Castroneves praises Danica Patrick, has mixed feelings on W Series

Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves has again stated that Danica Patrick deserves credit for her IndyCar career, and that while the W Series is a significant step for women in motorsport, he admits he has mixed feelings about it.

Speaking to Julia Piquet on Motorsport Report, the Acura Team Penske driver echoed his comments from May in saying that Patrick does not get the respect she deserves.

He said: “Danica… may not have won so many races as other females but she did have the personality to say, ‘OK, I came here to make a statement.’ And what I noticed was that I was more comfortable racing against her side by side on an oval over 230mph than to actually drive with some of my colleagues who were male…

“And that’s why I said ‘You guys are not giving enough respect to Danica because if you see her record in crashing and her record in how she was doing, she was actually doing better than an average male driver… She finished third in the Indy 500 [2009]. Just to finish is a very big accomplishment but to finish third shows she knows where to position herself, knows when to push the limit of what the car is able to give…

“I asked her why she decided [to retire] and she said, ‘That’s it, I got what I wanted, got enough money to live for a long time, and go to the next phase of life.’ So big respect.”

Castroneves also explained that while some deride Patrick’s victory at the 2008 Motegi 300 when her principal rivals were fuel saving, he said: “She won it fair and square, because I didn’t listen to my strategist! She did the work I was supposed to do! I was very upset that she won because I lost, but also happy because I knew what it meant to her.”

On the subject of the FIA’s new-for-2019 W Series for women drivers, Castroneves admitted he liked the idea of more women having access to racing opportunities, but was still not convinced that having women race in a separate series is the right way forward.

“It’s great for the prize money [$500,000], no question about it, because [finding] sponsorship, not only for women but also men, is very hard,” he said, adding that the fact that sponsorship isn’t required to take part in the W Series is also “a good thing.”

However, he added: “The bad part is that you’re separating. It’s creating the same scenarios that all these years have been happening… Not only the females but also the males have got to learn from each other, and they’re going to be better against each other. All of a sudden creating a separate series, people are going to say, ‘OK, how good is she against those guys?’ and ‘How good is he against them?’

“So yeah, it’s mixed feelings. The opportunity is great for opening the door, but I would say they need some kind of mixed races. You don’t want a fake scenario where there is just females.”

He went on: “One of the things I liked about Danica was that she wanted to be one of the guys, to mix in. She was different, she was like, ‘I’m gonna go there and beat those guys.’ And that made her who she is today, that personality. And automatically we respect her.

“I respect her on that, because that is a driver. I don’t care if she’s got long hair and lipstick. If she’s in front of me, I’ve gotta beat her. There is no color or genes under the helmet, for me: whoever is in front, I’m going to treat as another competitor that I gotta beat.”

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