"I was either courageous or reckless, or foolhardy, call it what you want, I just liked to go at full speed" - Maria Teresa de Filippis (1926-2016)
Behind the wheel of a Maserati 250F, Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first woman to qualify for a Formula One Grand Prix. Her story is of passion and audacity and is celebrated for International Women's Day.
Maria was born in Naples in 1926 and entered the world of motor racing as a challenge. Participating in her first race when she was just 22 years old, she won the 10km Salerno-Cava de' Tirreni, 50cc class of the touring car category, beating her male colleagues. This victory then ignited Maria's passion for racing, and she then went on to triumph in several competitions in the 750cc category.
During 1953 – 1954 Maria moved to an Osca 1100cc in which she won various races, including 12 Hours of Pescara, the Trullo d'Oro, the Catania-Etna, and the circuits of Caserta and Syracuse.
Maria then transitioned to a Maserati 2000 A6GCS in 1955. In an article she wrote about her racing years, she said, "A powerful car with which I felt I could do anything…and I did", adding, "Poor car! So many spectacular accidents, but also so many victories!" Maria held the record-time in Catania-Etna for three years and finished in second place in the 2000cc class championships of 1955.
In 1958, Maria made her debut in the GP Syracuse behind the wheel of a private Maserati 205F. She then competed in her first Formula World Championship Grand Prix in Belgium. Although a number of women have followed in Maria's footsteps, she still holds the unique record of being the first woman to compete in Formula One.
Maria Teresa de Filippis was able to stand out in an exclusively male-dominated environment, and her victories earned her the respect and esteem of her rivals in the field. She also brought to the track the values which still guide Maserati today: excellence, elegance and power.
Maria Teresa de Filippis and Maserati's story represents a winning combination and brings a story of audacity, courage, desire, hope and determination to challenge the status quo.
There are many females who have helped shape the automotive industry and the motor racing sport, who else comes to your mind? Share them in the comments below.
In honour of International Women's Day we also celebrated other women who have challenged the status quo in the automotive sector and motor racing sport. Discover the world's first all female supercar club, learn about six historic female figures in the automotive industry and get to know Hannah Gordon, a female mechanic whose gender never held her back