Today we would like to pay some tribute to the amazing career of Maria Teresa de Filippis, a true pioneer of not just women’s participation in Formula 1 but of the sport as a whole. It is rare that you see a woman in this kind of sport, yet she has proven numerous times throughout her career that women are more than capable of being the best at it.
Teresa made her debut in Formula 1 in 1958, at the Grand Prix of Syracuse, the race in Italy that was held outside the World Cup. She took the fifth place. A month later, Filippis was supposed to participate in the Grand Prix of Monaco. She failed to qualify. In the same year, at the Belgian Grand Prix, the Italian was able to get to the start, taking the last place in the race. She fell behind the winner by two laps.
In 1959, she decided to perform in Monaco again, but she did not make it to the top 16. Then, after the death of her team leader Jean Behra, Filippis decided to end her career at the age of 23.
There has always been a lack of female Formula 1 racers. Motorsports, especially of this level, is associated with great risk and incredible physical exertion. This sport requires the nerves of steel, great patience, and concentration. It is really challenging, not only physically but mentally as well.
Only five women in history have participated in Grand Prix. The latter did so more than 20 years ago, and the first of them was Maria Teresa de Filippis who was part of the Behra-Porsche and Maserati teams. After four Grand Prix, she left the car behind.
“I took part in my first race in 1948, and I won my second race ever which was Fiat Topolino. Then I competed with the greatest Italian racer of all time, Tazio Nuvolari, and if I’m not mistaken, this was the last race in his career. People were outraged because of my participation. Despite that, I won the Fiat Giannini class several times between 1949 and 1953. In 1954, I finished second in the Giro di Sicilia race, and it was then that the representatives of Maserati noticed me and got me in as the works driver.
Behind the wheel of Maserati A6GCS, I finished ninth in Targa Florio and third in “10 hours of Messina.” In 1956, I participated in the Mille Miglia races, “1000 kilometers of Monza,” and “1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires” where I had an accident. By 1958, I was already an experienced racer and got the nickname of Pilotina (“pilot boat” in Italian). Then I was able to afford to buy the Maserati 250F; Juan Manuel won his fifth Formula One championship title behind the wheel of a car of this model,” said Teresa de Filippis in one of her interviews.
She also recalled that she was friends with Juan Manuel Fangio, and he took her under his wing and warned her about the possible risks of this sport.
“I finished fifth at the Syracuse Grand Prix, held on a dangerous mountain road. In Monaco, I had problems with the engine, but at the European Grand Prix at Spa, I took the 10th place. At Monza, I was fifth. I left the Maserati team at the end of 1958,” the athlete recalls.
In that race, the Formula 1 racers balanced on the verge of life and death. Fortunately, Maria Teresa de Filippis avoided any casualties, but she shared how hard it was for her because of the loss of her friends and colleagues in this sport. She faced a lot during her career, yet the loss of her friends was too much.
“I lost two of my closest friends due to accidents on the road. In 1958, it was Luigi Musso, and in 1959, I lost Jean Behra (pictured with Filippis and Fangio). He was very close to me, and he even gave his car to me for the race in Monaco. Then I managed to qualify on the very last lap, but my time wasn’t accepted. It was a purely political decision because they wanted to see the Ferrari pilot Cliff Allison at the start. It was a scandalous decision. I never cried before this publicly, but then I screamed and jumped out of the car.
“I was on vacation when I heard on the radio on August 1, 1959, that Jean Behra died while driving a Porsche in a race before the German Grand Prix. I was so shocked that I decided to end my racing career. This was the reason that I got out of it; it was too much. I wasn’t able to handle it anymore.”
Unfortunately, the first woman who competed in the Formula 1 class of the world motor racing championships, Maria Teresa de Filippis, died at the age of 90, yet her legacy will never be forgotten. The racer was firmly convinced that women are capable of doing everything that men can do.
Text is taken from Ukrainian dating site.