Maria Teresa de Filippis, best known as Formula 1’s first ever female driver, passed away at the age of 89 on Saturday.
The Italian started in three Grands Prix in 1958 with her only finish coming at her debut at Spa in Belgium where she was the last classified finisher in 10th. Earlier that year she had failed to qualify her Maserati 250F in Monaco and again failed to make the grid a year later for Porsche, reports autosport.com.
De Filippis walked away from the sport following the death of her team owner Jean Behra later that year, saying in an interview to The Observer in 2006: “Too many friends had died.”
Her introduction to racing came as a result of a bet between her brothers over how fast she could drive which resulted in her entering – and winning – her first event in a Fiat 500.
De Filippis said men were initially doubtful of her ability, although the only time she experienced true prejudice came in France.
“The race director said ‘the only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s’ – that was the only time I was prevented from racing. Apart from that I don’t think I encountered any prejudice – only surprise at my success,” she told The Observer.
After starting a family, de Filippis returned to motorsports when she accepted an invitation in 1979 to join the Club Internationale des Anciens Pilotes de Grand Prix F1 for retired drivers where she became vice-president in 1997 and was eventually made honorary president in the 21st century.