British motor racing star of the 50s Sir Stirling Moss has sparked uproar by suggesting that female drivers are incapable of succeeding in F1.

"I think they have the strength, but I don't know if they've got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel," the 83-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live.

"I just don't think they have aptitude to win a F1 race," he insisted. "The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion.

"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 added. "The trouble is, when you're racing, it's pretty tiring."

Despite winning 16 races in his 11 seasons in F1, Moss himself never managed to seal F1 title - leading many to dub him "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship."

"I completely disagree with him. It makes me cringe hearing that," said Williams development driver Susie Wolff who dismissed Moss' comments as "a generation thing" and said that F1 was a "very tough environment" that is hard to enter regardless of gender.

"I don't know where to start," said Wolff when asked by BBC Sport to respond to Moss's comments. "I've got a lot of respect for Sir Stirling and what he achieved, but I think we're in a different generation.

"In the days [when Sir Stirling was] 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."

Moss agreed that things had changed since his day, making it physically more possible for women drivers to participate: "We had three-hour races in those days. You needed tremendous concentration. Now races are only one hour and 10 minutes."

In response, Wolff pointed to Italy's Lella Lombardi who made 12 Grand Prix starts between 1974 and 1976, once of five female drivers to have competed in F1 race weekends in the past.

Wolff also suggested that Danica Patrick's high profile success in the US in NASCAR and IndyCar demonstrated that women drivers are up to the challenge today, with some stock car races lasting for over three hours with oval racing taking immense physical stamina and mental concentration.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been said to be keen on developing F1's own 'Danica' and has even been reportedly behind moves to tempt Patrick herself into the world championship. He for one doen't share Moss's thoughts that women have no place in the sport.

"There's no reason why a woman shouldn't be able to compete with a man," he said - but added that he felt it unlikely that he would see a female driver in a top team like Ferrari or Red Bull in his lifetime and that it would have to be with one of the backmarker teams instead.

"Regretfully, the problem is that many ladies who could compete probably as well as the guys won't get chance," he said.

Wolff is hoping that he'd wrong about that: "I'm in a position where I'm just trying to get into F1, but I do believe that it's possible for a women to get in, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this," she said.



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