Have women ever raced in Formula 1? History of female F1 drivers

Formula 1 has seen just five female drivers in its 74 years of recorded history. There are now more women involved in motorsport, with series such as F1 Academy — which features solely women drivers — to encourage more women and girls into motorsport and support them to progress in their career.  

What is F1 Academy? 

Formula 1 has founded the F1 Academy, which is a female-only single-seater racing championship. The series had its inaugural season in 2023, with its aim to develop and help women progress into higher levels of the competition, such as F2 and F1.  

There are 15 cars on the grid which have been provided by current F2 and F3 teams. A number of drivers are also supported by the current Formula 1 teams, with each F1 team having backed a driver.  

The 2024 season will feature seven race weekends which will consist of three races each, making it a 21-race championship. 

Formula One Management financially backs the series, subsidising each entry with a budget of €150,000 per season, although drivers taking part will be required to match the amount. Management has claimed that this “represents a fraction of the usual costs in a comparable series.” 

Female F1 drivers

Maria Teresa de Filippis — 1958 — 1959

Maria Teresa de Filippis, Maserati

Maria Teresa de Filippis, Maserati

Photo by: Red Bulletin — Getty Images

  • F1 entries: 5 
  • F1 starts: 3 
  • Best result: 10th (1958 Belgian Grand Prix)  
  • Teams: Behra-Porsche & Maserati (Non-works) 

Maria Teresa De Fillippis was the first woman to compete in a Formula 1 race, when she competed in the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix. The Italian participated in five F1 grands prix weekends but only managed to secure three starts. 

De Filippis developed her love of motorsport in the late 1940s, following the end of World War II, with her parents being sceptical she could succeed and her brothers placing bets that she wouldn’t be fast. At 22-years-old she began her driving career and won her first race during a 10km drive between Salerno and Cava de’ Tirreni.  

In 1954, she entered the Italian sports car championship, finishing second overall. As a result of her success Maserati hired her as a works driver and the following year she took part in several events including endurance racing. 

De Filippis’ first chance to drive an F1 car came in 1958, where she entered the Monaco Grand Prix. There were 31 entrants in the race and only half managed to qualify for the race, with the Italian missing out on the opportunity for her first F1 start by 5.8 seconds. During the season she forged friendships with several drivers including Bernie Ecclestone and Juan Manuel Fangio, with the latter telling her: “You go too fast, you take too many risks.” 

She made her first F1 grand prix start at the 1958 Belgian race, when all drivers were allowed to compete with no cut-off qualifying time. Although she qualified 19th and was lapped twice, De Filippis managed to finish in 10th (which was the last of the finishers, as nine other cars did not finish the race).  

The Italian was not allowed to compete at the French Grand Prix, which was the following race, where she later claimed that the race director prevented her from taking part and telling her “the only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser’s”. De Filippis also took part in the 1958 Portuguese and Italian grands prix but had to retire from both races due to engine problems. 

De Filippis retired from racing in 1959, following the death of her Porsche team leader Jean Behra. The French driver died in a racing accident during the sports car support race for the German Grand Prix at the AVUS, which hosted just one grand prix. She said she decided to retire “because too many friends had died” and that the death of Behra “was the most tragic because it was in a race that I should have been taking part in”. 

She did not return to motorsport until 1979, when she joined the International Club of Former F1 Grand Prix Drivers and was eventually appointed the Vice-President for the group in 1997. De Filippis died in 2016 at the age of 89.  

Lella Lombardi — 1974 — 1976

Lella Lombardi, Vittorio Brambilla, Robin Herd, March Designer with the March 761

Lella Lombardi, Vittorio Brambilla, Robin Herd, March Designer with the March 761

Photo by: Motorsport Images

  • F1 entries: 17 
  • F1 starts: 12 
  • Best result: 6th (1975 Spanish Grand Prix)  
  • Teams: March, RAM, Williams & Brabham 

It took 15 years from De Filippis retiring for another woman to compete in Formula 1. Lella Lombardi, a fellow Italian, is the only woman to score points in a race, scoring half a point at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. 

Lombardi developed her love for racing by driving her family’s delivery van, before starting to compete in karting and working through to Formula Monza, Formula 3 and Formula 5000. In 1975, she joined Vittorio Brambilla and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the March engineering team, where she raced for the full season. She became the second woman, after De Filippis in 1958, to qualify for a grand prix at the South African race.  

The Italian scored half a championship point at the Spanish Grand Prix after the race lasted just 23 laps. Lombardi was forced to retire her car due to a fuel system problem, but the race was stopped after Rolf Stommelen’s rear wing broke, sending him crashing into the barrier and resulted in the death of five spectators. The race continued for four more laps, with Lombardi finishing in sixth-place. Due to the race not being fully completed all points were halved, hence why she only managed to score half a point. 

She then came seventh at the German Grand Prix and was offered a one-off race for Williams at the United States Grand Prix but was unable to start due to an ignition problem. Her Formula 1 career ended after the 1976 season, where she raced with March and then briefly RAM. 

Lombardi was also the first female racing driver to compete in the 1974 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, where she finished 14th. Following her career in F1 she raced in sports cars, winning the 6 Hours of Pergusa and the 6 Hours of Vallelunga. Lombardi also competed in four 24 Hours of Le Mans events, as well as spending a year in NASCAR, alongside fellow female drivers Janet Guthrie and Christine Beckers. 

Lombardi then retired in 1988 before founding her own racing team — Lombardi Autosport — the following year. She then passed away in 1992 from breast cancer at the age of 50.  

Divina Galica — 1976 & 1978

Divina Galica

Divina Galica

Photo by: Motorsport Images

  • F1 entries: 3 
  • F1 starts: 0 
  • Best result: N/A 
  • Teams: Surtees (Non-Works) & Hesketh 

Divina Galica competed in four Winter Olympics as a skier for Team GB, captaining the team in 1968 and 1972, before pursuing a career in motorsport. She started a second career in karting before moving into Formula 2 and then F1.  

Her first F1 entry was the 1976 British Grand Prix, but she was unable to qualify for the race. This meant that the British driver became one of eight people who have both been a Formula 1 driver and competed in the Olympics. Her entry to the event made history, as it was the first and only race F1 race with more than one female entry, with Lombardi being the other entrant. 

Galicia had three entries in F1 at the 1976 British Grand Prix and the 1978 Argentine and Brazilian grands prix but failed to qualify for each race. She also competed in the Shellsport International Series and British Formula 1 but failed to secure any race wins.  

Desire Wilson — 1980

Desire Wilson

Desire Wilson

Photo by: Jeff Bloxham / Motorsport Images

  • F1 entries: 1 
  • F1 starts: 0 
  • Best result: N/A 
  • Teams: Williams (Non-Works) 

Desire Wilson only entered one F1 race — the 1980 British Grand Prix — but failed to qualify. She is the only woman to win a variation of an F1 race though, as she took pole at the Brands Hatch race of the 1980 British Aurora F1 Championship. Due to her achievement, there is a grandstand at the circuit named after her.  

She is currently the only woman to have been licensed to drive in a CART Indycars event – which officially ended in 2003, as well as holding a superlicence, which was made a mandatory requirement in F1 in the 1990s.  

Wilson won the 1980 Monza 1000km and Silverstone 6 Hours World Championship for Makes races, making her the first woman to have won a world championship race. 

Giovanna Amati — 1992

Giovanna Amati

Giovanna Amati

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

  • F1 entries: 3 
  • F1 starts: 0  
  • Best result: N/A 
  • Teams: Brabham  

Giovanna Amati is the last woman to have entered an F1 race, having had entries in three races in 1992. The Italian started her career in Formula Abarth before moving into Formula 3 and then Formula 3000. 

Amati was signed to the Brabham F1 team in 1992 but failed to qualify in her three entries at the South African, Mexican and Brazilian grands prix. She was then fired from the team and replaced with Damon Hill, who also failed to qualify for the next five races.  

In 1993, following her attempt at an F1 career, she claimed the Women’s European Championship, before competing in the Ferrari Challenge between 1994 to 1996.  

 Female F1 test and development drivers 

IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher was the first woman to test an F1 car, when she got behind the wheel of the McLaren following the first practice of the 2002 United States Grand Prix. The American driver competed in 81 IndyCar events, with her best result of second at the 2001 Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami — which was the highest placing for a woman until Danica Patrick claimed victory at the 2008 Indy Japan 300. Fisher is also the first woman to take pole position in an American open-wheel race — the 2002 Indy 300 — and holds the record of the most entries by a woman in the Indianapolis 500, where she has competed nine times.  

Katherine Legge tested the Minardi at the Vallelunga Circuit in 2005. The British driver currently competes full-time in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, as well as part-time in the IndyCar Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. She was also the first woman to take pole in a Zetec race in 2000, taking pole again the following year. During the 2002 British Formula Renault Championship at Oulton Park, Legge took pole position with a time of 1.19.292, taking the lap record from Kimi Raikkonen. 

In 2012 Susie Wolff was signed as a development and test driver for Williams, becoming the first woman to take part in an F1 event in 22 years, when she participated in FP1 at the 2014 British Grand Prix — the last woman being Giovanna Amati in 1992. Wolff competed in Formula Renault and Formula 3 prior to moving into F1, before announcing her retirement after competing in the 2015 Race of Champions. In 2018, she became a team principal for Venturi Racing in Formula E, before becoming CEO and eventually standing down in 2022. Wolff is now the managing director for the F1 Academy.  

Susie Wolff, Team Principal, Venturi

Susie Wolff, Team Principal, Venturi

Photo by: Dan Bathie / Motorsport Images

Maria de Villota became a test driver for Marussia, but tragically died following injuries from sustained in a crash at the Duxford Aerodrome in 2012. The daughter of Spanish F1 driver Emilio de Villota, had previously competed in Superleague Formula and Euroseries 3000. 

Sauber signed IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro as an “affiliated driver” in 2014, with hopes of having her compete for the team in the next season. Silvestro has previously competed in Formula E and GT3 and is now an F1 commentator for German broadcaster SRF Sport. 

In 2015, Lotus F1 announced that they had signed Carmen Jorda as a development driver, which was heavily criticised — including being called a “marketing gimmick” by four-time WRC rally winner Michele Mouton . Bernie Ecclestone responded to the criticism, saying: “She is very good. We asked Lotus to see and she has done a good job for them. She wants to be in F1. We have to try to find the right way, but she is not alone. There are plenty of other people.” Jorda has previously competed in Spanish F3, European F3 Open, GP3 and the Le Mans Series, as well as becoming part of the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission.  

Tatiana Calderon was signed as a development driver for Sauber in 2017, before moving into a test driver role in 2018. The Columbian driver was the first woman to stand on a podium at the British Formula 3 International Series in 2013 and the first to lead a lap of the Formula 3 European Championship. In 2024, she joined the IMSA SportsCar Championship with Gradient Racing. 

Jamie Chadwick joined the Williams Driver Academy in 2019 as a development driver. Chadwick won all three seasons of the W Series in 2019, 2021 and 2022, as well as competing in the Race of Champions and Extreme E. Alongside her role at Williams, she will also compete in her second year of Indy NXT in 2024. 

Jessica Hawkins is the latest woman to join the F1 driver test driver ranks, when she joined Aston Martin in 2023 as a driver ambassador. In November 2023 she took part in a test drive with the AMR21 at the Hungaroring, becoming the first woman to test an F1 car since Tatiana Calderon in 2018. As part of her role with the team, she is also the head of racing for Aston Martin’s F1 Academy team.  

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