F1 changes gears, women slip into fast lane


Pedro de la Rosa, the Spanish driver in the HRT team, needed immediate attention to a few technical aspects of his car during Saturday's qualifying. The brakes needed tightening, the drive shaft required maintenance and the upright of the machine demanded urgent monitoring. It was all completed like clockwork. And it was all done by a woman.

Sarah Morgan, a young HRT mechanic from Swansea, played a major role in optimising de la Rosa's overall performance, shaving off nearly one-third of a second for him as he climbed off the back of the field to two better at 22nd — a big jump by racing standards.

In F1's environs, however, the biggest and most notable jump has been the presence of women crew members like Morgan — from the greasy workspace of the pit lane to the business end of the once male-dominated sport. And none exemplify this change more than the person at the very top of F1's hierarchy — Monisha Kaltenborn, the Indian-born woman who became the first ever female team principal in F1's history.

During a meeting on Friday, Sauber's Kaltenborn was symbolically placed between the five gentlemen responsible for calling the shots in their respective teams — Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Caterham.

Asked how it feels to be the "first lady of Formula One", she replied: "That's for the others to say... but proud, of course." Also proud were the people at the Buddh International Circuit.

Born Monisha Narang in Dehradun, Kaltenborn, 41, represents two minorities in the sport — Indians and women. "What I really hope is that this can encourage more girls to think of motorsports as a full-time profession, that's a great achievement," she said.

And she has encouraged a few, like Ferrari's lubricants manager Cara Tredget. With a PhD in chemistry from the University of Oxford, Tredget was always interested in its application in the real world. She was also interested in F1. "So the two just came together," said Tredget.

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