A race-winner and title contender in Indy Lights, Ana – full name Ana Beatriz Caselato Gomes de Figueiredo – had a tough rookie season in IndyCar last year, including a brief spell injured on the sidelines. In 2012, she’s looking to run in the Brazilian round and the Indy 500 with the front-running Andretti squad. That would give her a better chance to shine and perhaps elevate her back into contention for a full-time seat. There’s no doubting her ability.
The key word here is ‘potential’: Alice’s achievements thus far suggest she’s capable of moving up a few more spots on this list as her career progresses. In 2010, she won the Formula Renault BARC title, then stepped up to the more prestigious UK championship last season and finished ninth. Should she return to the series in 2012, the 19-year-old would likely be a title threat; however, no deal is yet in place to keep her on the grid. We’re hoping she’ll put one together, or move up still further, as Powell looks to have what it takes to carve out a very successful motorsport career.
While not the best series in world motorsport, the tin-top series ‘Superstars’ does have a number of decent competitors: ex-F1 man Johnny Herbert, GT specialist Andrea Bertolini and superfast youngster Alberto Crequi to name just three. So, the fact that Michela Cerruti enjoyed a dazzling opening weekend to the 2011 season counts for plenty, and elevates her to a podium spot on this list. Cerruti steered her Mercedes C63 to a win and a runner-up spot at Monza to leave the Italian GP venue topping the standings – impressive stuff. Her season wouldn’t hit the same heights again but did rack-up a decent haul of points to end the campaign ninth overall. The 25-year-old still fancies a pop at single-seaters, but her touring car exploits suggest she could be set for bigger things with a roof over her head.
Undoubtedly the most famous female racing driver on the planet, Danica Patrick has carved out an incredibly successful career both on and off the track. A true divider of opinion, it has to be said that there are plenty of reasons to admire the Wisconsin native. An intelligent, shrewd woman, she’s attained huge success in a male-dominated sport, capitalising on her looks and image, but also putting in some fine drives.
Not the fastest by any means, Danica is as smart as anyone behind the wheel. Her best IndyCar results often came through staying out of trouble and being in contention to the bitter end – she just didn’t get involved in wrecks the way some faster drivers did. Whilst the likes of Tomas Scheckter may be fundamentally quicker racers, they put it in the wall too much; Danica, on the other hand, tries to keep her nose clean and it has regularly paid off.
The media circus that now follows her – literally everywhere – is annoying, but ultimately, if no-one cared, it would cease to exist. Yeah, she does tacky photoshoots on the beach where she combines racesuit with bikini, and sometimes drapes herself half-naked across cars. But, frankly, those stupid enough to buy stuff purely because it is advertised by a half-naked Danica Patrick writhing about on beach deserve to be ripped off.
Simona de Silvestro
Simona de Silvestro is hard as nails. She’s much harder than you. I know it may seem like a leap for me to assume that you, likely a complete stranger, are outdone in the hardness stakes by a 23-year-old Swiss woman, but I have no qualms: Simona is just that hard.
Now IndyCar’s most high-profile female racer, Simona has probably been the fastest girl on the grid since she arrived two seasons ago. Danica had the better team and a much bigger pay packet, but it was the Swiss driver who was doing the business on-track. Driving for an impoverished one-car team, she put in a number of eye-catching performances to mark herself out as a star of the future.
And did I mention she was rock hard? Nearly being burnt alive a few times and taking some very hefty hits on ovals have done nothing to daunt her. De Silvestro is as brave as they come and is adding to her racecraft all the time. Still young, but increasingly experienced, there’s every chance she will eclipse Patrick’s achievements in the series.
Before anyone starts naming omitted candidates, please be aware that I’ve only picked drivers who:
- Were actively competing as of 2011, so no retired greats here. After all, we must always be looking to the future.
- Compete in circuit racing, rather than rally or other off-road events, or on boats, planes, horses or whatever else you’ve got.
- Were accessible in my brain at the time of going to press. Which is to say, if I’ve forgotten anyone obvious I’m sorry.