Following the success of Danica Patrick across the pond I thought I’d write about all the women drivers of F1, past, present and possibly future. There have only been five women enter an F1 race, with just two actually starting a race and only one finishing in a points scoring position.
Maria Teresa de Filippis
Maria was the first woman to race an F1 car, entering five Grands Prix from 1958-1959 with three starts. Her debut came at the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix, a race also entered by Bernie Ecclestone, but she failed to qualify for the race. Her next race was at Spa, her best and only finish of 10th but she was the last car to finish the race. She was two laps down on the winner, which is quite some way behind at a 24 lap, 14km circuit. For 1959 she joined the Behra-Porsche team, failing to qualify at Monaco again and then retiring after the death of Jean Behra at a support event of the 1959 German Grand Prix.
Lella’s career was slightly longer and more successful than Maria, entering 17 races, starting 12 and finishing her career with half a point. She is the only F1 driver in history to finish a career with just half a point, as every other driver either has none or at least one. Her first F1 event was the 1974 British Grand Prix and much like Maria she failed to qualify for her first race. In 1975 she joined the March team, starting 10 of the 11 races with the team and finishing five of them. Her best finish was at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, starting 24th and finishing 6th, which sounds incredible but the race was stopped after just 29 of the planned 75 laps after 15 retirements and five spectator deaths. Her last race was at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix for RAM Racing, the last Grand Prix without any Ferrari cars.
After Lella Lombardi no woman has yet started an F1 race, Divina entered three Grands Prix from 1976 to 1978 but started none of them. The first race she entered was the 1976 British Grand Prix, the only F1 race to date with two female race entrants, however both her and Lella failed to qualify. Prior to her F1 career she was actually a very successful Olympic skier, competing from 1964 to 1972 and then returned after F1 in 1992. She is one of very few F1 drivers that have competed in the Olympics.
Desiré is the only female driver to have only entered a single F1 Championship event, driving for Brands Hatch Racing in a Williams FW07 for the 1980 British Grand Prix but she failed to qualify for the race. Desiré raced in the 1981 South African Grand Prix for Tyrrell but because of the FISA-FOCA war the race was non-championship. Before F1 she was part of the British Aurora Formula One Series, winning one race in 1980 and becoming the first and only woman to win a Formula One race.
Giovanna was the 3rd Italian woman in F1, and the last to enter a Championship event. She was born into a wealthy family and as a result of that she was kidnapped at the age of 18 for a ransom of near $1,000,000. Her F1 career was rather short and unsuccessful, she signed for Brabham in 1992, their last year of F1, the car wasn’t very good and she failed to qualify in all three races she entered. She was between 3 and 5 seconds slower than Brabham teammate Eric van der Poele in qualifying each time and as a result of that replaced by Damon Hill for the rest of the season, never returning to F1 again.
María de Villota
Unfortunately we all know the sad story about María, daughter of former F1 driver Emilio, she briefly competed in various forms of motorsport, including Formula 3, the 24 Hours of Daytona, WTCC and Superleague Formula. In 2011 María tested for Lotus Renault GP at the Paul Ricard Circuit but was unable to secure a full role as a test driver. In 2012 she joined Marussia as a test driver but had an unfortunate accident during her first time in the car, resulting in the loss of her right eye.
The only female driver currently signed with an F1 team, Susie has been driving in DTM for Mercedes since 2006. She signed as a development driver for Williams in 2012, possibly helped by her husband Toto Wolff being a major shareholder in the team. She had her first F1 drive in the Williams FW33 car at Silverstone in October 2012.
At the moment there are no female drivers signed to any GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 teams, but there are in GP3. Last year’s GP3 grid had three women; Alice Powell, Carmen Jordá and Vicky Piria. At the 2012 Monza GP3 sprint race Alice finished 8th, becoming the first female points scorer in the series and will hopefully be signed up for another season of GP3 soon. There are still many GP3 seats available but as it stands the only woman signed up for GP3 in 2013 is Venezuelan Samin Gomez, driving for Jenzer Motorsport.