Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day and to celebrate that this year, we decided to make a list of all the amazing women in Motorsport that inspire us. These women are a great role model to tons of little girls and young women alike. They show us bravery and push their limits to make it in a, let’s keep it real here, male dominated sport. Luckily the FIA sees this and makes great strides to get girls into racing with the Girls on Track initiative where Maya Weug showed what she was worth (a space at the Ferrari Driving Academy). The FIA has also created a racing category for just women: the W-Series. We’re not just talking about drivers though, we’re also looking at team principles and journalists who make us proud to be women!
Written by: Bruna Brito, Taniska Vashee and Esmée Koppius, Edited by Esmée Koppius
Maria Teresa de Filippis
First female driver in F1 (Photo: Popperfoto/ Getty Images/ ACZ)
At the age of 32, Maria Teresa de Filipis was invited by Maserati to race in Formula 1 at the helm of the 250F in 1958, on the historic track of Monaco. She competed in five Grand Prizes, four for Maserati and one for Porsche.
Born in Naples, Italy, in a very wealthy family, she has faced many prejudices, starting with banned from competing for being a woman until sexist statements before her debut by the race director, Toto Roche, a great photograph of Maria Teresa was shown at the press conference and practice for the photography he said: “such a beautiful young woman like that I shouldn’t wear any helmets except the hairdresser’s hairdryer. “
Years after finishing her career, Maria Teresa declared: “I just ran for pleasure. At that time, nine out of ten pilots were my friends. There was, say, a family atmosphere. We went out at night, listened to music and danced. It was totally different from what pilots do today, where robots are processed and depend on sponsors. Now there are no friends in Formula 1. ”
Her Formula 1 career ended in 1959, achieving an honourable 10th place as the best result. And the mark of the first female driver on F1 opening doors for others to come.
Lella Lombardi with the Brabham drove in 1974, Photo Keystone/ Hulton Archive/Getty Images
In March 1st, 1975, at the Spanish Grand Prix, Lella Lombardi became the first and only woman to score a (half) point in Formula 1.
Maria Grazia “Lella” Lombardi , was born in 26 March, 1941, in a commune called Frugarolo in the Province of Alessandria in the Italian region Piedmont. Daughter of a butcher and a housewife, her first job was as a driver for a van in her father’s store.
After going for karting, she decided to go ahead in the speedy world at age of 8, starting as a co-driver in Rally, when at the first opportunity ahead of the wheel, she won a race. Racing in Formula Monza, until moving to Italian Formula 3, of which she was runner-up in 1968. Two years later, Lella won the Formula 850 title with four victories. After racing in the English Ford Formula, the Italian switched to Formula 5000, with very powerful cars, in 1974.
Her debut in Formula 1 was at the British Grand Prix, at Brands Hatch, on July 20, 1974, with a Brabham car, whose drivers were the Argentine Carlos Reutemann and the Brazilian José Carlos Pace, with BT-44 models and Cosworth engine, while Lella ran with a BT-42, also with Cosworth engine.
In the following year, the chaotic and memorable Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Montjuic circuit, happened. After multiple accidents, the most serious with the German Rolf Stommelen, who was seriously injured when his car lost its rear wing and flew over the screens. Four people died, and the race ended after just 29 laps. Lella Lombardi was sixth out of the seven who were still on the track and, since the race had not been completed 3/4, Lella Lombardi scored the first and only 0.5 points by a female driver in the history of Formula 1.
“If you’re not a good driver, they don’t care. But if you are a woman, they go crazy”, Giovanna Amati (Photo: CircusF1)
It was two months before the start of the 1992 F1 season when driver Giovanna Amati received an invitation to race for Brabham. The proposal came from the owner of the team, the Englishman Bernie Ecclestone, the same who would later be president of the category.
“They just forgot to mention that the team was broken,” Amati told a press.
The BT60B model, with which the English team competed, was unable to fight for victories and, sometimes, not even to compete in races. “The team didn’t even finish the season. It was a huge frustration. My car was very bad ”, says she, who tried to compete in the GPs of South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.
At that time, the F1 had 16 teams and more than 30 pilots, so eventually not everyone qualified for the races, which had training to define the 26 that would run on Sunday. Amati, unfortunately, failed to qualify for any of the three races she tried.
The technical issues were not the only challenges that Giovanna faced in her career, the Italian went through Formula Fiat, Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 3,000. She says that her opponents were disloyal to her during races in those categories. However, she declared “Senna was the only one who didn’t turn the face to me,”
Giovanna Amati retired from the Worlds before the fourth GP in Spain.
Sara Christian, the first woman to drive a NASCAR race. (Photo: Reddit)
Sara Christian was the first woman to race in Nascar in 1949. In the seven races she disputed she had a fifth place in Pittsburgh, and thus, she is the driver who had the best result in the category of bow of the category – currently called Cup Series. In her career, she scored two top 10 and ended her debut year in 13th with 282 points.
“I know what it takes to be fast and I feel like every year I learn valuable lessons about how to be better the next time.”
She is the first woman to have won an IndyCar championship event. Her love for speed traces back to when she was 10, she started competing in go karts.
By the age of 16, she was a national success! She quit High School to compete in the Formula Fords, finishing second in the standings which is the best ever position secured by an American in that league. She returned to the United states in 2002 to compete in IndyCar, she was promoted to Toyota Formula Atlantic open-wheel cars. She didn’t win but she finished third overall which gave her the opportunity to race for Indianapolis500, the most famed race in the United states. She went on to set the fastest lap time during practice and accomplished the historic feat of being the first woman to lead the race.
On 20th April, 2008 Patrick got her first win in IndyCar. Creating the historic monument of being the first woman to win an IndyCar event. As always, she proved the critics and haters wrong and showed them what she was made of. Danica was more than just a “Marketing miracle”. She started her first season at NASCAR in 2010, while still competing in the Indy league. In 2012, Patrick announced she was going to race NASCAR full time. As the glorious do, she created history once again by securing the pole position for the Daytona 500 in 2013. She carried the glory of being the first woman to lead a lap in the race and finished 8th. Her remarkable run at NASCAR came to an end in 2017 over a lack of sponsors.
Her journey does not come to an end after hanging up the racing boots, off the track she continues to inspire entrepreneurial spirit in young girls and women. She runs an athleisure wear line named Warrior by Danica Patrick, is the proud sole proprietor of Somnium, a wine brand and a podcast known by the name Pretty Intense.
Keiko Ihara made her auto-racing debut at the age of 25 in the Ferrari Challenge and became the first woman to post a pole-to-flag victory in an FIA-licensed international event. She has raced in 70 countries, competing in Formula Three, Le Mans, the World Endurance Championship, and other series. When not on the track, Ms. Ihara teaches university classes in media innovation; she also teaches English to local children.
On June 15, 2014, Ms. Keiko Ihara became the first Asian woman to complete the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Her team finished fourteenth in the 82nd round of the most prestigious auto endurance race in the world.
“I’ve accomplished as much as I have by putting myself in situations that demanded passion and ambition. I think today’s young women need to place themselves in those situations and build up experience in order to reach their full potential.” As Ms. Ihara sees it, one of her key missions going forward will be helping other Japanese women fulfill their dreams by inspiring them to place themselves in the same demanding situations that fostered her in the past.
Muldowney was described by longtime drag racer Fred Farndon as the “best natural driver, no question.”
‘In 1973, Shirley Muldowney became the first woman licensed to drive a Top Fuel dragster. She won the NHRA World Championship three times, the IHRA Championship once, and earned 18 career NHRA victories.
The first and only woman who won a World Rally Championship. (Photo: Wikipedia)
In October 1981, he obtained his first victory in the World Championship, when he won the Rally de San Remo, in Italy. It was a woman’s first triumph in a World Rally event.
French car driver, Michèlle Mouton was born on June 23, 1951, in Grasse. Mouton studied law at the university for a year, when he switched to a trainee nurse’s place in a home for the disabled. Then he went to work for his father’s insurance company, a great lover of motor sports. It was he who encouraged Michèle Mouton to try out rally racing. The daughter started out as a co-driver, with her friend, but later moved to the wheel, having raced in rallies with an Alpine Renault 1600 offered by her father since 1970.
At the age of 23, Michèle Mouton won the French Rally Championship for the first time, repeating the feat the following year, 1975. In that same year, she won a Monte Carlo Rally Ladies Cup, one of the most respected in the world.
In 1977 she made her debut at the European Rally Championship, having won a race that year, the Rally of Spain. Mouton announced her retirement after Henri Pauli Toivonen passed away in a crash at Tour de Corse. After retiring from racing, she co-founded “Race of Champions,” where drivers from various motorsport categories gather to race.
In 2010, she became the first president of the FIA Women & Motorsport Commission. The year after, she was appointed to be FIA’s Manager in the World Rally Championship. Mouton also took part of the selection committee of the Rally Hall of Fame.,along with the two-time world champion Carlos Sainz to the Hall of Fame, and also made knight of the Legion of Honor by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
How could we forget about Claire Williams? The ex-Team Principal of Williams certainly has a special place in our hearts. She took over Williams after her father (Sir Frank Williams) resigned from his position as member of the board in March of 2012. In 2013 she actually became Team Principal and held that position for 7 years. When she resigned in 2020, she actually got gifted a front wing from the FW36 as a souvenir. She will forever be in our hearts and we wish her the very best!
Susie Wolff (formerly Stoddart) is a former Scottish racing driver and current Team Principal of the Formula E team, Venturi Racing. She made history in 2014 for being the first woman in 22 years to take part in a Formula 1 racing weekend for Williams at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. She hasn’t just driven for Formula 1 though, as she has also competed in the DTM, the Race of Champions and Karting. Even becoming the Top Female Kart Driver in the world. She’s the wife of Toto Wolff and (in his own words) is his biggest support but also his biggest critic. Together they form (what I’d call) the perfect duo. She’s a very inspirational woman and a great leader. Hopefully, she can inspire lots of other young girls to pursue a career in racing and be confident in their abilities to drive the cars to the absolute limit. For now, she remains an icon in a sport full of men.
Cullen congratulates Hamilton on his win at Imola, 2020. (Photo: F1)
They say behind every great man there is a strong woman, and we can safely say that Angela Cullen and Lewis Hamilton are a great team. Cullen started working with Lewis Hamilton at the beginning of the 2016 season and is, to quote Lewis Hamilton, “One of the greatest things that’s happened to me.”
But who is she? On the 5th of August in 1974, she was born in New Zealand. She’s married and has two children. As a child, she was passionate about sports and did a variety of them. She was in lots of sports teams and even competed for New Zealand in international field hockey competitions.
She started studying at the Auckland University of Technology in 1992 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health science, focussing on physiotherapy. After graduating she moved to the United Kingdom where she had an impressive career as a senior physiotherapist from 2000 until 2006. Later on, she came into contact with Lewis Hamilton, and the rest is history.
Hamilton is a 7-time World Champion now and we can safely say, whatever Angela’s doing, she’s doing it right! The results don’t lie and the partnership is admirable.
Simona de Silvestro
Photo: Personal account on Twitter @simdesilvestro)
Simona de Silvestro is one of the strong female names that have formed part of IndyCar’s Grid. The Swiss competed in the American category between 2010 and 2015. At the age of 32 years old, Simona will be the driver of the Paretta Autosport car, a team led by Beth Paretta, and will try to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500, scheduled for the month of May.
To read more about Parreta’s Team click here.
Ana carrasco the first woman to win a world motorcycle race. Photo: moto.com.br
Ana Carrasco Gabarrón is a Spanish motorcycle racer. In 2013, she started her competition at the World Motorbike Championship in the Moto3 category, becoming the youngest woman to race in this category.
In 2018, she was the first woman to win a world motorcycle race.
Unfortunately, the rider, riding the Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP300, suffered fractures in the thoracic vertebrae during an accident in the test session in Portugal.
She shared the recovery journey on her Instagram profile: @anacarrasco_22
Born in Bath, England, Jamie Chadwick’s interest in racing started in 2010, when he began karting at the age of 11, achieving numerous victories and podiums at the club level in the Junior series.
The British driver made headlines when she became the first woman to win a British F3 race with a superb victory at Brands Hatch. She also won the title in the first edition of the women’s championship, W Series in 2019.
In the same year, Jamie signed a contract with Williams as a development driver.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1993, she quickly discovered her passion: motor racing. At just nine years old, Tatiana Calderón was already taking her first karting steps and the climb was even faster.
Tatiana was the subject of Anthoine Hubert, in F2 of Arden. Last year she raced for the Richard Mille Racing Team, in the LMP2 category, of prototypes, alongside the Dutch Beitske Visser, the German Sophia Floersch and commanded by the British Katherine Legg.
Now Tatiana is currently the development driver for the Italian Formula 1 team, Alfa Romeo
Born in Spain to a Dutch father and Belgian mother, the 16-year-old girl was shown to be powerful and talented after a long selection process, Maya won the FIA Girls. On Track: Rising stars programme, and is now, the first and only female driver on the Ferrari Driver Academy. She paves the way for many to follow and hopefully, gets good chances of fighting for wins in her team. We’re very excited to see what she’ll do on track and we’ll follow her career closely!
To read more about her career and experience on the programme, click here.
She made headlines for her horrific crash in the 2018 Macau GP in Formula 3, footage from which gives us chills even today. Sophia Floersch is unstoppable, her story proves to us that sometimes all it takes is the grit and desire to get through it all.
Born in Germany, Floersch started racing karts at the young age of 4, she went on to compete in the Ginetta Junior series, Formula regional as well as the German and Italian F4. She created history in the Ginetta Junior championship by becoming the youngest driver ever to win an event. She couldn’t race the whole season because of lack of finances but managed to finish third and emerge leader of the pack among the rookies. While at F4 she managed to achieve two podiums and three fastest laps.
Sophia rose to Formula 3, participating in her first ever test on 13 March 2018 with Van Amersfoot racing. 18 November 2018, Macau reminded spectators as well as other drivers the risks of racing. She was only 17 years old the day the crash happened. Her spine was fractured, she had to undergo a 10 hour surgery. Viewers around the world were shaken but Sophia’s spirit could not be rattled.
She made it very clear that her end goal was to reach the pinnacle of motorsport and she would do whatever it takes. She spent the next 18 months recovering and returning to her initial form. She was back to race for the 2019 season and made it very clear she had unfinished business left to do. She charmed us all by putting Richard Mille in 9th place for the 2020 season of 24 hours Le Mans. She bagged the Comeback of the Year award at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
To read an interview we at DIVEBOMB did with another promising female superstar, Juju Noda, click here.