There is only one female CEO in Formula 1 racing, Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn Narang. This Indian-born, Austrian-raised powerhouse has been running the Sauber F1 Team since the start of the 2010 season. She comes from a legal background and joined the company in 2000 to run their legal department, then working her way up to CEO. I think she sums up her take on the situation perfectly,when she says: "Being underestimated can sometimes be an advantage to be exploited."
I think she has been great for the team and for the sport of Formula 1. I also find a lot of parallels between her and Amy Trask, the CEO of the Oakland Raiders of the American NFL football league. Trask is the only female CEO in professional football and also started with the team as an attorney. Like Kaltenborn Narang, Trask worked her way up to the top and is the only woman in that position in the NFL and in all of professional American sports. I applaud both of their accomplishments and think they both serve as role models for girls around the world.
In an interview on the Sauber website, Kaltenborn Narang commented about being a female CEO in a male-dominated sport: "I go about my work with passion and see no reason why being a woman should stop me doing that. I now realise, of course, that this is not taken quite so much for granted in all quarters. I'd be very happy if seeing me as CEO of a Formula One team emboldened other women with an interest in our sport to pursue their goals."
I think the Sauber F1 Team is one of the up and coming teams in Formula 1 racing. They had a decent 7th place finish in 2011 and will be a team to watch in 2012. They improved slightly over their 8th place finish in 2010. The team consists of drivers Sergio Perez from Mexico who finished 16th and Kamui Kobayashi from Japan who finished in 12th place in the 2011 F1 driver rankings.
With Formula 1 staging its first race in India, Kaltenborn Narang's birth country, the race had special meaning to her. It showed the tremendous development of India, along with the global reach of Formula 1 racing and its quest for a worldwide audience. Although born in India, when in high school, her family moved to Vienna, Austria, where she was raised and maintains citizenship. She now lives in Switzerland with her family.
The Sauber F1 team history is also very interesting. It was started by team principal Peter Sauber, a Swiss industrialist who got into the sport in the early 1970's, initially building his own championship-winning car. He continued to built winning cars through the 70s and 80s, working closely with Mercedes and eventually winning accolades like a one-two finish at LeMans in 1989. He was planning to partner with Mercedes for the 1992 Formula 1 season, but when they pulled out, he started his own team with money from a settlement with them, entering two cars in the 1993 season. In 2005, he sold the majority of the team to BMW, who raced until 2009, when they surprised everyone by withdrawing from Formula 1. Sauber bought the team back from BMW in 2009 and raced again as Sauber F1 in 2010.
With all the hype and commercialism of Formula 1 racing, along with what I think are sometimes questionable actions of supremo Bernie Ecclestone, I think its important to point out the positive aspects of the sport, like having a female CEO running one of the teams.
A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter -@thefredsherman
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