Who was the world's first female F1 driver?

Jon Lawson

To mark International Women’s Day here’s a tribute to the first ever woman to qualify for a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Maria Teresa de Filippis was born in Naples in 1926 and in 1948 she participated in her first race, when she won the 10km Salerno-Cava de 'Tirreni, in a 500cc class of the touring car category. In the following year she was victorious several times in the 750cc category.

During the 1953–1954 season she moved on to an Osca 1,100cc in which she won the 12 Hours of Pescara, the Trullo d’Oro, the Catania-Etna, and events at the circuits of Caserta and Syracuse.

She graduated to a Maserati 2,000 A6GCS in 1955. In an article she later wrote about her racing years, she said of the vehicle: “A powerful car with which I felt I could do anything, and I did. Poor car! So many spectacular accidents, but also so many victories!” Chief among which was the record breaking victory in the Catania-Etna, which remained undefeated for the following 3 years. Also she finished in second place in the 2000cc class championship of 1955.

In 1958, behind the wheel of a private Maserati 250F, she made her debut in the GP of Syracuse and then competed in her first Formula World Championship Grand Prix in Belgium.

She lived to be 90. “I was either courageous or reckless, or foolhardy,” she was quoted as saying. “Call it what you want, I just liked to go at full speed.”


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