Lella Lombardi is the most successful female racing driver in Formula 1 history. She remains the only woman to be classified in the world championship points after finishing sixth in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
Family background and early racing career
The daughter of a butcher and a promising all-round sportswoman in her youth, Lombardi raced in Italy’s junior formulae from 1965. Her final Fla 3 season in 1973 was notable for a second place finish at Casale and she also won that year’s Italian Ford Mexico series.
Lombardi graduated to the European Formula 5000 Championship for the following season with a Shellsport/Radio Luxembourg Lola T330-Chevrolet. Fifth in the standings, she failed to qualify an ex-works Brabham BT42-Ford for the 1974 British GP.
Formula 1 with March and RAM
The promotional value of F1’s first female driver since the 1950s was not lost on March Engineering and Lombardi was part of its line-up from the 1975 South African GP. Her second race was the tragic Spanish GP at Barcelona’s Montjuich Park. The shambles of an event was halted when Rolf Stommelen crashed into the crowd with tragic consequences. Two laps down but running in sixth position at the time was Lella Lombardi. Only half points were awarded due to the shortened race but her place in F1 history was assured.
She was seventh in that year’s German GP and 14th in the 1976 Brazilian GP in her last race for March. Replaced by a suddenly available Ronnie Peterson, Lombardi took her Lavazza coffee sponsorship to RAM Racing for three races. Her Brabham BT44B-Ford finished 12th in the Austrian GP on the only occasion she was able to qualify.
Sports car success
Her 12-race GP career was over and Lombardi made a one-off NASCAR start in the 1977 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. She switched to sports cars and won world championship events at Enna-Pergusa and Vallelunga in 1979 with an Osella PA7-BMW. Her third such victory for the marque was the 1981 Mugello Six Hours as Lombardi and co-driver Giorgio Francia finished fourth in the drivers’ world championship.
She also raced in the European Touring Car Championship and had just enjoyed her best season in 1985 when she fell ill. Lella Lombardi succumbed to cancer in March 1992.