The (Double) X Factor

The push to change motor racing’s ethnic make-up is a hot topic, but what of its chromosomal make-up? The W Series looks set to change the face of a sport in which women could, and should, be among the podium-topping elite, writes NICK SCOTT.

The W Series race at Norisring in Germany in July 2019. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

When Maria Grazia ‘Lella’ Lombardi, a butcher’s daughter born during world war II in a small Italian village near Turin, stepped out of her Matra at the end of the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix — the last to be held on the Montjuïc street circuit — she was unaware of the legacy she had just created. As part of a grid that contained Niki Lauda, James Hunt and Mario Andretti, the second woman ever to start a Formula One race (after Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958) was running in sixth place when, 25 laps in, the rear wing of German driver Rolf Stommelen’s Hill GH1 failed, and his car hurtled into spectators, killing five. The race was not completed, so Lombardi was awarded half a point instead of one — and it remains to this day the entire tally for womankind in F1 racing.

Published

February 2021

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