Will the Iron Maiden rock F1?
We like our exclusives at F1 Racing, but even so we're really rather pleased with this month's cover story. For the first time in the magazine's 18-year history, we have a female racing driver as our cover star and not - perish the thought - for reasons of tokenism. Nor because there's a burgeoning bandwagon around the exploits of Susie Wolff at Williams (see p50). Rather, because Sauber believe Simona De Silvestro might be quick enough for a full-time 2015 race seat and they've been testing her extensively this season in a two-year-old C31 to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses.
No team undertakes multi-day solo tests lightly, yet Sauber have done just that this year with De Silvestro, both at Mugello and Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit. The result is a growing suspicion within and without the Swiss equipe, that they might just be onto F1's Next Big Thing.
For if she's deemed quick enough, and lands that elusive race seat, Simona would become an overnight sensation, a media darling, no less, as the first full-time female F1 driver. She'd be following in the tracks of sisters who have come close to cracking F1, without quite getting the cigar: from Maria Teresa di Filippis (three starts in 1958) to Giovanna Amati (three DNQs in 1992). The difference, of course, is that she'd be in from the start of a season, with full team backing.
Now it's possible you haven't heard of Simona, since her path to the fringes of F1, where she now holds the title of a Sauber 'affiliated driver', has been via US single-seater racing, removed from the goldfish bowl of the Euro circuit tour. Across the pond, however, she earned a reputation as a quick, hard, racer - a driver who was sometimes even a little too track-tough for her own good. But it would do her little harm, surely, to arrive in F1 bearing the soubriquet 'Iron Maiden', and with a quick-to-judge paddock knowing she'd acquired it the hard way - from rivals respectful of her grit.
One thing is certain: no quarter will be given (nor asked) if she does line up on the Albert Park blacktop next March and a flick though the pages of the magazine you're holding in your hands will be enough to remind you of quite what a challenge top-line F1 represents. We have Lewis Hamilton, a bold and aggressive racer, reflecting with Peter Windsor on the terrifying challenge of the old Spa-Francorchamps circuit (p88). Then we catch Jenson Button, competing hard at his own triathlon event (p58), once again proving that modern elite racing drivers are exceptional athletes, not just guys with a talent for steering a wheel.
And if ever an example were needed of the extremes to which individuals can be driven in pursuit of F1 success, then look no further than Maurice Hamilton's remarkable interview with Pat Symonds on page 94. Now fully rehabilitated after a spell in F1 purgatory, following the events of Singapore '08 (the infamous 'Crashgate' affair), Symonds describes that period as "an abject lesson in life". And in so doing, he reminds us, happily, that F1 always makes room for its most talented sons. And daughters...