Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: Who is the only woman to date to score points in a Formula One Championship race, and in what race did she do so?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you are right.
Racing is a male-dominated sport, of that there is no doubt. Formula One racing in particular is dominated, not just by men but by a unique breed of man. Typically coldly calculating, demanding, and perfectionist, the archetype F1 pilot uses all of these traits to compute lightning-fast decisions, and overcome tremendous pressures in order to keep his car, literally, in the race.
Very few women have ever attempted to enter the unofficially men’s-only club that is the Formula One World Driver’s Championship. In fact, there have only been five who have tried since the series debuted in 1958. Of those, only two have ever qualified for and started a race, and only one has ever earned Championship points in a race.
Lella Lombardi holds a unique place in Formula One history as the only woman to score points in a championship race – well, half a point after finishing sixth in the accident-curtailed 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
That 1975 Spanish Grand Prix was notable not just for Lombardi’s historic earned points, but also for the controversy that preceded the race, and the accidents that cut the contest short. The problems started when the members of the Grand Prix Drivers Association complained that track-side barriers were not constructed properly and presented a danger to both the race participants and the spectators.
The organizers had track staff work overnight to ensure the barriers were properly installed before the Saturday practice, with team mechanics sent out to help as well. The drivers remained unconvinced about the track’s safety and threatened not to drive for practice or the race. It took a threat of a lawsuit by the organizers to back them down. One driver who didn’t back down was then defending World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi who did the required three practice laps at sight-seeing pace and then parked his car for the weekend.
The race itself was marred by a major accident when Rolf Stommelen’s car lost its rear wing, bounced off of one barrier, and then flipped over the opposite side. Five spectators were killed by Stommelen’s car and he suffered a number of broken bones in the wreck. This stopped the race on the 26th lap.
It’s possible that it is in all this drama that Lombardi’s achievement gets lost.
She didn’t have an illustrious racing career otherwise, starting out in Touring Cars before switching to single seaters in the early ’70s. In 1975 she was added to Count Vittorio Zanon’s F1 team driving a March, and that year she qualified for the South African Grand Prix. Her highest finish was seventh at the German Grand Prix the same year.
Lombardi quit F1 the next year, but continued to race in other series. She passed away from cancer in 1992, but her accomplishment still lives on.