Amid the launch of the WSeries, an all-female Formula 3 based racing series, with the aim of getting women to the doorstep of Formula 1, it is worth remembering that it has been over 40 years ago since Italian Lella Lombardi became the first and only female driver to score in a Formula 1 race with sixth place at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
She was awarded just half a point, because the April 27 race on the now disused Montjuich Park circuit was cut short due to a fatal accident.
No woman driver has scored a point since then, with Lombardi’s final appearance in 1976 still the last time a woman has started a grand prix.
The following factbox looks at the history of female drivers in Formula 1:
Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis became the first woman to race in the Formula One championship when she started the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, after qualifying last, and finished 10th and last.
De Filippis had failed to qualify at Monaco earlier in 1958 and retired from the Portuguese and Italian Grands Prix that same year. In 1959, she failed to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Lombardi failed to qualify for the 1974 British Grand Prix but made her race debut in a March at the third round of the 1975 season in South Africa after qualifying last. She failed to finish.
Spain brought Lombardi her first finish, and the famous half point, when the race at Barcelona’s Montjuich street circuit was ended after 29 laps due to German driver Rolf Stommelen’s car flying into the crowd, killing five spectators.
Lombardi also finished seventh of nine finishers in Germany in 1975, after starting 25th and last. She ended her F1 career in 1976 with a 12th place in Austria. In all, the Italian started 12 races.
Britain’s Davina Galica tried and failed to qualify for three grands prix, the 1976 British Grand Prix and 1978 Argentine and Brazilian races. The 1976 British Grand Prix remains the only race to have had two women entered.
South Africa’s Desire Wilson failed to qualify for the 1980 British Grand Prix in a Williams but did compete in the 1981 non-championship South African Grand Prix. Wilson won a non-championship British F1 series race at Brands Hatch in 1980.
Italian Giovanna Amati is the last woman to try and qualify for a grand Prix, entering three races with the Brabham team in 1992 but failing to make the start in any of them. She was then replaced by future world champion Damon Hill.
American driver Sarah Fisher did a demonstration run in a McLaren at the 2002 U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
In 2014, Britain’s Susie Wolff became the first female driver since Amati to take part in a grand prix weekend when she drove in Friday practice for Williams at Silverstone. She will also be driving on Friday in Barcelona.
Several woman have been appointed in testing roles at F1 teams, apart from Wolff. The late Spaniard Maria de Villota was seriously injured in 2012 while straight-line testing for Marussia. Britain’s Katherine Legge tested for Minardi in 2005.
Sauber had Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro as an affiliated driver, doing some tests, in 2014 while Lotus currently have Spaniard Carmen Jorda as a development driver.
Note: This report was previously published 6 May 2015 on this site.