Damon Hill is the latest F1 personality to take a stance on the topic of female drivers, with the 1996 world champion having doubts as to whether they can be competitive in the top flight.
Only a handful of women have raced in F1 since the opening 1950 season. The pioneer was Maria Teresa de Filippis, who entered five grands prix and made three starts across 1958 and 1959.
Fellow Italian Lella Lombardi took the baton 15 years later and remains to this date the only female driver to have ever scored in the sport with a sixth-place finish in the accident-shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
The last woman who tried to qualify for an F1 race was Giovanna Amati with Brabham in 1992. She was let go after three failed attempts, which allowed a certain Hill to make his series debut.
“I'm absolutely assured by my wife and my two daughters there is no reason in the world why a woman couldn't beat a man,” he told ITV News. “But I do have my doubts because I think that it's very very tough even for the guys to be competitive.
“Actually competing and succeeding against the guys, I think, is extremely unlikely. I don’t see any parity in other sports: you have categories for female competitors. Would a female footballer do well in the Premier League?”
F1 commercial rights chief Bernie Ecclestone brought forward the idea of a woman-only championship last year. The proposal was met with criticism from most female racers, though Lotus development driver Carmen Jorda described it as “the right answer”.
The 85-year-old supremo recently added more controversy when he declared that a female F1 driver “would not be taken seriously”.
“Bernie likes to say something which is controversial and he's challenging you,” commented Hill. “He likes to say something provocative and hopefully some people will say ok we'll prove him wrong.
“But it shouldn't be done on the basis of is there someone out there a girl who absolutely above everything else wants to become a Formula One world champion.”
Former Williams development driver Susie Wolff recently launched the 'Dare to Be Different' initiative in order to empower women in motorsport. The Scot became the first woman in over 20 years to take part in a grand prix weekend when she ran in the opening free practice session at the 2014 British Grand Prix.
However, Wolff retired at the end of the 2015 season after realising that a full-time F1 seat would not materialise.