The last woman to attempt to qualify for a Grand Prix, Giovanna Amati, is turning 49 today!
Some healthy sponsorship rather than strong results in the junior categories helped pave the way for her passage into Formula 1, but she found herself a last-minute signing at the Brabham outfit for the start of the 1992 season.
By now the team was at death’s door and an embarrassment to its former self. With her gender providing the best publicity Brabham would have all season, she arrived for her debut outing at Kyalami – a race I attended as a child! – having never even sat in the car.
Her unfamiliarity with carbon brakes and an F1 gearshift meant led to countless spins, and she failed to qualify after posting a best time some nine seconds slower than pole-sitter Nigel Mansell and four seconds slower than team-mate Eric van de Poele.
The story repeated itself at the next rounds in Mexico and Brazil, and by then the team figured that it was to have a pay-driver on board, they’d at least better be able to turn a wheel.
Enter Damon Hill – the man who would go on to win the 1996 World Championship, no less – for the Spanish Grand Prix. He failed to qualify, too.
[Image via F1 Rejects]