Formula 1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone doesn't foresee a woman competing in the sport again because "they wouldn't be taken seriously."
The 85-year-old made his comments to Canadian network TSN in the same week that former Williams development driver Susie Wolff launched her 'Dare to Be Different' campaign, which aims to boost female involvement in all areas of motorsport.
Wolff did not start a grand prix during her spell at the British team, before retiring at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Women do hold positions of power outside the car, however, with Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenbornand Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams both holding senior jobs within the sport.
Ecclestone has often spoken of his desire to see a woman on the grid, albeit usually citing the commercial benefits of female participation. He also faced criticism when, after Wolff was given the Williams gig in 2012, he commented: "If Susie's as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car, she'll be a huge asset." Ecclestone is also quoted as saying that "women should be dressed in white, like all the other domestic appliances."
His most recent comments came after being asked if a woman will compete in the sport again.
"I doubt it," Ecclestone replied. "If there was somebody that was capable they wouldn't be taken seriously anyway, so they would never have a car that is capable of competing. There was a girl that was driving in GP3 for a whole season so it is not something that hasn't happened."
In fact several women have competed in GP3 – two rungs below F1 – but none have stood out to the extent that an F1 team has registered significant interest. Demonstrably the worst of these – the former model Carmen Jorda – has been hired by the Lotus F1 squad, but her role is unclear and does not involve driving the car.
It is perhaps this sort of hiring that damages women's reputation and chances in F1. If women are being signed based more on their looks and commercial appeal than their results – which appears to be the case as regards Jorda – their perception within the paddock will never be improved.
Ecclestone's claim that a talented female driver "would never have a car that is capable of competing" is also highly dubious. If Ferrari found a woman who was as quick as Sebastian Vettel, they would move heaven and earth (not to mention Kimi Raikkonen) to give her a race seat. Every F1 team would like to be the first to take a woman to the top step of the podium.
Interestingly, Ecclestone has direct experience of female competition from his own short time racing in F1: in 1958 the Briton tried to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix, where he was comfortably beaten by F1's first female racer, Maria Teresa de Filippis.
De Filippis – who died last week – is one of just two women to have started Formula 1 grands prix. The other – the late Lella Lombardi – did so almost 40 years ago, during the 1976 season.