For the past four years, Craig Pollock has been quietly working on a groundbreaking project in the world of Formula One.
The former CEO of British American Racing (BAR) is set to launch Formula Equal, a new racing team that is 50% men and 50% women, with gender equality applied across every level of the organization.
Pollock is no stranger to building an F1 team from scratch. He was the driving force behind BAR, which was later bought out by Mercedes. But Formula Equal is an entirely different proposition.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN Sport, Pollock explained the reasoning behind his latest project. “Our ambition is to build opportunities and pathways for women to get to the very top level inside motorsports,” he said.
Pollock’s vision is to create a team that is truly representative of the population. Gender equality would be applied not just to the drivers, but to every aspect of the organization, from the engineers to the boardroom.
While there have been female drivers in Formula One in the past, they have been few and far between. Just five women have ever taken part in a Grand Prix, with only two – Lella Lombardi and Maria Teresa de Filippis – having scored points.
Pollock believes that Formula Equal can change this. By creating a team that is equally balanced between men and women, he hopes to inspire a new generation of female drivers and engineers to enter the sport.
“Formula One has been a male-dominated sport for too long,” he said. “It’s time to break down those barriers and show that women can compete at the highest level.”
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50/50 Male and Female
Of course, creating a team that is 50% male and 50% female is easier said than done. Pollock admits that it would be extremely hard to achieve with an existing team. But he believes that starting from scratch gives Formula Equal the best chance of success.
“It’s a lot easier with a clean sheet of paper,” he said. “We can build an organization that is truly representative of the population, rather than trying to change an existing one.”
Pollock’s plans for Formula Equal are still in the early stages, but he is confident that the team will be up and running within the next few years. He has already secured backing from investors and is in talks with potential sponsors.
But Pollock knows that there will be challenges along the way. Breaking down the barriers in a male-dominated sport won’t be easy. But he is determined to succeed.
“We’re not doing this to make a statement,” he said. “We’re doing this because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We want to create a team that is truly representative of the population and inspire the next generation of female drivers and engineers.”
Formula Equal may be a new team, but it has the potential to change the face of Formula One forever. Pollock’s vision of a 50/50 split between men and women is bold and ambitious, but it’s also long overdue. If he can make it a reality, he will have achieved something truly groundbreaking in the world of motorsport.
Formula Equal Project
Pollock’s project aligns with the FIA’s Women in Motorsport commission, which aims to increase female participation on and off the track. A 2016 FIA survey found that women accounted for just 6.5% of drivers, 16% of institutional employees, and 19% of volunteers in European motorsport.
Formula Equal is not just about getting women drivers in F1 cars, but also having equal representation throughout the team. Pollock recognises that there are currently not enough women who are trained to the level of Formula One, so Formula Equal will have to build up its academy systems to develop and promote young women at a grassroots level in motorsports.
While speaking publicly about his plans for Formula Equal, Pollock joked that Formula One is like a sieve and that you have to be careful who you talk to. However, with the FIA’s recent application process to find “one or more” new F1 teams to join the championship, Pollock had to confirm that he had made an application.
As part of the selection process, the FIA will assess the team’s business plan, experience, technical ability and resources, and the potential to raise and maintain sufficient funding.
Pollock is aware of the huge costs involved in launching a new F1 team, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff estimating that it would cost around $1 billion. However, Pollock is confident that Formula Equal has the potential to succeed and hopes that the team will be given the opportunity to prove itself on the F1 grid.
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Pollock’s involvement in the project has given it credibility within the motorsport community. Pollock was not only the CEO of BAR but also managed one-time F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve.
He is therefore well aware of the huge amounts of money needed to get a team off the ground. However, despite his credibility, Pollock’s announcement has been met with some skepticism, given the lack of transparency regarding the funding for the project.
The involvement of a Gulf state in the project has raised concerns about sportswashing. Sportswashing is the practice of using sport to project favorable images of a country around the world.
Human rights groups have accused F1 of using the sport to give cover to abusive regimes. F1 has responded to these accusations by saying that it has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits.
Despite the concerns about sportswashing, the launch of Formula Equal would be significant in terms of gender diversity in motorsports.
Having a mixed-gender motorsports team in Saudi Arabia would be especially significant, given that the country barred Saudi women from driving until 2018. Formula Equal would also be the first Formula One team based outside of Europe, potentially attracting a new audience to the sport.
Pollock has emphasized that Formula Equal is focused on delivering opportunities and pathways for women coming up and is linked to equality, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.
However, the lack of transparency regarding the funding for the project means that questions will continue to be asked about the involvement of a Gulf state in the project and the potential for sportswashing. If Formula Equal is successful, it could be a significant step towards greater gender diversity in motorsports.
Photo: Kinja IMG