Danica Patrick's success in becoming the first female driver to win a pole position for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race last week has reopened the speculation about female drivers in modern F1.
Patrick went on to lead the race at one point and ended up finishing in eighth place, the highest-ever final position for a woman in the Great American Race. The media attention surrounding her appearance in the Daytona 500 hugely boosted TV audiences for the event.
Williams test driver Susie Wolff said that Danica Patrick's success in the NASCAR race had not gone unnoticed in F1 circles, either.
“Bernie Ecclestone for one is massively pushing that it happens at some point I think in the future we will definitely see it happen," said Wolff. "I know many people want it to happen."
There have been five female drivers in F1 in the past, starting with Maria Teresa de Filippis competing for Maserati in 1958, but the most recent was in 1992 when Giovanna Amati drove for Brabham. Between them, the quintet have driven in only 29 Grand Prix races in total and amassed just half a point.
"I think the fact that there hasn't been a successful female in F1 maybe makes people wary over whether it's possible or not," agreed Wolff. "I fully believe that it is possible but it's just going to take time for it to happen."
The biggest problem is where are the female driving stars of the future going to come from? With Danica Patrick by far the most successful role model for young woman considering a career in the sport, it doesn't bode well for F1 that she's finding her current new level of success in stock cars in the US.
“There are more male drivers which is why possibly it's even tougher for a female because there aren't as many of us trying to get into F1,” Wolff admitted.
Danica Patrick actually started her career in open-wheel single-seater series, moving to the UK in 1999 to race in the British Formula Ford Championship and competing against the likes of Jenson Button before returning to the US to work her way into the IndyCar Series. At one point a move to F1 seemed a genuine option, but there was nothing on offer to match the deals she was presented with to move into stock car racing full-time in 2012, firmly shutting the door on that possibility.