5 women who have made motorsport history
The motorsport industry is filled with great names of personnel who have made history in their own fields. But there are other names, too often overlooked, of women who have equally contributed to the growth of this sport. As a result, Females in Motorsport decided to take a moment to honour these women who have made - and continue to make - history in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men.
Since 2009, the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission strives to break this stigma. With representatives such as Michèle Mouton and Susie Wolff, the organisation aims to promote the place of women in motorsport as well as to demonstrate that this industry is accessible to women in all aspects.
Susie Wolff herself stated in a 2014 interview with the Huffington Post how difficult it was for young women to find a reference in an environment that looks to be the exclusive domain of men.
“If a little girl is interested in racing, and she switches on the TV and watches racing, she won’t see any role models. So why should she believe that she can do it when she doesn’t see anyone else like her doing it?”
Nearly decade after that interview, the problem persists, albeit in a milder form: numerous women have taken up prominent roles at Formula 1 teams. However, the space set aside for them appears meagre in the eyes of those who aspire to a career similar to theirs.
That’s why we decided to introduce you to five women who have made or are making history in motorsport, without forgetting that hundreds of others are hidden behind these names, all equally worthy of being acknowledged and remembered.
1. Lella Lombardi
Born in 1941, Lella Lombardi’s name is carved in the annals of motorsport and in the hearts of many.
The “Tigress of Turin'', as wrongly nicknamed by the Daily Mail back in the day, has competed in 17 F1 grands prix, making history for being the first female driver in history to score points in the cathegory.
But Lombardi's achievements did not stop there. She was one of two women to-date to qualify for an F1 race, along with Maria Teresa de Filippis, and she is also the only female F1 driver in history to have a top-six finish in a world championship race, achieved during the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
For a deeper insight on her amazing story, click here.
2. Michèle Mouton
Born in France in 1951, former rally driver Michèle Mouton is, still to this day, the only woman to have won the World Rally Championship.
Described as “one of the best” by Stirling Moss and defined as “superwoman” by Niki Lauda, Mouton's career has been filled with triumphs and achievements.
In 1981 she won the Rallye Sanremo in her first year with the Audi Quattro, followed by three more victories the following season. These achievements not only allowed her to finish second in the overall standings, but also helped the Audi team win the manufacturers' title.
Appointed as the first president of the FIA's Women & Motor Sport Commission in 2010, she also became the FIA's Manager in the World Rally Championship in 2011.
You can read more about her incredible career here.
3. Leena Gade
As 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship's 'Man of the Year' and ambassador of the FIA Commission for Women in Motorsport, Leena Gade’s career is truly remarkable.
Born in Perivale, United Kingdom, Leena became passionate about motorsport at a young age, captivated by the engineering side of it. Determined to become part of that world that had so fascinated her, she decided to focus her studies on STEM.
She was one of five female students in a class of 100 when she enrolled at the University of Manchester, and she was the only one of them to graduate with a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1998.
After graduating, Leena's career began and never stopped. After six and a half years as a vehicle refinement engineer for Jaguar Cars, she competed [as an engineer] in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in 2006 as part of the Chamberlain Synergy team.
Leena's dedication, along with her great engineering skills, would lead her to her first significant accomplishment. In 2011, in fact, she became the first female racing engineer to win at Le Mans. Her team won again in 2012, earning her the FIA World Endurance Championship 'Man of the Year' title as well as the C&R Racing Women in Technology award that same year.
In 2021 Leena became McLaren Racing's Senior Principal, Race Engineer for the McLaren Extreme E team and helped it to score a podium at the 2022 season finale.
4. Hannah Schmitz
Affectionately nicknamed “Queen Hannah” by fans due to her ability to make split-second race-defining decisions, Hannah Schmitz is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and respected engineers in the current F1 world.
With a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cambridge University it didn't take long for Hannah to make her way into the world of motorsport. In fact, right after her graduation in 2009, she began an internship with Red Bull Racing, establishing a perfect union that has led her to collaborate with the team to this day.
Her popularity among fans exploded in 2019 when during the Brazilian Grand Prix she pitted Verstappen from the lead. After initially losing P1, the Dutchman was able to quickly overtake his opponent, ending in an astonishing triumph for the team. Hannah was invited onto the podium to receive the Constructors trophy that day, and for the first time in a while, a woman stood on the F1 podium again.
In an interview published on the Red Bull website, Hannah commented on that incredible moment: “It was the pinnacle of my career,” she reveals. “I’d actually just come back to work after having my first child so that was quite a big thing for me, to prove I was still here and could do the job well. It was just an incredible experience.”
Even in the following seasons, the engineer did not disappoint, contributing to the team's several wins and propelling it to the Constructors' Championship championship in 2022.
5. Doriane Pin
At only 18-years-old, Doriane Pin has already accumulated many wins, podiums and even a championship. Born in Paris in 2004, the “Pocket Rocket'' is the reigning Ferrari Challenge Europe victor.
After reaching the final stage of the first edition of FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars presented at the Ferrari Driver Academy, Doriane secured a drive in the 2021 Michelin Le Mans Cup as part of the Iron Dames programme.
During her first season, Doriane finished ninth in 2021 Trofeo Pirelli Europe and scored five podiums and ended up fifth in the drivers' standings of the Michelin Le Mans Cup.
In 2022, the Frenchwoman replaced Rahel Frey in the Iron Dames lineup after the third round of the European Le Mans Series season.
Despite her young age, Doriane looks to be an extremely skilled driver, endowed with the tenacity and talent that has distinguished the finest racers throughout history.
You can have a deeper insight on her career here.
The representation of women on various teams is clearly increasing, but it can still be improved. We need examples to educate the younger generations that the only limit to their aspirations is their own imagination.
So let yourself be inspired by these incredible stories: one day, we could be here to share yours.
See it. Be it.