British racing legend Stirling Moss does not believe that women are mentally tough enough to compete in Formula One, despite the presence of female test drivers and team principals.
“I think they have the strength but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel,” Moss told BBC radio in an interview to be broadcast on Monday.
The 83-year-old’s comments were met with astonishment from Susie Wolff, who is hoping to compete in F1 and is currently a development driver for Williams.
“I don’t know where to start after hearing that interview,” the 30-year-old told the programme “Women in F1″.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Sir Stirling and what he achieved but I think we’re in a different generation.
“For Moss, it’s unbelievable that a female would drive a Formula 1 car, which is fair enough. In the days they were racing, every time they stepped into a car, they were putting their life on the line.
“But F1 is much more technologically advanced, it’s much safer than it was,” she said, according to the BBC website.
Only five women have ever raced in Formula One and only one has scored a point.
Italian Maria “Lella” Lombardi started 12 races in the 1970s and scored half a point with Brabham.
Her compatriot Giovanna Amati was the last women to enter an F1 race but failed to qualify for three races in 1992.
Danica Patrick is the most successful woman in motorsport and took pole position in this year’s Daytona 500 IndyCar race.
The 31-year-old became the first woman to win an IndyCar race in 2008 and in 2010 set the series record for consecutive races finished.
Claire Williams also took over as team principal this year, while Monisha Kaltenborn was last year appointed to head Sauber.
Last season, Spaniard Maria de Villota lost an eye in a crash while testing for Marussia.
Moss, who won 16 F1 races during his career from 1951 to 1961, said he was not surprised that more women had not competed in the sport.
But he added: “We’ve got some very strong and robust ladies but, when your life is at risk, I think the strain of that in a competitive situation will tell when you’re trying to win,” he said.
“The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don’t think they have aptitude to win a Formula 1 race.”
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in contrast said there was no reason women should not compete in F1 but said that it was unlikely that female drivers would get the chance with a leading team.