but most were about the team regardless of who was driving.
The most common reason for liking McLaren was their Britishness (and having British drivers probably helps here. Although they are liked by a couple of respondents for being a New Zealand team, or at least NZ founded. I think the Christian Horner Fan Club had a few members answering, given that the team principle was mentioned a few times as a reason to like Red Bull.
There were a surprising number of people who called out ‘anyone but Ferrari’ as a team, showing it was a team that generates strong emotions. Alonso also provided the same reaction when talking about the drivers.
A number of times, location was called out. Having a local team, like with football, is also a great way to gain a fan.
Some choice quotes:
Ferrari – history, passion, success
Sort of – I tend to support Mclaren because they make particularly shiny cars! Joking. Sort of. I’ve always supported them – and they’re british, like me. Although I support most of the grid really. Except Ferrari.
Marrusia Virgin , I live in Sheffield and I love the fact I have an F1 team so close by. They’re also the most accessible and friendly.
McLaren till I die. Well maybe not literally 🙂
McLaren (more so when Ron Dennis was there) they have a great eye for detail and not just in F1 & Lotus, the green one not the other 😉
Team Lotus! They are so open for fans, so interactive, and there is such a nice, relaxed, cool atmosphere in the team. And they are true fighters!
Lotus for their friendliness & openess towards fans, and Red Bull for letting their drivers truly race one another and their good humour as a team.
Red Bull Racing. They have THE MAN, Adrian Newey. They have a great team and the style!
Williams, they are willing to let their drivers race
Any team that has Ross Brawn. Why? I coveted his Le Mans Silk Cut Jaguar purple jacket & have followed him since. He is the smartest guy in the pit lane & has beaten Adrian Newey more times than people usually remember.
Second at the mo would be Team Lotus – because they have balls.
Do you have a favourite driver?
Again, given the British bias, it’s not surprising that one of the British drivers came out as the favourite. Jenson Button got 29%% of the votes, Hamilton got 18%. However, being British was not enough to move Di Resta further up the rankings, only getting 2 votes. I think he needs more time in the Formula to make an impression. Webber just edged out Vettel, with 12% to 11%. Only 6% said they had no favourite
On my first count, I only included first mentioned drivers. Only 13 of them were mentioned as prime favourites. Adding secondary mentions, Button increased his popularity to 37% and Hamilton to 22%. Even with secondary votes, only 18 drivers were mentioned. Who are failing in the favourite drivers stakes? That would be, unfortunately, Sutil, Perez, Maldonado, Heidfeld, and any of the HRT drivers.
The only conclusion is to repeat what I said at the start – there’s a whole load of women out there who are extremely passionate about their sport. They love it for the excitement, the complexity, the complicated areas and the simple ones, and the sheer joy of a highly technical, competitive sport where anything could happen with a split second decision.
I wish I could publish many quotes here, but it would make the post far too long. I’m going to look at clearing the data up and seeing if there is somewhere to post it – but don’t expect that soon, that could be a while to anonymise it completely.
Again, thank you to everyone who took the time to complete this. it went far bigger than I expected, but it was a joy to read the results.