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Maria Teresa De Filippis, 1st Female F1 Driver, Dies at Age 89

GROEBMING, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: First female Formula 1 driver Maria Teresa De Filippis at the Chopard VIP Brunch at the Ennstal Classic 2013 on July 20, 2013 in Groebming, Austria.  (Photo by Moni Fellner/Getty Images)
Monika Fellner/Getty Images
Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2016

Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first-ever woman to race in an official Formula 1 grand prix, died on Saturday at the age of 89.

Formula 1's official Twitter account confirmed the news:

De Filippis started three races in 1958, in Belgium, Portugal and Italy, and achieved a best finish of 10th place at Spa-Francorchamps. She failed to finish in the two other races and twice unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the iconic Monaco Grand Prix.

In an interview with James Eve of the Observer, she revealed she was banned by the racing director of the French Grand Prix that year, who told her: “The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser's.”

Those words highlight just how difficult it was―and still is―to be a female racing driver, and how big a role De Filippis played in the sport. Just four other women have ever been involved with a F1 Grand Prix, and only De Filippis and Lella Lombardi have started one. Lombardi remains the only woman to finish in the points.

Former professional racer Martin Brundle was one of many to pay his respects to De Filippis:

De Filippis―who told Eve she started racing for a bet and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio once told her she went too fast for her own goodretired from the sport in 1959 and turned her back on the racing world until 1979, when she joined the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers.

She was also a founding member of the Maserati Club, eventually becoming chairman, and she was occasionally spotted around circuits in Italy. 

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