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13 Oct 2012 07:39
Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO of Sauber, in the pits at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve during the first practice session for the 2012 Formula One Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. (Stan Honda, AFP)
But the first female team principal in the 62-year history of the male-dominated sport says she hopes that her rise to prominence will change all that – cautioning that it was a long-term process.
"You have to deliver the same (as men) and be as good as anyone else. It can show to women out there that they can also come out on top and believe in yourself," Monisha Kaltenborn told AFP at the Korean Grand Prix.
She became team principal at Sauber on Thursday with immediate effect after its founder, the highly respected Peter Sauber, decided to step down from day-to-day management.
He had always made it clear that he did not wish to be running the team, which he built more than four decades ago, when he turned 70.
He turned 69 on Saturday.
Kaltenborn, 41, an Austrian of Indian origin, joined the company in 2000 to run the legal department, was appointed a member of the board of management not long afterwards and took over as CEO of Sauber Motorsport AG in January 2010.
In late 2011 Peter Sauber transferred a third of the company's shares into her name.
"I've never thought of seeing my position as the first woman (to be a team principal)," she said.
"Obviously it is a fact but you don't think of it yourself so I was a bit surprised that so many people took this angle of the first woman doing this."
Already an ambassador for the Women in Motorsport Commission at the FIA, the world governing body, Kaltenborn said her new position would strengthen women in the famously high-testosterone sport.
"These are the kind of things where really we feel that in years to come it will be something because this is a long process," she said.
"Things are not going to happen from today to tomorrow.
A step forward
"What we want to do, which is very important for us in that commission, is to show that the demands which we put on women who have to be on top have to be the same as they are for men."
Her Sauber team are sixth in the constructors' championship with five races to go, starting with the race in Yeongam on Sunday.
Australian Mark Webber, the Red Bull driver, said Kaltenborn's rise to team chief was a step forward for a sport where the drivers, engineers, pit crew and even journalists are overwhelmingly men.
"I think it's great," was his immediate reaction to Thursday's announcement.
"Why not? There's absolutely no reason why. We have very successful business women around the world so there's absolutely no reason why she cannot run a successful racing team.
"Some of the qualities that females have in terms of making decisions faster than a room full of men might be a positive thing. I look forward to seeing how she goes." – Sapa-AFP
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