TeamsMaria Teresa de Filippis: 1958 Formula One Season By Jeremy McMullen
In the couple of decades leading up to the Second World War, during what is considered the golden age of grand prix racing, there would be a handful of women drivers. However, when Europe emerged from the war and Formula One came into existence in 1950, there were none to be found, that is, until 1958.
Maria Teresa's route to motor racing would be, as some have been, as a result of a bet. That age old question as to which gender was better-suited to one career over another would be the motivating principle in de Filippis' racing endeavors.
Pestered by her brothers that she could not be faster at the wheel of a car than they, she would take her brothers up on their bet and would quickly prove them wrong racing Fiat 500s competitively at the age of just 22.
As with other drivers, such as Stirling Moss, Maria Teresa's first foray into horsepower would come on the back of a horse. However, she would soon become victorious at the wheel of a race car and this would not only prove her brothers wrong, it would also convince her parents she had the potential of being one of the best.
By the early 1950s, she would be taking part in sportscar races and would eventually finish second in the 1954 Italian Sports Car Championship. At the time, many of the top drivers would take part in all sorts of racing disciplines from sportscars to hillclimbs to Formula One. So, Maria Teresa would have the opportunity to take part in a number of events against some of the best in the world. It seemed just a matter of time before she would make her debut in Formula One, especially after she signed as a test driver for the Maserati factory in 1955.
Maria Teresa would not only prove herself to her brothers by winner her first race out in an event held in Salerno-Cava dei Tirreni, but she would soon compete wheel-to-wheel with another Italian driver Luigi Musso. These two would often take part in the same events and would soon become a couple. Joining Maserati in 1955, and with the help of Musso, Maria Teresa would be pushed closer and closer to making a debut in Formula One.
Prior to joining Maserati, de Filippis would often drive an Osca MT4 and would come away with a number of class victories and top overall results. One of those highlights would be a 2nd place finish in her native Naples in 1954. She would follow this up with another 2nd place result in 1956, this time at the wheel of a Maserati A6GCS.
In the early part of 1958, Maria Teresa would make her way to South America and Argentina. She would be back behind the wheel of an Osca for the Buenos Aires 1000 Kilometers. By this point in time the Maserati factory team was out of Formula One and motor racing on a full-time basis. In spite of Maserati's withdrawal from Formula One, their 250F would remain a very popular customer car. And, through the encouragement of Luigi Musso and none other than Juan Manuel Fangio, Maria Teresa would be encouraged to look forward to her first opportunity to take part in a Formula One event.
Returning from Argentina, Maria Teresa had joined Maserati a little too late. The car manufacturer would withdraw from Formula One and pretty much all motor racing following the '57 season. However, the company would still work on behalf of customers preparing their 250Fs for them, and even going so far as to dispatch their mechanics to serve as crew for Maserati entrants in certain races.
Maria Teresa had proven herself many times over. She and Luigi Musso had been known to have competitive bets between the two of them. This would help her to get better as a driver, but she would also get some advice from some of the other men. One of those that certainly had the credentials to back up his advice would be one of de Filippis' heroes—Juan Manuel Fangio. Maria Teresa would not only have the opportunity to race against drivers like Fangio, but they would often stay in the same places and travel together between events. As a result, she would learn some very important lessons driver, like Fangio. Fangio, in particular, would actually be quite concerned for the woman from Naples. Unafraid of speed and determined to prove herself, Maria Teresa would often worry Fangio and he would try and encourage her to slow down and maintain control instead of being on the ragged-edge all the time. Only time would tell whether or not the lessons had be taken to heart.
Encouraged to take part in Formula One, Maria Teresa would travel to the Sicilian city of Syracuse in early April for the 8th Gran Premio de Siracusa. Upon arriving, Maria Teresa would find Maserati's team manager Bertocchi standing there with a 250F adorned with a light blue ribbon. The blue ribbon was symbolic in Italy for a baby being christened, as though the Maserati were brand new. This, of course, wasn't entirely true. Maserati had come to earn a reputation for declaring something old to be new and this would be the case with chassis 2523, the chassis awaiting Maria Teresa.
The 250F that Maria Teresa would have waiting for her would be chassis 2523. Over the course of the '57 season, chassis 2523 would be rebuilt from two different cars and would be used as a test-bed for Maserati's V12 engine. It was supposedly a chassis Fangio used to contest and win the 1957 Formula One World Championship, but this was really only indirectly true. After testing and deciding against the V12, the engine and gearbox would be removed from the chassis and a regular six-cylinder engine would be placed back inside the car.
Still, in spite of the not quite as advertised chassis sitting there before her, Maria Teresa was on the verge of taking part in her first Formula One event. The Syracuse Grand Prix would be a non-championship race. However, at 60 laps, it would give her ample experience.
Though by this point Maria Teresa and Musso had longed since ceased being an item, the two would be busy preparing to take part in the same race. Maria Teresa would be just one of a a fleet of Maserati 250Fs while Musso would be behind the wheel of one of the new Ferrari Dino 246 F1s.
Maria Teresa would have an issue when she first prepared to drive the Maserati. The lady from Naples was actually quite petit and this posed a challenge in a day and age when a good deal of strength was needed to muscle cars, like the 250F, around a circuit. Thankfully, with the help of a couple of people who worked with Maserati in Modena, Maria Teresa would be given a special seat cushion that would help bring her up to a normal driver position in the car. But, while visibility would be addressed, there would still be the concern about her ability to muscle the car around. This, of course, was a rather moot point after she had competed in sportscars in long-distance endurance races like the Messina 10 Hour, Targa Florio and Mille Miglia.
The Syracuse circuit itself would help de Filippis. Utilizing public roads and streets just to the west of the city's center, the 3.48 mile circuit would be fast and featuring very few slow corners where the momentum of the car wouldn't be able to really help Maria Teresa. In fact, the greatest concern Maria Teresa would face would be the same as every other driver. Throughout the majority of the lap around the Syracuse circuit the track would be lined with concrete walls. This provided drivers with very little room for error and was of greater concern than most everything else.
Maria Teresa and Luigi Musso would often have personal bets as to who would do better in an event. When it came practice, Musso would have been winner between the two by an easy margin. At the wheel of the new Dino 246, Musso would easily out-pace the field. He would end up on pole with a lap time of 1:58.4. The Ferrari driver would be only one of the field to break the two-minute mark around the circuit and would enjoy an advantage of more than three seconds over Giorgio Scarlatti, who would start on the front row in the 2nd position. Jo Bonnier would complete the front row being just two-tenths of a second slower than Scarlatti.
While Musso would manage to beat the two minute mark in practice, de Filippis' goal would be to lap in under 2:10. Unfortunately, she would be unable to reach this mark. Her best effort throughout practice would be 2:13.5. Being 15 seconds slower than Musso, Maria Teresa would end up on the third row of the grid in the 8th position.
It was obvious the older 250F could not match the pace of the new Ferrari. However, 60 laps would be plenty of time for Maria Teresa to make in-roads against the other Maseratis in the field. And, while victory may have seemed a little out of reach at the start of the race, seeing that there was just the one, it was entirely likely de Filippis could end up near, or on, the podium before the day was done.
As the 60 lap race got underway, Musso would prove to be out of reach for the rest of the field right from the very beginning. Despite being up against a whole gaggle of Maseratis in his Ferrari, Musso would easily pull away from the field. This left the rest of the privateers to provide the entertainment, and they would do just that. And, right in the middle of it all would be Maria Teresa.
Scarlatti and Bonnier would attract the most attention dueling it out lap after lap. Masten Gregory would be right there behind the two but he would find one of the concrete walls and would have to pit for a new wheel. This helped de Filippis to move up in the order.
Francesco Godia-Sales and Horace Gould would be embroiled in another tight battle. This would be for fourth and fifth when Gregory made his early stop. Not far behind these two would be the Italian lady in her Maserati. She would have Ken Kavanagh behind her for a little while during the early stages of the race, but, as the day wore on, she would easily pull away from the Australian driver.
Only twelve cars would start the race and that number would dwindle quickly. Cabianca would be the first out of the race. His day would be over after just a couple of laps. Wolfgang Seidel would find his Maserati struggling for power. He would pit and would find there was water in his fuel. His day would be over. Masten Gregory would return to the track after having his wheel replaced, but it would only last a little past halfway before the car finally broke. In total, just half of the field would be left running at the end of the race.
At the head of them all would be Musso. Easily setting the fastest laps of the race, Luigi would be pulling away from the field and would even lap Jo Bonnier, who had finally broken away from Scarlatti, who had to retire with engine troubles. Up against the aged 250F, Musso's Ferrari would appear to be in another class entirely. The ease with which the Italian lapped the circuit, and the field, made it look as though he were driving a Formula One car and the rest of the field were piloting Formula 2 cars.
Maria Teresa would easily pull away from Kavanagh. She would not only lap him once, but twice. Therefore, her place was secure. If only she could reel in Horace Gould and the others in front of her. She would be solidly in 5th place during the last third of the race. If one or two of the others retired before the end then the podium would be within sight.
Musso had time for a drink if he wanted before taking part in the last lap of the race. This was clearly a time in which the tortoise would not beat the hare. Averaging 100mph over the course of the race, Luigi would cross the line to take the victory with more than a lap in hand over Bonnier in 2nd place. There was really contest. Musso's fastest lap in the race would be under the two minute mark and none of the other drivers managed to dip below the mark in practice so it was clear the Italian's only challenge would be to keep the car out of trouble.
If Godia-Sales and Gould retired before the end then Maria Teresa had a place on the podium. Sadly, Godia-Sales would break away from Gould and both men would run controlled, steady races over the last half of the event. This would ensure they made it to the end and ensured de Filippis would end her first Formula One event, albeit a non-championship event, in 5th place a little more than four laps behind.
In all reality, Maria Teresa's performance would be a good one. In an aged performer against men much more accustomed to the handling and intricacies of the 250F, she would perform well by finishing in 5th place. Besides that, it would provide very real experience that would serve her well over the course of the season.
Leaving Sicilian shores, Maria Teresa would look ahead to her first ‘championship' Formula One race. Given that her contract with Maserati was a 50/50 split, she would not take part in too many races immediately after the one in Syracuse. She would take part in more local affairs to fill the time. The next major race on her calendar would not come until the middle of May, but it would be a very important one.
As the calendar turned to May, Maria Teresa would begin to look forward to her first attempt at an actual World Championship Formula One event. The next one on the calendar would be a big one, and a very challenging one at that. If she could even make it into the field for this race then she could have confidence she was in a good place for the remainder of the season. Furthermore, if she could merely make it into the field for what was the Monaco Grand Prix, then she would have achieved something great in the grand scheme of things. She would have won the bet with her brothers in a big way.
Everything about Monaco says 'limited'. Its location along the Mediterranean is wide open to the barren sea, and yet, closed off from the populated European mainland by the mountains that border the principality in every other direction. It is a place overrun with the opulent, much like treasure hidden away in a vault. Considering the wealth and the finery that overflows the city-state, Monaco would appear to be a getaway for the affluent ladies of society. However, for more than a few decades, the streets of Monte Carlo had been a playground for men. Maria Teresa would attempt to change that over the course of the weekend of the 18th of May in 1958.
Like the principality itself, the field for the Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco would be limited. There would be just a total of 16 places available on the grid. And to be among the sixteen-fastest a driver needed to negotiate some of the most demanding 1.95 miles in the world. Tight and twisty, the Monte Carlo street circuit would not allow the driver very much time at all to relax as the circuit would constantly move back and forth between concrete walls and bollards protecting the car and driver from the bay. Filled with elevation changes and technically-challenging corners, there was very little room for error and was certainly very easy to get wrong. A truly fast lap time would require being right at either edge the whole of the lap, and that was just to try and get into the race. Then there were 100 more laps after that in which a driver could get everything wrong and end up out of the running.
But any hope Maria Teresa would have of participating in the Monaco Grand Prix would have to be filtered through practice. If she was not one of the sixteen-fastest then the opportunity to take part in the jewel of Formula One's crown would slip through her fingers.
Making it into the field for 1958, despite the fact Fangio had dominated in a 250F the year before, would be far from easy to achieve. Maria Teresa would be one of six Maserati entries vying for entry in the race. Maserati factory mechanics would be on hand to provide as much assistance as possible. Stored away in garages around Monaco, Maria Teresa's 250F would be prepared for the mechanics to help her make her way into her first World Championship Formula One race.
Some twenty-nine cars would take to the circuit to try and earn a place on the 16-car grid. During the first and second practice sessions, Tony Brooks would be impressive in the Vanwall. He would be amongst the fastest, if not the fastest in both. This would lead to Brooks taking the pole with a lap time of 1:39.8.
The times began to filter in and there was some sense of what the grid would look like. Stirling Moss would miss out on an opportunity to post a lap time due to a late arrival and then a rain shower. Finally, he would post a time. It would be just eighth-fastest, but he would be in the field and would take yet one more place from the rest trying to get into the race. Moss' time of 1:42.3, just a little more than two and a half seconds slower than Brooks, meant those longing to get into the field would have to be within just a few seconds of the pole-sitter to even stand a chance.
Maria Teresa would take to the circuit and she would just look off the pace throughout the practices. At the end of the first practice, though she appeared slow, she would be sitting in 16th and would have a chance at making it into the race. However, in the second practice session the times started to fall. Maria Teresa would be forced to push the Maserati even harder. This would aggravate the engine and it would eventually blow. She would have to spares and no time to have the engine replaced. Jo Bonnier would be the man sitting on the bubble. His time in a Maserati 250F would be 1:45.0. This was a little more than five seconds slower than Brooks, a near eternity around the circuit, but for the others trying to get into the field, the time was proving too distant for them.
The closest to Bonnier's time would be Ron Flockhart in one of the Climax-powered Coopers. But, even he would be nine-tenths of a second slower. Maria Teresa had appeared slow around the circuit in the Maserati and her lap times would prove it. Monaco would be a difficult race to make it into with an aged car and the circuit being so tight and filled with potential pitfalls. Her best time around the circuit would only be 1:50.8. Sadly, without a spare engine, she would end up one of the slowest around the circuit at the end of practice. A start in the Monaco Grand Prix would be out of her reach. This was not all that surprising as she had only limited experience behind the wheel of the 250F and Monaco was, and still isn't, a circuit a driver can be fast if they are not comfortable. Beyond that, the car itself had reached the end of its useful life. The engine proved to be stretched beyond its limits around a circuit that required constant acceleration and braking.
The 250F had been one of the best, but by 1958 it was always going to be toward the tail-end of any grid. This already put Maria Teresa at a handicap even before she took to the circuit. Of course, all of this would be mere excuses and wouldn't matter to de Filippis who certainly wanted to race. What it did mean though is that she would have to look forward to her next opportunity to take part in her first Formula One World Championship race.
Maria Teresa would take a look at the situation and would best determine the races in which she could compete with the older 250F. The tight and twisty streets of Monaco were too much for her to overcome with a handicapped car. She needed to find a race in which the field would not be limited and that the car would be allowed to run. It was entirely likely the Maserati still had the power and speed to make it into a high-speed venue.
She would skip the Dutch Grand Prix, which was the week after the Monaco Grand Prix. That race would be a higher-speed affair but it still wouldn't be right. However, the round that would come along in June presented just such an opportunity.
The Dutch Grand Prix had been left off the Formula One calendar in 1957 as a result of some disputes. It would be back on the calendar the following year. The same would be true of the Belgian Grand Prix. In 1957 it too would be absent from the World Championship, the first time that had been the case since Formula One came into being in 1950. However, in 1958, it would be back and it was just the opportunity de Filippis needed to take part in her first championship Formula One race.
The Belgian Grand Prix, which would be held at the 8.77 mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit, had been excluded from the calendar in 1957. However, those associated with the circuit would not sit idly by. In fact, a great deal of work would be performed around the circuit. For one thing, the circuit itself would be resurfaced. A part of this resurfacing also included the smoothing of the bumps heading up the hill at Eau Rouge. In recent years cars had actually managed to catch air as the bumps would be so obvious right along the racing line. These bumps would be smoothed, and, with the addition of some other changes at different points of the circuit, Spa-Francorchamps would become the fastest circuit on the Formula One World Championship calendar.
In its character and nature, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is similar to the 14 mile long Nordschliefe at the Nurburgring. Both would be full of elevation changes and demanding high-speed corners that either go well or end up terribly bad. Drawing many of its corner names from nearby villages, it would be interesting that the village of Malmedy, for which one of the fastest sections of the track would be named, actually could have become part of Germany following the First World War. Had it actually have taken place, then Spa and the Nurburgring would have appeared much more similar instead of the distant relatives they appear to be as of this day.
Like the area of the Eifel Mountains where the Nurburgring lies in wait, the Ardennes region of Belgium is often noted for its strange and unusual weather patterns. It was by far anything but strange to be dry one minute and wet the next in Spa. However, as the teams began to arrive for the Belgian Grand Prix on the 15th of June, the weather would be absolutely beautiful.
Many of the drivers would be the first to arrive. Their journeys into the Ardennes would be much less complicated than that encountered by the teams with the large transports. Maria Teresa would be amongst them. Soon, her Maserati would arrive and she would begin preparations for practice. Many of the other drivers, including Godia, would come by and offer her advice and good luck. She would take to the circuit along with the others. The circuit would be dry and fast.
The cars would circulate and adjustments would be made. Then the times started to trickle in. In spite of the fact the Maserati would have the room to run, Maria Teresa would find it difficult to be within even 30 seconds of the fastest cars around the circuit. Thankfully for her, the grid would not be as restricted as what it had been in Monaco.
When practice had come to an end, it would be Mike Hawthorn on the pole having lapped the circuit in 3:57.1. Luigi Musso would also end up on the front row along with Stirling Moss. In spite of the track being nearly 9 miles in length, just a total of a half a second would separate the whole of the front row. This wouldn't be the case with de Filippis however.
At the end of practice the differences would be rather astonishing. Godia-Sales had offered some advice to Maria Teresa, but he would fair only a little better. Still, his lap of 4:24.5 would be quite a bit faster than the 4:31.0 offered by Maria Teresa. As a result, she would find herself on the eighth and final row all by herself.
Practice would not be a highlight in Maria Teresa's career, but what would be was the fact she was going to finally start her first Formula One World Championship race. And, it could not have been a much better day frankly. The sun would again be out. The circuit would be awash in brilliant light and comfortable temperatures…it would be a beautiful day for a race.
The crowds would gather around the circuit. It would be a festival atmosphere as the cars and drivers made their way to the grid. The drivers parade would allow the onlookers their first opportunity to see Formula One's first female driver. The cars would be prepared and readied. The drivers would all prepare themselves and would take their places behind the wheel. Many of the men would jump right in. Others would be slightly amused as Maria Teresa would take great care to put her helmet comfortably on. Then, finally, she would be behind the wheel ready for the start.
The engine roar would come up, and then there would be the flag to start the race. On the downhill run toward Eau Rouge for the first time it would be Moss leading the way ahead of Brooks and Belgian Olivier Gendebien. Though it would be her first Formula One race, little quarter would be shown Maria Teresa as she would flash up the hill last in the field. But, she knew she would not be up at the front at the start. Her mind would be firmly on finishing the race.
The Vanwalls would continue to lead the way through the first few miles of the first lap. Through Stavelot, the two Vanwalls would continue to show the way with Moss pulling away from Brooks. However, by the time the field reached its way to La Source to complete the first of 24 laps, it would be Brooks in the lead with Peter Collins right there behind him ready to pounce. Moss would finally appear. He had made an uncharacteristic mistake of missing a gear and the engine blew up as a result. He would coast down the hill and then would turn in just past the pits. His race was over. Maria Teresa, on the other hand, would still be in the race, albeit already well back of the front runners. Still, she could say she beat, on that day, Moss and his Vanwall.
Collins would be interested in beating everyone as he would pass Brooks for the lead. Gendebien would struggle with his Ferrari and this would not only allow Hawthorn to move up it would see the Belgian drop well back, even behind de Filippis. Gendebien's troubles would move de Filippis out of the hole at the back of the field, and she would stay ahead of Gendebien through nearly the first 10 laps of the race.
Collins' lead would be short-lived as he would lose the back-end of his Ferrari coming out of La Source. This would allow Brooks to go to the inside and into the lead while Hawthorn held station behind the two. Collins had pushed hard in the opening laps and the mistake at La Source would be just the beginning of the trouble for the British driver. The early pace would haunt his engine and he would end up out of the race after 5 laps as a result of overheating. Brooks would be up front and he would manage to pull away from Hawthorn, who was now firmly in 2nd place.
Other retirements would enable Maria Teresa to leap-frog a number of top drivers. Though she would be back in last place by the halfway mark of the race, she would be ahead of such drivers as Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, former fling Luigi Musso and Jean Behra. The lady was running well. She was well back, but she was running well nonetheless.
Heading into the final laps of the race, Hawthorn would be unable to do anything to break Brooks' lead. Hawthorn realized his best chances were to be found maximizing points. Therefore, on the last lap of the race, while Brooks was nowhere to be found, Mike would pick up the pace in an effort to set the fastest lap of the race and earn an extra point.
Hawthorn couldn't go fast enough to catch Brooks. The Vanwall driver would ease his way to victory crossing the line having averaged nearly 130mph over the course of the 24 laps. The incredible average speed meant he would finish 21 seconds ahead of Hawthorn in 2nd place, who would go on to set the fastest lap of the race on the final circuit. In 3rd would be another of the Vanwall drivers, Stuart Lewis-Evans. He would finish more than three minutes behind his teammate.
Maria Teresa would be quite impressive during the race. Though she ended practice more than thirty seconds behind Hawthorn on pole and more than six seconds slower than either Godia-Sales or Bonnier, she would finish the race on the same lap as those two Maserati pilots. Saved by the length of the circuit, de Filippis would finish the race more than two laps behind. However, she would finish some two laps behind just like Godia-Sales and Bonnier. She wasn't blown out by the other drivers in similar circumstances. In many respects, given her relative lack of experience in a 250F, she had outperformed her fellow Maserati entrants. Crossing the line, de Filippis would finish the race in 11th place. In fact, Godia-Sales would not compete the lap as a result of engine failure, and so, she would actually end up 10th amongst those still running.
Though achieving nothing, Maria Teresa had actually achieved quite a lot when she crossed the line at the end of the Belgian Grand Prix. Not only was she one of the few to bring home a Maserati 250F in the race, but she had become the first female to take part, and finish, a championship Formula One event. It was perhaps a sign of things to come.
Unfortunately, not all would see the signs. Not all would read the change in the winds. After the relative success in the Belgian Grand Prix, Maria Teresa would focus her attention on the very next round of the Formula One World Championship. This meant making a trip not all that far from Spa into France.
The Belgian Grand Prix would take place on the 15th of June. One week later would be the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Two weeks after Le Mans, France would play host to the sixth round of the Formula One World Championship. It was the French Grand Prix and it would be held at Reims on the 6th of July.
Maria Teresa's hero, Juan Manuel Fangio, would make his final Formula One appearance that weekend and, not surprisingly, de Filippis would want to be a part of that moment in history. On top of that, the Reims circuit, the site for the race, was similar to Spa-Francorchamps in that it was a very fast circuit, which played to the strengths of the Maserati and de Filippis.
Maria Teresa had put in an entry for the race and very much looked forward to racing against her hero Fangio in Formula One. Sadly, the race's organizers had not perceived the change in the winds. Though she would put in for an entry into the race, it would be denied. As one of the race's organizer's would respond, 'The only helmet a woman should wear is the one at the hairdresser's.' Maria Teresa's entry would be denied and she would never get the opportunity to take part in the race. It would be about the only time throughout her career in which she would face such prejudice, but, as the events played out, maybe the organizers did her a favor.
Though Maria Teresa would be turned away from taking part in the French Grand Prix, she would not be a part of the event and witness the accident and subsequent death of her former boyfriend Luigi Musso. He was facing hard times personally and would be pushing incredibly hard in an effort to stay with Mike Hawthorn, who had been leading the race at the time. Musso was fast and would be driving with great abandon when he would slide off the circuit, hook a wheel in a ditch and would be thrown out of the car. Being thrown from the car, Musso would suffer terrible injuries and would later die from the accident. Musso would be just one of a number of drivers that would lose their lives in Formula One in 1958, and it would all deeply affect de Filippis' career path.
Having ran into some rather sexist race officials, Maria Teresa would abandon France and would look toward her next opportunity to take part in a Formula One race. She would forego travelling across the English Channel to Silverstone in order to try and take part in the British Grand Prix. She would also pass up on taking part in the German Grand Prix in the early part of August. After the German Grand Prix there would be a new event on the World Championship calendar. It would be the Portuguese Grand Prix held at the Boavista circuit. And, while there was the likelihood she could have started the race and gone well there, she would not put in an entry for the race.
Really, there would be only one other race in which de Filippis would take part in over the course the remaining '58 season. If she wasn't going to take part in the British or German grand prix, then she certainly wasn't going to take part in either the Portuguese and Moroccan events. There would be one round on the calendar the Italian lady certainly wasn't going to miss.
Maria Teresa's motor racing career would begin as a result of a bet between herself and her brothers. The tenth round of the Formula One World Championship in 1958 would be the Italian Grand Prix. There was absolutely no way Maria Teresa was not going to attempt to take part in her home grand prix. It would be the ultimate rub in the face of her brothers.
As usual, the Italian Grand Prix would be held in early September. In fact, the date of the race would be the 7th of September and it was the perfect opportunity for de Filippis to demonstrate she belonged with the best male drivers in the world, and doing so right before her own countrymen and women.
But the Italian Grand Prix would be an important race far beyond de Filippis' own personal achievements. The battle for the championship would be still very tight between Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss. Moss needed everything to go well to keep his hopes alive while Hawthorn had to make sure he didn't make some mistake to put himself in a hole. He would have the opportunity to put it out of reach, but it would be just as easy to make a mistake and ruin the whole effort for himself.
Compared to the Vanwalls and the new Dino 246, Maria Teresa's Maserati would stand little chance around the 3.56 mile Monza circuit. However, the circuit was certainly fast, and, had a reputation for being something of a car-breaker.
Built just to the north of Monza, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza would be constructed in the Royal Villa of Monza, a heavily-wooded park. Because of the fact Monza would be situated along the River Lambro, which is part of a tributary of the Po, the area around the circuit, and the circuit itself, would be generally quite flat. Elevation change over the course of a lap around the circuit would be minimal with the most noticeable change coming in the dip below the banked oval circuit just past the Lesmo complex. Yet, despite its lack of elevation change and character in that regard, the Monza circuit would certainly be one of the more memorable circuits in grand prix history and Maria Teresa would hope it would provide some truly wonderful memories for her as she arrived to take part in her home grand prix.
The field for the Italian Grand Prix would be rather large. However, amongst the numerous entries there would be just a handful of Italians. Therefore, Maria Teresa would have the opportunity, and the responsibility, of upholding national patriotism. This would not be all that easy with a car that was not the youngest thoroughbred in the paddock. It would be even worse when that thoroughbred lacked the proper training and support. And yet, this would be the situation Maria Teresa would have to face heading into the race on the 7th of September.
The year before, the Vanwalls had dominated the pace around the circuit. One year removed, it would be more of the same. Stirling Moss would end up on pole with a lap time of 1:40.5. Starting right beside him in 2nd place on the grid would be Tony Brooks in another of the Vanwalls. Stuart Lewis-Evans would make it three Vanwalls on the front row. However, Mike Hawthorn would manage to break the streak by putting his Ferrari Dino on the front row in 3rd place.
While the Brits would lock-out the front row of the grid, the only Italians in the field would unfortunately lock-out the last. Gerino Gerini and Giulio Cabianca would be in the 19th and 20th positions. Maria Teresa would line her Maserati up in 21st having posted the slowest lap time around the 3.56 mile circuit.
Under bright and sunny skies, the cars and drivers would take their places on the grid before a large crowd. Though there would be no Italians in the fight for the championship, there were still those red cars adorned with the prancing horse the crowd could get excited about. Furthermore, there was Maria Teresa. She may have been at the tail-end of the field but she was the first female in Formula One and Italian on top of it all.
When the flag dropped to start the 70 lap race, Moss would be the first out of the gate and would be in the lead. However, he would be under immediate pressure as Phil Hill would make an incredible start from the second row of the grid. He would be right behind Moss' Vanwall heading into the first turn. Meanwhile, just a little further back in the field, Harry Schell and Wolfgang von Trips would have a coming together in the fast first turn. The two would collide and both would end up upside down off the edge of the circuit. Von Trips would be thrown out of the car and would suffer a broken leg. However, both men would survive the accident, which would be good news after Peter Collins joined Luigi Musso as the second grand prix driver to be killed over the course of the '58 season.
Schell and von Trips would not be the only ones that struggled to make it through the first turn unharmed. Jack Brabham and Olivier Gendebien would make contact as well. Brabham would be forced to retire on the spot. Gendebien would retire a few laps later. Mechanical troubles suffered by Carroll Shelby and Gerino Gerini meant there would be no less than six cars out within the first five laps of the race. What this meant was Maria Teresa moved up the running order without having to put herself into such compromising situations. This would be good news for de Filippis considering her pace during practice.
Distracted by all of the chaos taking shape behind the leaders, the crowd, perhaps, could have been distracted and missed what had been happening at the front. Phil Hill had been promoted to a grand prix drive after the deaths of Musso and Collins and he was proving he was a World Champion in the making as he would manage to push past Moss for the lead. This would put a good deal of pressure on Moss as he would really need every point possible in order to keep his championship hopes alive. Still, at the end of the first lap it would be Hill leading the way ahead of Moss, Lewis-Evans and Hawthorn.
Hawthorn would then be on the charge. He had the opportunity to win the championship if he could come away with a victory. This would put even more pressure on Moss and the two Brits would become locked in a battle. This battle would become all the more interesting when Hill ran into tire trouble and was forced to make a stop for new tires. Moss and Hawthorn would swap the lead back and forth a number of time.
Meanwhile, Maria Teresa and Cabianca would be the only Italians remaining in the race and they would be gradually making their way forward as a result of the heavy attrition. By the halfway mark of the race, de Filippis would be up to 8th place. Climbing all the way up from 21st place would be aided by the retirements of many top drivers, including Moss who would find his Vanwall incapable of handling the stress imposed upon it by the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Hill. Then, the Vanwall of Lewis-Evans would give up the fight after 30 laps as a result of an overheating engine. Out of the 21 that started the race there would be 11 that would be out before the race was half over. This offered Maria Teresa, and the Italians looking on, great hope.
Moss' departure from the race meant the championship was well within Hawthorn's grasp. Hope was fading quickly for Moss. However, the Vanwall driver would have one more teammate still on course running. Tony Brooks had slipped back at the start of the race. Moss' departure, and the subsequent retirement of Lewis-Evans, signaled to the winner of the Belgian and German grand prix it was time to pick up the pace and throw all abandon to the wind in an effort to help out his teammate.
Brooks would begin his charge to the front. At one point in time he had been all the way down in 9th place. However, as the race entered the final 20 laps, he would be sitting in 2nd place and quickly gaining ground on Hawthorn.
Following Brooks forward would be de Filippis. Despite her aged 250F she would be on the move. At the halfway mark she would be sitting in 8th place. Cliff Allison would find it hard to push his Climax-powered Lotus to the limit believing it to be detrimental to the Lotus' chances of finishing. Therefore, the Lotus would begin to slip back. Maria Teresa would take advantage of this loss of pace and would move up in the order. Then, after 51 laps, the engine in Cabianca's Maserati would give up the fight leaving de Filippis sitting in 5th place with less than 20 laps remaining. She was the only Italian left in the field.
Sitting in the points, Maria Teresa could have backed off the pace slightly in order to preserve her chances of finishing. However, not only was she a racer, she was still under threat from the racers still following along behind. She couldn't back off. She had to keep going, no matter what.
Maria Teresa would be on her way around with just 12 laps remaining. She was a good ways behind those fighting for the lead but she was in the points. Formula One's first woman was within reach of a points-paying result. She couldn't back down. Sadly, it would be her engine that would let her down. Sitting beautifully in 5th place, she would be on her way when the engine would suddenly give up the fight. Points were in sight, yet, just too far.
It would be heartbreaking watching the Maserati come to a halt with Formula One's lady so close. Italian and women's hopes, at least to some degree, would be dashed in that moment. Still, the Italians would have reason to be excited. Hawthorn was holding onto the lead and entirely capable of taking victory securing the championship for himself and putting Ferrari in a strong position for the first Constructors' Championship title.
But, as with the German Grand Prix, Brooks would pick up his teammate perfectly. Brooks would gamble by not changing his tires. His gamble would be further aided by Hawthorn's penchant for destroying a perfectly good clutch. Ten laps from the end, Brooks would power his Vanwall ahead of the Ferrari. Brooks was now in the lead and Hawthorn was battling with everything he had just to make it to the finish.
The trouble with the clutch meant he would not secure the point for the fastest lap of the race and this would come into play going into the final round as Brooks would keep Moss in the hunt taking victory by more than 20 seconds over Hawthorn. Phil Hill would please at the wheel of the 246. Not only would he set the fastest lap of the race with a lap record of Monza, he would end up in 3rd place trying his best to hold back to ensure Hawthon finished ahead of him.
The whole day would be a bittersweet experience for de Filippis. She would be within sight of the points and a top five finish in a World Championship event with an older car. She would end up coming up short in the end, but she would certainly put to rest any doubts as to whether or not women could battle for a top result in the top form of motor racing. So, while she would end up having lost out. In the end, she would win.
Following the unfortunate end to the Italian Grand Prix, Maria Teresa's 1958 season would come to an end. She would not take part in any more Formula One races on the season. She would forego the Moroccan Grand Prix in October and would only take part in a couple of other sportscar races, but they had already taken place back in July. Her season, the first for a female in Formula One, had come to an end. But she had certainly impressed.
Fangio's departure from Formula One and the death of Musso would do little to bring to an end other drivers being willing to take de Filippis under their wing in an effort to coach and mentor her and her career. One of those that would step up would be a Frenchman that was not so sexist as some of his country's race organizers.
Jean Behra had grown rather disillusioned with Owen Racing and their fickle BRMs. Porsche was a major player in sportscars and was beginning to show an interest in Formula One. Therefore, Behra would leave Owen Racing to go drive for Porsche. Maria Teresa would be left without a competitive ride with the full departure of Maserati. Therefore, Behra would encourage her to join him at Porsche for the following season.
Though this would be an exciting decision, one that could have really taken de Filippis' career to another level, it would prove a tragic one and it would greatly affect Maria Teresa for decades to come and would lead her to make a very important decision that would leave Formula One void of any female drivers for years to come.