Before Danica Patrick. Before Sarah Fisher. Before Lyn St. James, Janet Guthrie, and Michelle Mouton, there was Maria Teresa de Filippis who in 1958 became the first woman to race a Formula 1 car.
Nicknamed “Pilotino” or “Little Driver”, de Filippis competed in the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Belgium behind the wheel of a Maserati 250F. That’s the same model racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio drove to his fifth Formula 1 World Championship World Driver’s Championship the previous year. Later that year, de Filippis went on to finish 5th in the Siracusa Grand Prix and astounding achievement for a rookie driver.
To honor de Filippis and her accomplishments, Maserati have produced a short film featuring her and sharing her accomplishments with the world.
She took part in her first race on a bet and finished won her class in her debut. In 1953 the Maserati Brothers asked her to drive their Osca 1100 Sport. She won 7 races in just two years and finished second six times while placing third 3 times. Remarkably she finished second overall in the Italian Championship even though an accident kept her from running in last four races of the season. Two years later, de Filippis became a Maserati team driver, winning the Italian 2000 Sport Championship in a Maserati A6 GCS and setting a record time in the Catania to Etna Race that she held for three years.
After retiring from racing, Maria Teresa de Filippis married in 1960, moving away from Italy and having no involvement in motorsports until 1979. She then re-joined the racing world as Deputy Chair of the Club International des Anciens Pilotes de Gran Prix F1; she also became a member of the Comitato d’Onore of the Club della Mille Miglia Franco Mazzotti and was a founder-member of the Registro Maserati.