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High point for Lella, low point for F1

2015-05-08 09:08

ELLA LOMBARDI: Italian Lella Lombardi scored a half point at the tragic Spanish GP in 1975. Image: YouTube

ALAN BALDWIN

BARCELONA, Spain - The 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona's Montjuich circuit has gone down in Formula 1 history as a safety shambles because of a deadly accident that could have been prevented.

The race also entered the record books, almost as a footnote, for a unique result that remains unrivalled 40 years on as F1 returns to Spain for Sunday's (May 10) 2015 GP at the modern Circuit de Catalunya.

Finishing sixth, two laps behind McLaren winner Jochen Mass in a race stopped at one-third distance with only half points to be awarded, was Italian female driver Maria Grazia 'Lella' Lombardi in a March.

EIGHT CARS FINISHED

Even if race reports focused more on her ability to keep out of harm's way at the back of the field, it was the best-yet result from a female driver and made her the only one to finish in the points - and in only her second race.

No other driver has scored only a half-point in their entire F1 career, either.

Only eight cars finished that race and there was little to celebrate. A photographer, fireman and three spectators were killed when the high rear wing on Rolf Stommelen's Lola Hill broke, sending the car and flying debris into the crowd.

German driver Stommelen survived with broken bones.

RACE BOYCOTT AVERTED

The potential for tragedy was flagged before the start, some drivers threatening to boycott when they turned up at the circuit to find hastily-assembled temporary barriers unbolted or tied together with thin wire.

The teams sent out their own mechanics to fix the problems as far as possible but even that was not enough for some drivers. Defending champion Emerson Fittipaldi declared the situation unacceptable and refused to race.

When told by then International Automobile Federation president Jean-Marie Balestre that he would be banned from the next race in Monaco, the McLaren driver did one lap then retired.

LOMBARDI FAILED TO QUALIFY

Fittipaldi went on to race in Monaco but Lombardi, a butcher's daughter from a village near Turin, was absent after failing to qualify - along with the likes of Jacques Laffite and Graham Hill.

Although she managed seventh in Germany that year - when only the top six earned points - and finished ahead of American Mario Andretti (10th) the Italian lady left F1 in 1976.

She died of cancer, aged 46, in 1992.

Montjuich never again hosted a GP and Jochen Mass never won again.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Formula 1 season.


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