Hooniversal Dream Girl – Maria Teresa de Filippis, the First Woman of Formula 1

F1 Momma
In less than one week, those lovely open wheel monsters will be sitting on the grid, drivers poised, watching for those lights to change to green and then exploding down the track in 2010’s first Formula 1 race in Bahrain. In honor of Formula 1 and because we haven’t done a Hooniversal Dream Girl post in a while, I can think of no one more deserving than Maria Teresa de Filippis.
This is what happens when two brothers bet their sister she can't drive fast.
Maria was born November 11, 1926 in Naples, Italy. She started racing at the age of 22 which by Formula 1 standards meant she was probably about 10-15 years behind the curve.  Amusingly, had it not been for her brothers, she’d never have started racing.  Two of her brothers bet her she couldn’t drive fast.  She told them she would win that bet and luckily for her there was a lot of raw talent underneath the hood.  She drove so fast and won so many races,  Maserati took notice after her second place finish in the Italian sports car championship of 1954 and offered her a position test driving their cars.  She readily accepted.
Nice ride…
Maserati realized quickly they had made a good business decision. Her raw talent was evident from day one and was honed over the next four years. Finally, in 1958 she became the first woman to run in and finish an F1 race when she came in 10th in the Belgian Grand Prix, driving the Maserati that Juan Manuel Fangio had won his fifth world title in the previous year. In 1959 Jean Behra offered her a position on his team.  She said yes and was excited for the future, but a few months later Jean was killed in a race in which she should have taken part. This coupled with the loss of four other friends in less than two years had Maria rethinking her decisions. She left the sport after racing in only three Formula 1 races in less than two years.
This is not your hairdresser's helmet!
In 1979 Maria came back to the world of racing after getting married and having a family.  She joined the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers and since 1997 has held the position of vice-president, attending many benefits, gatherings and local races.  She still receives invites to the F1 races but says she would rather watch them from the comfort of her home. Looking back on her short career in F1,  Maria is very matter-of-fact about the struggles she encountered on and off the track. There were many times when she was ignored by the other drivers and rarely was she offered a congratulatory hand or word of advice.  She takes it in stride saying that these men simply thought she wouldn’t be able to race. The only significant issue came in 1958 when she was barred from racing in France, having been told by the race director, “The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdressers.” He obviously knew nothing about naturally curly hair, or this woman’s talent. This Hooniversal Dream Girl wasn’t fastest on the track.  She didn’t run the most races and certainly didn’t gain any points in the less than two seasons she raced.  But she did do one thing no one else has ever done.  She paved the way for the likes of Lella Lombardi, Divina Galica, Desiré Wilson, Giovanna Amati and who knows how many more in the years to come. She is the first woman of Formula 1.

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