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2012-10-14 06:53

SAUBER FOUNDER STEPS DOWN: Sauber F1's new boss Monisha Kaltenborn and retiring team founder Peter Sauber at the media conference in South Korea where her appointment as CEO was announced. Image: AFP

Peter Stebbings

YEONGAM, South Korea - Ask about women in Formula 1 and most observers would point to the grid girls who pout and pose in short skirts before every race but the first female team principal in the 62-year history of the male-dominated sport hopes her rise to prominence will change all that.

It could, she adds, be a long-term process.

"You have to deliver the same and be as good as anyone else,” Monisha Kaltenborn told AFP ahead of the 2012 Korean Grand Prix. “It can show women out there that they can also come out on top and believe in themselves.”


Kaltenborn became principal of the Sauber  F1 team just in time for the Korean race after its founder, Peter Sauber, decided to step down from day-to-day management. He had always made it clear that he did not wish to run the team, which he built more than four decades ago, when he turned 70.

He has just had his 69th birthday.

Kaltenborn, 41, an Austrian of Indian origin, joined the company in 2000 to run the legal department, was appointed to the management board not long afterwards, and took over as CEO of Sauber Motorsport in January 2010.

In 2011 Peter Sauber transferred a third of the company's shares into her name and she has been team boss in everything but name since the start of the 2012 season but her official elevation to the role still reverberated around the sport.

"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."


She’s already an ambassador for the International Automobile Federation’s Women in Motorsport Commission and said her new position would strengthen women in automotive sport.

"It will be something, because this is a long process," she added. "Things are not going to happen from today to tomorrow. The commission wants to show that the demands we put on women have to be the same as they are for men."

Sauber is sixth in the F1 Constructors' championship with five races to go, including the Korean leg.

Red Bull driver Mark Webber said Kaltenborn's rise to team chief was a step forward for a sport in which the drivers, engineers, pit crews and even journalists were overwhelmingly men.
"I think it's great," was his immediate reaction to the Kaltenborn announcement. "Why not? We have very successful businesswomen around the world so there's absolutely no reason why she cannot run a successful racing team.

"Some of the qualities 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."


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