LONDON • Bernie Ecclestone warned on Thursday that Formula One may never have another female driver, even as a campaign was launched to encourage more women to get into motor racing.
The chief executive of the Formula One Group chose a significant week in F1 history to make his pronouncement that women drivers would "not be taken seriously".
Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first woman to compete in a grand prix, died last weekend at the age of 89.
Susie Wolff, the most recent woman to attempt to join the elite grid, on Thursday launched Dare To Be Different, a scheme to encourage women to become involved in motor racing.
Ecclestone believes that is a forlorn hope, having run F1 for almost four decades and not seen a successful woman driver emerge.
In an interview with TSN, a Canadian television network, he said: "If there was somebody that was capable, they wouldn't be taken seriously anyway, so they would never have a car capable of competing."
The Briton was formulating plans for an all-women series to accompany his grand prix events around the world, but his scheme was shot down by Wolff.
"I have raced my whole career as a normal competitor," she said. "Why would I look for a race where I was only competing against women?"
The Scot spent four years as a test and development driver at Williams only to be told last year that she was not good enough to replace Valtteri Bottas, the team's regular driver, when he went down with a back injury.
Wolff, 33, retired last year and she has launched her own campaign to involve women in the sport, recruiting Alice Powell, a 22-year-old from Oxford - the only woman to score a point in the GP3 junior series - to lead the challenge.
"Someone needs to prove Bernie wrong," Powell said. "It would be a shame if a team would turn down a female to race in F1 because they would not be taken seriously ."
However, women might level their own criticism at Ecclestone. He tried to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix but failed; alongside him that day in 1958 was de Filippis, and she did go on to make three grand prix starts.
THE TIMES, LONDON