Increased exposure at the elite level makes it harder for athletes to come out, believes pioneering W Series driver Sarah Moore.
The Yorkshire native sped into the history books in the opening race of the 2021 W Series at Austria's Red Bull Ring last Saturday, becoming the first openly LGBTQ+ driver to stand on a podium during a Grand Prix weekend.
Moore, 27, sporting a new crowd-funded helmet splashed with a rainbow, whizzed across the finish line in her Tatuus F3 T-318 to claim P2 in 32:08.544.
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Her Pride Month achievement capped off an historic week in which Las Vegas Raiders' Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out.
"I don't know for what reason but it seems to be harder for the men to feel comfortable coming out," said the Racing Pride driver ambassador. "For me it was relatively easy.
"My family and my friends especially were very supportive. But I just still think it's tricky for women as well.
"It all depends on who you've got around you and the support you've got around you. I think when you get to a certain level within sport, if you've got to a high level within sport before coming out, then I think that makes it trickier.
"Because I think if you come out at a lower level and everyone already knows you're out, you kind of work your way through the top that way. It's a little bit easier, people seem to be more accepting.
"I think it is difficult for everyone across the board, but for whatever reason it does seem to be that little bit trickier for the men."
The W Series covers almost all costs for its drivers but helmets are one of the few exceptions.
As part of a landmark partnership, the sophomore season of the all-female single-seater's calendar consists of eight F1 support races.
Moore, whose driver coaching business dried up over lockdown, couldn't afford the recommended helmet spec for the new circuits so she turned to the internet for help.
Support flooded in, with 156 donors raising Â£3823, enabling Moore to buy the equipment she needed.
Her Stilo helmet features an unmissable rainbow across the top and back, flanked by cartoons of an elephant and a white tiger â€” the former representing Moore's mum and the latter a nod to her fiancÃ©e, Carla.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed a few tears when I opened it," she said.
"After that qualifying, to put it on, on the front row of the grid, it means a lot to me, and I think it will mean a lot to people who got involved."
And to make history in the new lid?
"It just makes it more special for me, it just makes that helmet, that special design worth it."
The W Series was originally due to open in France, but F1 calendar shuffling resulted in back-to-back Red Bull Ring races to begin the 2021 campaign.
Most drivers on the grid, said Moore, have never raced on any of the marquee tracks.
Practice sessions and qualifying both take place on the Friday before Saturday's race, so with limited time to familiarise themselves with the circuit, the Austrian double-header offers drivers a rare chance to re-strategize.
Moore's success last weekend - she finished seven tenths of a second behind leader Alice Powell - leaves her unsure of whether that will ultimately help or hurt her on Saturday.
She said: "I think I kind of outdid myself in all fairness, that's a good thing, it's given me a lot of confidence going ahead.
"Obviously the pace was very close, so if I can keep where I'm at now I think it's quite hard to improve massively around here, but if I can improve a little bit I think I'll be around where I am now.
"If I'm around there, keeping consistency, then that's the key."
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