F1’s first lady driver dies
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