I am sad to report that yesterday the first woman to compete in a Formula 1 world championship grand prix, Maria Teresa de Filippis, has died at the age of 89.
The Italian started three grands prix in 1958, with her only finish coming in her debut at Spa, where she was the last classified finisher in 10th.
Earlier that year she had failed to qualify her Maserati 250F in Monaco, and she would again fail to make the grid a year later for Porsche. De Filippis walked away from the sport following the death of her team owner Jean Behra later that year, saying in an interview with The Observer in 2006 that “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 in 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.
After starting a family, de Philippis returned to the motorsport arena 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 would eventually be made honorary president in the 21st century.
But it is with great sadness that we have lost the first female Formula One driver yesterday. Maria achieved a lot in her career and is the driver that many such as Susie Wolff have to thank for inspiring them to also achieve a career in motorsport. She is an inspiration to many and shows what can be achieved.
My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends at this sad time.