Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first ever woman to compete in a Formula One race, passed away today, on the 9th of January 2015. She was 89.
De Filippis made her Formula One debut in 1958, driving for Scuderia Centro Sud in a non-works all-Maserati vehicle – driving at that year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
She did not have much success in the sport, but de Filippis was a pioneer who fought discrimination from team owners and managers alike, one of whom told her the “only helmet a woman should be wearing should be the one at the hairdresser’s.”
De Filippis was friends with Formula One legend and five-time World Championship winner Juan Manuel Fangio, who even gave her racing advice in her days on the track.
Prior to F1, she finished second in a sportscar race supporting the 1956 Naples Grand Prix, driving a Maserati even then.
She raced a total of 4 Grands Prix in Formula One, finishing at a highest 10th at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The Italian had success outside of Formula One though. She was part of the Porsche squad in Formula One, and would end up leaving the sport after friend and team leader Jean Behra passed away in the 1959 German Grand Prix. He was one of many friends de Filippis said she had lost in her career, and led to her leaving the sport.
She returned to motorsport in 1980 in a less active role, becoming the vice-president of the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers.
There have been only four other women in active F1 since her, with Italy’s Giovanna Amati the last woman to compete in a Formula One race, at the 1992 Brazilian Grand Prix.