• British F1 driver Jenson Button causes row with remarks on women racers
• Button says women could not race because of their periods and breasts
"A girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car. And the mechanics wouldn't concentrate. Can you imagine strapping her in" - Jenson Button
Story in full JENSON Button, the Formula 1 driver, has dismissed the ability of women to compete in Grand Prix racing by claiming they are unsafe to drive during their periods and that their breasts stop them fitting into small racing cars.
In an extraordinary interview, Button dismissed the prospects of Danica Patrick - an American racing car driver, who finished fourth in this year's Indianapolis 500 - moving up to compete in Formula 1 on the grounds that her figure could distract male pit mechanics.
He told men's magazine FHM: "Danica is very quick. But in F1 cars I can't see it happening due to the G-force in fast corners. And one week of the month you wouldn't want to be on the circuit with them, would you? A girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car. And the mechanics wouldn't concentrate. Can you imagine strapping her in?"
His outburst has renewed accusations about the sexist nature of Formula 1 but is just the latest in a series of controversial comments about women from public figures. Gordon Ramsay said this weekend that women "can't cook to save their lives" and Neil French, the head of advertising group, WWP, has said that female advertising executives were "crap" and insisted that women in business "wimp out and go suckle something".
Button's comments come as a new generation of female drivers is starting to break into a world where women have traditionally been confined to the role of "Brolly Dollies", dressed in short skirts as they shield the drivers from the sun.
Jodie Kidd, the supermodel, has swapped the catwalk for the racetrack and now competes professionally. Ms Kidd, who is known as the "Queen of Rain" for her ability to drive at speed in poor conditions, won her first motor race in Italy last November. Katherine Legge will next month begin tests to join the Minardi F1 team. And the Irish driver Sarah Kavanagh was offered a place with the Jaguar F1 team in 2004, although the deal collapsed over contractual issues.
Yesterday, Kavanagh said that Button made a valid point about the size of women's breasts affecting their ability to fit into the car, but that the rest of his statement was ridiculous. She said: "You couldn't get in the car if you had really big breasts, but the rest of what he is saying is just nonsense. It's like Formula 1 is stuck in some sexist 1970s Playboy vibe.
"The idea that we can't compete because of our menstrual cycle - come on. It's ancient old nonsense. We have women flying F-16s and going to war, why can't we race a Formula 1 car?"
Last night Emma Parker Bowles, who writes a motoring column for Tatler magazine, also hit back at Button, who has yet to win a Grand Prix.
She said: "Oh grow up. If he spent less time staring at grid girls' breasts he might win more races There's no reason girls can't succeed in F1."