So you thought Formula 1 was a men-only sport? It’s actually not! Because of the body pressure you have to undergo during the race, there haven’t been many of them, but we should give credit to the (exactly) five that actually made it to a Grand Prix!
Maria Teresa de Filippis
This Italian driver was the first woman ever to race a F1 in a Grand Prix in 1958. Throughout her racing career, she participated at five races, only making it to the finish line in one of them. She had to put up with criticism and opposition from race organizers, who downplayed her efforts and even prevented her to drive in some of the scheduled races. Maria Teresa quit the sport for over 20 years in 1959, after several accidents where fellow drivers lost their lives.
The second woman F1 driver ever was again Italian, Lella Lombardi. She competed during three seasons (1974-1976) at 17 races, achieving the historical mark of the first female driver ever finishing in a scoring position (sixth) during the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
The British racer had a previous sports career in skiing, finishing within the top 10 during the Winter Olympic games of 1968 and 1972 and earning several podiums in the skiing World Cup championships. Her driving talent was discovered when she attended a celebrity racing event, which entailed her debut in karts, and later Formula 2 (1977-1980) and Formula 1 (1976 and 1978, participating at three races overall).
This South African is the fourth woman driver taking part in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. She competed during the 1980 season, participating in one race only where she couldn’t qualify. Nonetheless, she raced and won the British Aurora F1 series in 1980, making her the only woman ever to become the winner of a Formula 1 event.
And yes, the fifth female F1 driver to ever compete in a Grand Prix was… Italian! Coming from a wealthy family, she was actually kidnapped and kept in a cage for 75 days until a ransom was put together in 1978 (she even fell in love with the kidnapper!). Later, she participated in three races during the 1992 seasons, but didn’t qualify in any (after which the team decided to change to a male driver). A true Italian life.