F1’s first lady driver dies

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News -

Maria Teresa de Filip­pis, the first woman to com­pete in a round of the For­mula 1 World Cham­pi­onship, died on 8 Jan­uary. She was 89.

Born into wealth in Naples on Novem­ber 11 1926, the contessa turned her at­ten­tion to mo­tor rac­ing in 1948. She claimed she had been keen to prove her worth af­ter be­ing goaded into com­pet­ing in a hillclimb event by her brothers who thought she would be out of her depth. She soon proved them wrong, early out­ings in a Fiat Topolino lead­ing to the pur­chase of a Gi­aur, in which she ac­crued sev­eral cat­e­gory wins in cir­cuit races.

De Filip­pis be­came in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with Maserati dur­ing the 1950s, claim­ing solid re­sults aboard her A6 GCS which in­cluded tenth place over­all on the 1955 Giro di Si­cilia. She made her F1 de­but dur­ing the 1958 Bel­gian GP at Spa-Fran­cochamps in her pri­vately-en­tered 250F, and fin­ished two laps be­hind the vic­to­ri­ous Tony Brooks in tenth place.

Later that year, she qual­i­fied in last place for the Por­tuguese Grand Prix at Oporto, but re­tired when her 250F ex­pired af­ter only six laps. In Septem­ber 1958, de Filip­pis started from the back row for her home race at Monza, com­plet­ing 57 of the 70-lap Ital­ian Grand Prix be­fore her Maserati’s en­gine ex­pired. Nev­er­the­less, she was clas­si­fied in eighth place.

De Filip­pis hung up her hel­met fol­low­ing the death of her close friend Jean Behra dur­ing the 1959 Ger­man Grand Prix. She mar­ried a year later. This re­mark­able woman was one of only two fe­males ever to qual­ify for a round of the F1 World Cham­pi­onship (the other be­ing Lella Lom­bardi). She was also the last-sur­viv­ing Ital­ian to com­pete in a Grand Prix dur­ing the 1950s. Richard He­sel­tine

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