Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman to compete in Formula One- the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix- 63 years later F3 WSeries will race at the same track

Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman to compete in Formula One- the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix- 63 years later F3 WSeries will race at the same track

Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman to compete in Formula One at the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix finishing in 10th position. Now, 63 years on, F3 WSeries consisting of 18 Women drivers will compete at the same circuit- Spa-Francorchamps on August 28th.

Maria Teresa de Filippis competing at 1958 Belgian Grand Prix.

Maria along with fellow Italian Leila Lombardi are in fact the only 2 women who have made F1 grid with Leila finishing the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona scoring half a point. No other female has achieved line-up on F1 grid, making WSeries Round 5 at Spa a momentous mark in evolution of the sport.

Recounting Maria’s amazing drive, courage and lack of fear racing cars- from competing in hill-climbs at 22 years of age, to Italian Driver Championships, to non-Formula One Championships to racing F1 in her Team’s Maserati 250F. On May 18th 1958, Maria qualified 16th in Monaco Grand Prix only to succumb to engine failure and lack of parts for repair prior to main race.

Not content to cower under all challenges presented, Maria lined up at back of grid for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, coming from nineteenth to finish in 10th place. That day, June 15th 1958 became infamous for what Maria achieved and result would not be replicated again until Leila Lombardi scored half a point finishing 6th at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1975.

In no uncertain terms, women gaining entry to race Formula One has taken long, tumultuous path not just gaining backing to race the world’s highest profile motorsport Series, but also breaking traditional barriers that exclude rather than include talent regardless of gender. Such walls of exclusion have been broken down in recent times, through the establishment of WSeries, through to F1 drivers taking action on initiating change within the sport as well as F1 body collaborating projects which offer educational opportunities in the teaching of STEM programmes (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

Maria Teresa de Filippis racing in 1958 Belgian Grand Prix.

WSeries debut appearance at Spa-Francorchamps offers a marvelous coming full-circle for women lining up along-side F1 drivers. Yes, of course, the 18 women drivers will race within WSeries Championship, vying for grid positions and points. Most importantly, these highly proficient women will gain recognition of place on the circuit which for total of 63 years hasn’t seen one female single-seater driver.

Paying homage and due respect to Maria, along with number of females listed below, F1 Round at Spa-Francorchamps marks shift in practice on inclusivity of talented drivers, irrespective of gender which in itself breaks new ground within principle of Formula 1 racing.

Women competing in single-seater Championships:

  • Maria Teresa de Filippis (Italian) first woman to race in Formula One at Belgian Grand Prix in 1958 finishing in 10th position.
  • Leila Lombardi (Italian) scored half a point in 1975 Spanish Grand Prix with full point reduced to half due to race duration.
  • Davina Galica (British) attempted to qualify for 3 GP’s- 1976 British Grand Prix, 1978 Argentine Grand Prix and Brazilian GP- but did not succeed.

    Maria Teresa de Filippis at 1958 Belgian Grand Prix.

  • Desire Wilson (South Africa) won a non- F1 Championship at Brands Hatch in 1980 and did not qualify for British Grand Prix same year racing under Williams.
  • Giovanni Amati (Italian) was the last women to try and qualify for F1 Grand Prix entering 3 races with Brabhan Team in 1992, and did not make the start in all 3.
  • Susie Wolff (Britain) first female to drive since Amati, taking part in Grand Prix weekend driving in practice for Williams at Silverstone in 2014.

WSeries Round 5 at F1 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps on August 28th. Header photo: Maria Teresa de Filippis at Belgian GP in 1958.

Words: Sharon Cox.

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