Women’s Day is a chance to motivate, says de Villota
On International Women's Day, FIA Women in Motorsport Ambassador Maria de Villota explains how her near-fatal accident has given her more strength to help women pursue their motor sport goals.
Fri 08.03.13, 9:09AM
The FIA Women in Motorsport Commission is a “huge step” in helping women to follow their dream for a future in motor sport, according to Maria de Villota.
Speaking to FIA.com to mark International Women’s Day, de Villota said she hoped to help give other women the determination to achieve their dreams. “Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you are not alone and to push you, to give you the opportunity and determination to go and fight for what you want,” she said. “There’s no better day than the 8 March.”
De Villota says that in her experience, motor sport can be a lonely place for a woman. “I felt a little bit alone, which was not nice,” she says. “We still have a long way to go until women in motor sport is not an issue, it’s just for everyone. That would be great, as the environment for us would be more normal rather than everyone focusing on you being a woman. In F1, I remember I just tried to keep a low profile and to just do as much work as I could. From a professional point of view you just want to be a racing driver.”
Led by Michèle Mouton, the Commission is making great strides in communicating to females. “For all the women, and lots of men, Michèle is an amazing woman and she does so much for motor sport,” says de Villota. “For me it has been an inspiration and I think that with Michèle in this role we can do a lot. With Susie [Wolff] and Monisha [Kaltenborn] we can tell women to follow their dream.”
Having strong and motivating female role models is key to making the change, according to de Villota. Last year she suffered severe head and facial injuries when the Marussia Formula One car she was driving at a straight-line test collided with a stationary truck. She says that since the accident her own strength has grown.
“Before my accident I was focused on being an F1 driver and having the chance to be on the grid, it was the only focus I had,” she says. “After the accident my whole life changed 180 degrees. I lost my right eye and then my life as a professional racing driver was completely different. But it was amazing how I felt very grateful for being alive and having another chance. The doctors said they did not know if I was going to survive. When you are given another chance you really feel it.
“I knew my dream to reach F1 was going to be tough and I think my whole life has been a fight, but I did not expect to be as strong as I’ve been. I guess my life as a racing driver taught me to be strong and have the determination to fight for the things you want. In the end that was the best basis because everything I learnt in my racing career saved my life.
“The very best thing about this story is if I could give another woman a push to believe in herself. If a woman said one day, ‘you do not know me but you helped me’, that would be the very best for me.”
In addition to her role in the Commission, de Villota is helping raise funds for the Ana Carolina Diez Mahou foundation for children who have Neuromuscular and Mitocondrial Diseases. She is also committed to her role as a road safety ambassador with the Women in Motorsport Commission.
“Road safety is a very big issue, it leads to more deaths in the world than even sickness,” she says. “As racing drivers or ex-F1 drivers I think it’s our duty. When I was in F1 people would say, ‘how does it feel to go at 300kph?’ I said the amazing thing in F1 is trying to find the perfection, and I think you can do the same in a normal car.”
For more information on Women in Motorsport, click here.