Scuderia Alpha Tauri Formula One team driver Pierre Gasly has become the latest Grand Prix driver to test positive for COVID 19. The Frenchman is latest in a list of Grand Prix drivers to have tested positive for Coronavirus.
Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team’s Lance Stroll, Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris have all tested positive for COVID 19 in recent weeks and months.
Gasly, who took his maiden Formula One victory in Italy last season tweeted:
Wayne Taylor Racing’s Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi who claimed their first Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona wins on Sunday says that the victory gives them plenty of momentum as the gear up for the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season which gets underway at Barber Motorsports Park on April 18.
Speaking following the race, Rossi said that being able to race at the moment under the current circumstances is extremely beneficial and gives him an edge over his fellow IndyCar Series competitors with the exception of Scott Dixon who was in the race as well this weekend.
Rossi said it is definitely an advantage and a phenomenal way to start the season, The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner won’t have much time to celebrate his win as he confirmed he will head to Sebring tonight to test his IndyCar ahead of the start of the new season.
Rossi also said that this win is one of the special ones saying that it is right up there with his Indianapolis 500 win. Helio Castroneves says that a win is a great way to start and the three time Indianapolis 500 winner says that the start of the 2021 season is a new chapter in his career that he is very excited about.
Willy T. Ribbs, became the first African American racing driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 when he started the race in 1991. Ribbs made history and has been a pioneer for motor racing both in the United States and worldwide.
The Californian has been instrumental in helping push for equality in motor racing and in a recent interview he said that he has been impressed with the work that NASCAR has done in relation to diversity with African American driver Darryl Bubba Wallace competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Ribbs is full of admiration for newly crowned seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton who he says has been extremely good for promoting diversity in motorsport.
Hamilton become the first driver of colour to enter Formula One when he made his debut with McLaren in 2007.
Ribbs says he is delighted to see NBA legend Michael Jordan entering the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as a team owner. It was announced earlier this year that Jordan along with NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin have set a team called XI23 Racing and will field Bubba Wallace.
“Michael is coming out of a sport that gets a lot of money to do and is going into a sport where you need to spend a lot of money to be competitive”
Ribbs believes that Michael Jordan would have been better served at entering Formula One as it is on a global stage and he believes that when it comes to equality and diversity that what Formula One is doing with the ‘We Race as One’ diversity programme that as a sport it is streets ahead of NASCAR and IndyCar in America. https://paddockeye.ie/jordan-excited-to-become-nascar-team-owner/
In 1985, Ribbs became the first African American racing driver to drive a Formula One car when then Brabham team owner Bernie Ecclestone gave him the chance to test the car with a view to Ribbs competing for the team in Formula One in 1986 however it wasn’t meant to be as the team’s sponsors were Italian and wanted an Italian driver in the car which Ribbs understood.
The test took place at the Estoril circuit in Portugal in December 1985 and in the documentary, Uppity, The Willy T. Ribbs Story, Ribbs recounts flying to the circuit and being told to set certain lap times by the team engineer. Ribbs did the test and went a second under the time that the team had set out for him.
Bernie Ecclestone who would go on to run Formula One from 1978-2017 said that he would have loved to have had Ribbs as the first driver of colour to win the Formula One world champion however, Brabham’s sponsor at the time, Italian electronics company Olivetti wanted Italian drivers in the car so sadly for Ribbs, the door to Formula One was closed.
Ribbs believes that the powers that be used Larson as a scapegoat to cover up the fact that there is still systemic racism in the sport.
In Uppity – The Willy T Ribbs story, a documentary that is currently streaming on Netflix, Ribbs says that his grandfather told him:
“You must be better, you must be not good, not average, you must be better than the best”
Ribbs spoke about the being the first driver of colour saying that he has frequently been asked to describe what a lap of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is like and he says if you want to know how tough it is just ask Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has competed in two Indianapolis 500’s since 2017 and Ribbs says that the you may be in the best shape physically and be mentally prepared for the race but if you turn up to the track on race day and the car isn’t performing it doesn’t matter what you do.
There is a famous saying within IndyCar which says that each year the track picks the winner of the Indianapolis 500.
When it comes to racial equality in top level motorsport, Ribbs believes that while NASCAR, Formula One and IndyCar are working to diversify their sports more work needs to be done.
NASCAR introduced the Drive for Diversity Programme which “Is a developmental programme designed to provide training and opportunities for women and minorities, in the driver’s seat and on pit crews within the NASCAR industry”. (NASCAR, 2020 – NASCAR Diversity and Inclusion Available at https://www.nascar.com/diversity Accessed: 24 November 2020).
NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Programme helped Brehanna Daniels and Breanna O’Leary become the first female tyre changers to work on the same team as tyre changers for Rick Ware Racing at the 2019 Daytona 500.
On July 4 2020, IndyCar announced plans to introduce their own campaign called ‘Race for Equality and Change’ providing $1 million in funding to help diversify the sport.
In writing this piece, I found it to be extremely interesting in terms of the subject matter particularly in the times we live with a lot of racial tension and inequality still been seen today not just in motor racing but also in wider society.
Lewis Hamilton, Bubba Wallace and indeed Michael Jordan during his time in the NBA showed that the colour of your skin doesn’t matter that you can reach the top level of your chosen profession if you work hard enough for it.
Motorsport is no longer regarded as a male only sport with women coming through the different categories of junior series of racing. For example, the W Series, the all-female racing series which launched in 2019 has helped promoting female racing drivers who have already succeeded against the male counterparts.