Giovanna Amati – the last woman to attempt to qualify for a Grand Prix – is turning 48 today!
Amati’s passage to F1 seemed to be more supported by some healthy sponsorship and not by strong results in the junior categories, but the found herself at the Brabham outfit at 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 was signed at late notice and 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 she was a regular spinner in practice, and she failed to qualify after posting a best time some nine seconds slower than polesitter 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.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]
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