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Carmen Jorda issues statement over controversial comments

Carmen Jorda has issued a statement to clear up her controversial comments suggesting women have a "physical barrier" preventing them from making it in Formula One.

After testing a Formula E car in Mexico City last weekend, Jorda said the all-electric series' cars did not present the same challenge for women as an F1 car because of the lower levels of downforce. The comments prompted a backlash on social mediaa, with numerous female racers critical of her for the implication women are unable to drive F1 cars at the same level as men.

Former world champion Jenson Button also tweeted, suggesting the comments were borne out of Jorda's lack of success in open-wheel racing: "Carmen, you're not helping proper female racing drivers with this comment. Ask @DanicaPatrick about being [strong] enough to drive a race car! She'd kick my butt in the gym & she's probably as strong as any driver on the F1 Grid right now. Physical barrier is not your issue Carmen"

Jorda, a member of the FIA's Women in Motorsport Commission, served a stint as development driver for Lotus and Renault, which included a private test of a 2012 F1 car.

The Spanish driver has conceded her "personal experience" prompted the comments and outlined her desire to see Sauber test driver Tatiana Calderon become the first woman to contest an F1 race since Lella Lombardi in 1976.

The statement said: "On Saturday, after testing a Formula E car before the Mexico City E-Prix, I spoke to several journalists about the experience. During one interview I was asked to compare driving a Formula E car to a Formula One car, and then specifically, whether Formula E is easier for women to compete in that Formula One.

"Having some experience of both cars, I gave my personal opinion that driving a Formula E car presents less of a physical challenge than Formula One, because of the lower downforce. I also referred to there being 'a physical issue' for women in Formula 1, something which has created considerable debate over the last few days -- including from many prominent women within our sport.

"I would like to thank fellow drivers for sharing their opinions, and respect their views greatly. I am sorry if my comments appeared to speak for all women and created all confusion -- as I was reflecting merely on my own personal experience. I never intended to discourage other women from competing at the pinnacle of our sport, or say that they physically cannot. My comments were purely a response to a direct question, asking "do you think Formula E would be easier for women?

"As a member of the FIA's Women in Motorsport Commission, I am committed to encouraging more women to become involved in our sport - both on and off the track - and celebrating those who are achieving great results. As such, I would like to extend my congratulations to Tatiana Calderon, who was yesterday announced as a Formula One test driver at Sauber. I hope that she can become the first woman in 41 years to start a race on the Formula One grid and wish her the very best of luck for the coming season.

"I wish all women in motorsport a happy International Women's Day."