Maria Teresa de Filip­pis: The first lady of mo­tor rac­ing

CONCIERGE – The F1 Inside Track - - CONTENTS -

The For­mula One cir­cuits of the 1950s may seem an un­likely place for a fe­male pioneer – but 60 years ago an aris­to­cratic Ital­ian be­came a trail­blazer for women in the sport.

In 1958 Maria Teresa de Filip­pis com­peted at the Monaco Grand Prix as a pri­va­teer, driv­ing the Maserati 250F in which friend Juan Manuel Fan­gio won the world cham­pi­onship the year be­fore. Although she failed to qual­ify for a place on the grid, she was in good com­pany – fu­ture For­mula One supremo Bernie Ec­cle­stone also missed out.

De Filip­pis was un­suc­cess­ful in qual­i­fy­ing a year later as well, but did fin­ish 10th at the 1958 Bel­gian Grand Prix and fin­ished eighth at Monza in 1958, de­spite re­tir­ing with 13 laps to go.

Born in Naples in 1926 to an Ital­ian Count and his Span­ish wife, de Filip­pis be­gan rac­ing in 1948 after be­ing dared to by her brothers.

She made rapid progress, fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the Ital­ian Sports Car Cham­pi­onship in 1954 be­fore sign­ing with Maserati as a works driver.

Un­sur­pris­ingly she came up against plenty of op­po­si­tion, and she claimed she was banned from the 1958 French Grand Prix after the race direc­tor told her the only hel­met a woman should wear was at the hair­dressers. Fan­gio once told her “you go too fast, you take too many risks”, but after the death of her close friend Jean Behra in a sup­port race at the Ger­man Grand Prix in 1959, a dev­as­tated de Filip­pis quit For­mula One and started a fam­ily. She never lost her pas­sion for mo­tor rac­ing though, join­ing the For­mula One Grand Prix Drivers Club, be­com­ing its Hon­orary Pres­i­dent in 2011.

Where de Filip­pis led oth­ers fol­lowed. Lella Lom­bardi started 12 races in the 1970s, while three other women – Div­ina Gal­ica, De­siré Wil­son and Gio­vanna Amati – tried to qual­ify for Grands Prix around the world.

We pay trib­ute to the for­mer Hon­orary Pres­i­dent of the For­mula One Grand Prix Drivers Club, Maria Teresa de Filip­pis, the first woman to com­pete in a For­mula One car.

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