Ecclestone wants women drivers in F1
Danica Patrick stunned the watching world at last month's Daytona 500 when she became the first female driver to claim pole position at any top-division NASCAR race.
The American smashed yet another hole in the myth that motorsport is just for men -- and her achievements have not gone unnoticed by Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, who wants her to challenge the likes of world champion Sebastian Vettel and title rival Fernando Alonso.
"There should be no reason why not, providing that we find a team to take her," Ecclestone said in an interview with the official F1 website.
"Danica would be good to have with one of the teams now. All the things that people worry about -- whether a woman can cope with the G-forces and all that -- she has proven that she can.
"She's been there and done it. What I think -- and I cannot blame her for it -- is that she will hardly want to give up the exposure she has in the U.S. to come here and maybe not make it.
"I have been looking for a woman for years! I always thought that this could be a good idea."
Ecclestone said he had discussed introducing women drivers with Dietrich Mateschitz, who owns the Red Bull team that has dominated F1 for the past three years.
"I spoke with Didi Mateschitz some time ago about the issue of an American team and at that time I said that we would want an American woman driver. He seems ready," the 82-year-old said.
Patrick, 30, is currently enjoying her first full year as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver after racing open-wheel IndyCars for several years.
She is the leading female driver in motorsport, but has not given any indication of moving over to the world of Formula One.
The last woman to race an F1 car was Lella Lombardi back in 1976.
The Italian, who drove for March, Williams and RAM, is the only female driver in F1 history to have recorded a top-six finish.
More recently, women have been employed as test drivers -- such as Maria de Villota, whose career at the Marussia team was cut short by an accident last year.
The Spaniard, the daughter of a motor racing driver, was considered an excellent prospect and was well respected within the Formula One circuit.
But her career was curtailed in July 2012 when the MR-01 race car she was driving hit a support truck and left her with serious head and facial injuries, losing sight in one eye.
Since de Villota's accident, Scotland's Susie Wolff has been grabbing the headlines.
The 30-year-old works as a developmental driver for the Williams team -- quite a leap from the eight-year-old who started off go-karting.
But she still faces a challenge to follow in the pioneering tire marks of Lombardi and Maria Teresa de Filippis -- the first woman to compete in F1, racing five times between 1958 and 1959.