Caitlin Moran
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First-Ever Female Formula 1 Driver Maria Teresa de Filippis Passes Away at 89

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Maria Teresa de Filippis

Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first-ever female Formula 1 driver, has passed away at the age of 89

Maria Teresa de Filippis, the first-ever female Formula 1 driver, has passed away at the age 89, leaving behind a legacy in motorsports that shows speed-loving women can break into the male-oriented industry.

With a single bet, de Filippis changed Formula 1 history as we know it.

When de Filippis was 22, her brothers wagered that Maria couldn’t drive fast. As a younger sister, I completely understand her reaction to this wager—she simply climbed behind the wheel of a Fiat 500 and showed her brothers otherwise.

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Since that fateful bet, de Filippis continued to make a name for herself in the racing world. Despite the fact that she never won a major title, she became known for her raw talent and aggressive style, and is known as a pioneer for the sport. In fact, Juan Manuel Fangio—a Formula 1 legend in his own right—once told her that she “drove too fast,” and “took too many risks.” If that’s not a glowing accommodation, then I’m not sure what is.

Maria Teresa de Filippis Driving

Maria made a name for herself as an aggressive driver that took chances out on the course

After starting out in her Fiat 500, Maria caught the eye of Maserati, who asked her to be a factory driver for a variety of hill climbs and endurance races throughout the ’50s. Ten years after the bet that started her racing career, de Filippis entered the qualifying round for the Monaco Grand Prix in the Maserati 250F. Unfortunately, she didn’t qualify.

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Though de Filippis wasn’t the greatest Formula 1 driver in history, she has a place in the sport’s long history. After retiring in 1959, Maria would remain the only female Formula 1 driver until 15 years later, when Lella Lombardi would follow in her footsteps.

VIDEO: Watch Maserati’s Dedication to Maria Teresa de Filippis

A born-and-raised Jersey girl, Caitlin Moran has somehow found herself settled in Edinburgh, Scotland. When she’s not spending her days trying to remember which side of the road to drive on, Caitlin enjoys getting down and nerdy with English. She continues to combine her love of writing with her love of cars for The News Wheel, while also learning more about the European car market—including the fact that the Seat brand is pronounced “se-at” not “seat” as you might think. See more articles by Caitlin.