Women in Motorsport: Lella Lombardi
Lella Lombardi is a name firmly etched into the motorsport history books. At the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, Lombardi scored half a point, making her the only woman to ever score any championship points in Formula 1.
Only half points were awarded that day because the race got cut short. The success of becoming the first women to score points in F1 was sadly rather overshadowed due to the death of five spectators during the race.
Over her career, Lombardi started an impressive twelve F1 races, spanning the 1974-1976 seasons. Lombardi’s first F1 attempt was at the British Grand Prix in 1974 driving a Brabham supported by the Italian Automobile Club. Unfortunately, she failed to qualify for the race.
In 1975 Lombardi took part in all F1 championship weekends apart from the first two races, Argentina and Brazil. With the exception of Monaco, she qualified to start all of the remaining races. Apart from the Spanish Grand Prix, Lombardi would fail to score any more points despite an impressive result of 7th in Germany.
The following year, in 1976, Lombardi only contested four F1 weekends. Finishing 14th at the season opener in Brazil, Lombardi then failed to qualify in Great Britain and Germany. Her best result of the season would come at her last Grand Prix, 12th place in Austria.
Despite only driving in F1 across three seasons, Lombardi demonstrated her fearlessness nature and sheer dedication to motorsport.
Lombardi was a versatile racer and tried her hand at numerous disciplines throughout her career. This piece offers a snapshot into some of Lombardi’s most impressive racing achievements.
Born Maria Grazia Lombardi on the 26th March 1941, Lomardi grew up in Frugarolo in the Piedmont area of Italy, where her first job saw her drive the delivery van for her family’s butcher shop. Lombardi bought her first car in 1965, competing in Formula Monza. Her racing career would flourish from there onwards.
Lomardi had a successful junior career in the lead up to her time in F1. Highlights include: being crowned the Italian Formula Three runner up in 1968 and winning the Italian Formula 850 Series in 1970. In 1971, Lomardi added the Formula Ford Mexico championship title to her collection.
In 1974, Lombardi became the first woman to race at the Race of Champions at Brand Hatch. The Daily Mail branded her the “Tigress of Turin” in the lead up to the race. Lombardi was not actually from Turin but rather the same area of Italy. This perhaps shows us how much attention was paid to the lives of female racers at the time.
Lombardi raced a Lola-Chevrolet finishing unclassified in 14th. The following year, Lombardi would compete again this time driving a March-Ford but was unfortunately forced to retire after twenty laps.
After her Formula 1 career, Lombardi had success in sports car racing. In 1979 she won both the 6 hours of Pergusa and 6 hours of Vallelunga races. Lombardi also competed numerous times at 24 Hours of Le Mans with her best result, a ninth place finish, coming in 1976.
During the 1980s Lombardi raced touring cars but her form struggled due to ill health - initially chest pains, although the reality would turn out to be much worse.
On retirement from racing in 1988, Lombardi formed her own team Lombardi Autosport. Lombardi’s involvement was short lived as she died of breast cancer on the 3rd March 1992 at the untimely age of fifty. However, as were her wishes, the team remained active after her death and remains so today.
Lella Lombardi will be remembered for her achievements in motorsport, her Formula 1 record and being one of only three openly LGBTQ+ F1 drivers.
Lella was survived by her partner, Fiorenza. Lombardi’s place in motorsport history is firmly fixed.