- July 20, 1959
- Not Active
An Italian former racing driver Giovanna Amati was the last ever woman who participated in qualifying or in the race of the Formula One Grand Prix. She participated in qualifying at three Grand Prix events in 1992, driving for Brabham, but failed to qualify for races.
One of five women in Formula One
In more than 65 years of Formula One, only five female drivers participated in Grand Prix races of the premium racing series. Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first one in the late 1950s, Lella Lombardi and Divina Galica competed during 1970s, Desire Wilson had one qualifying attempt in 1980, and finally, in 1992, Giovanna Amati participated in three events of the Formula One championship. Since then, no other female driver entered Grand Prix event until 2014, when Susie Wolff participated in Friday's free practice at few events, but she didn't participate in qualifying.
Giovanna was the victim of kidnappers
Giovanna Amati, born on July 20, 1959, in Rome, as a child of wealthy parents (actress Anna Maria Pancani and movie theaters owner Giovanni Amati), became famous after she was the part of the movie-like story in the real life. In February 1978, she had been kidnapped by three men, who wanted ransom of 800 million lira. She was released after the ransom was paid in April.
Racing career started in Formula Abarth
Giovanna began her racing career in 1981, three years after famous kidnapping and eleven years before his historical Formula One entry. His first competition was the Formula Abarth. Giovanna spent few season in the series, before moving up into Formula 3 in 1984. She competed in the Formula 3 for three seasons, without victories and podiums.
Eight seasons in various F3 and F3000 competitions
The next step on the racing ladder was the Formula 3000 in 1987 and 1988, but again without notable results. In 1989, Giovanna moved to Japan and competed in the Japanese Formula 3. The return to the European race tracks followed in 1990. She was driving for Roni Motorsport and Cobra Motorsports. In 1991, Giovanna continued to race in the Formula 3000, this time for GJ Motorsport.
Test with Benetton and contract with Brabham
At the end of the season, she had an opportunity to test Benetton's F1 car. In that time, some sources said, she was romantically involved with Flavio Briatore. It was just a preparation for the historic 1992 season. In January 1992, Giovanna Amati signed for Brabham, to drive the #8 Judd-powered BT60B alongside Eric van de Poele. The famous but struggling team, which finished 10th in the manufacturers' classification in 1991, gained a big publicity of the media after an announcement of the female driver.
Amati was too slow in the uncompetitive car
Before Amati, Brabham wanted to sign Japanese F3000 champion Akihiko Makaya, but FIA decided that the Japanese series wasn't a proper feeder series for F1 and Makaya didn't get a superlicense. How Giovanna Amati gest superlicense? Hm, that's another story. Ask Briatore.
Unfortunately, Brabham had an uncompetitive car and Giovanna failed to qualify for any of three races he participated. She debuted at South African Grand Prix at the Kyalami Circuit. She showed the lack of experience and spun few times during practice. In the qualifying session, Amati was 8.9 seconds slower than pole sitter Nigel Mansell and she didn't have laptime good enough to enter the race. Her teammate Eric Van de Poele qualified for the race and finished 13th.
Neither Hill and Van de Poele could qualify with slow car
At Mexican Grand Prix, Amati was 8.7 seconds slower than pole sitter Mansell. Van de Poele also failed to qualify. At Brazilian Grand Prix, Giovanna failed to qualify again, this time with almost 11 seconds slower time than Nigel Mansell. Van de Poele was six seconds slower than pole sitter and didn't qualify either.
After the Brazilian round, Giovanna was released and Brabham hired Damon Hill. He was no better luck and failed to qualify for five consecutive races. Eric van de Poele was even worst, he failed to qualify in nine races. It was the proof that Giovanna Amati wasn't just slow but she had a really bad car.
Diverse racing program in post-F1 career
After she left Formula One, Giovanna's career turned into another motorsport disciplines. In 1993, she competed in the Porsche Supercup for Bernt Motorsport and finished 18th in the final classification. Between 1994 and 1998, she competed in the Ferrari Challenge. In 1995, Giovanna participated in two races of the BPR Global GT Endurance Series, driving the Callaway Corvette for British Agusta Racing Team.
In March 1998, Amati participated in the 12 hours of Sebring, driving the BMW M3 for Prototype Technology Group. She was sharing the car with Craig Carter and Andy Petery, but they didn't reach the finish.
Career-best result before retirement
Later in the season, Giovanna participated in two races of the International Sports Racing Series. At Misano she was driving for Scuderia Giudici alongside Gianni Giudici and Arturo Merzario, at Bugatti Circuit, she joined Cipriani Motorsport.
In 1999, Amati competed full season in the Sports Racing World Cup and she finished 3rd in the SR2 class. She was driving the #55 Tampolli SR2 RTA-99 prototype for Cauduro Tampolli Racing and she scored two victories, at Nurburgring and Magny-Cours. It was her career-best season and with such a result, at the age 40, she decided to retire from races.
One-off return to the race track in 2014
Fifteen years later, at Misano, she had one-off appearance in the one round of the 2014 Italian GT Championship, driving the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 for GDL Racing, together with team owner Gianluca di Lorenzi. They finished 12th in Race 1 and 11th in Race 2.
It was her last racing activity. Besides racing, she was involved in motorsport by writing columns and providing commentaries on TV.
Photos: Giovanna Amatti FB,