A pay driver, Lavaggi effectively purchased ten Formula One drives, four for Pacific in 1995 and six for Minardi in 1996. He saw little success, failing to qualify for three of the races and being described as "desperately slow" by Jonathan Palmer, as well as earning the nickname "Johnny Carwash", an approximate translation of his name.
Formula One Career
Giovanni Lavaggi made his debut in the 1995 German Grand Prix, standing in for Bertrand Gachot in the Pacific when the team desperately needed money to see out the season. At the ripe old age of 37, Lavaggi was the oldest driver on the grid, as well as the oldest rookie since Toshio Suzuki. Due to financial restraints, Lavaggi had to enter each race weekend without any private testing done. Lavaggi qualified last behind experienced teammate Andrea Montermini. He went on to retire at lap 24 when his gearbox failed him. The next weekend at Hungary, Lavaggi qualified last again, almost 2 seconds slower than 23rd place qualifier, Pedro Diniz, before spinning out into the gravel trap on Lap 5 during the race. In his third weekend at Belgium, Lavaggi qualified 23rd, finally outqualifying Pedro Diniz, but was still over 4 seconds slower than his teammate. During the race, Lavaggi's gearbox failed again, and he retired after 28 laps. In the next weekend at Italy, Lavaggi qualified last yet again, and on Lap 6 of the race, he spun out and stalled the engine, putting an end to his day.
Having ran out of money to finance the team, Lavaggi was replaced by one time F1 driver and fellow pay driver Jean-Denis Deletraz. Lavaggi sat out for the rest of the 1995 season, as well as more than half of the 1996 season.
Finally, some time before the 1996 German Grand Prix, Lavaggi landed a ride for Minardi after they booted rookie prospect Giancarlo Fisichella due to financial issues. Unfortunately for Lavaggi, qualifying for the race was not going to be as easy. For the 1996 season, the 107% rule was implemented for qualifying in response to Lavaggi and Deletraz's lackluster race pace from the previous year. For the first time in his career, Lavaggi failed to qualify for a race, as he was more than 3 tenths slower than 107% of Damon Hill's pole time, as well as more than 2 seconds slower than 23rd place qualifier Ricardo Rosset.
In the next weekend at Hungary, Lavaggi just barely edged within 107% of the pole time by only 6 one hundredths of a second. In a race filled with retirements, and in spite of getting a stop and go penalty for speeding in the pit lane, Lavaggi managed to survive for most of the race until lap 69, when he spun out off-camera. Nevertheless, he was classified as finishing 10th, the first time he was ever classified as finished in an F1 race.
In the next weekend, however, Lavaggi finished out of 107% of the pole time yet again by more than 2 tenths, so he sat out for the Belgian Grand Prix. In the next weekend at his home grand prix in Italy, Lavaggi qualified within 107% of the pole time by 2 tenths. During the race, however, his engine failed just 4 laps in, forcing him to pull into pit lane and retire.
In the weekend of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Lavaggi qualified within 107% of the pole time by more than 3 tenths. It was during this particular grand prix where he was involved in one of the most notorious overtakes of the year. As Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve battled for 2nd and approached Lavaggi in the final corner, Lavaggi inadvertently blocked Schumacher, forcing him to slow down and almost concede the place to Villeneuve. As the three headed through the main straight, Schumacher tried to force Villeneuve to stay in the line of Lavaggi in hopes of holding him up, but Villeneuve managed to clear Schumacher early enough for him to swiftly pass Lavaggi and complete the overtake. Aside from this moment, he managed to put on the best performance of his career, staying out of trouble and running ahead of teammate Pedro Lamy to finish 15th, 5 laps down behind winner Jacques Villeneuve, the first time he had ever stayed running throughout the whole race.
"He's been lapped 4 times already, but he's been doing a fantastic job for his sponsors. We've seen more of Lavaggi in this race than we've seen of the two Minardis put together in all of the 14 previous grand prix' in all of 1996."—Murray Walker taking note of Lavaggi's surprising amount of TV exposure during the race
Alas, coming towards the season finale at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, Lavaggi qualified outside of 107% of the polesitter's time, missing out by almost a full second, the largest margin he missed out by since the rule was implemented. Following the end of the season, he and Pedro Lamy were dropped out in favor of Jarno Trulli and Ukyo Katayama, putting an end to both of their F1 careers. Lavaggi had since raced in various sports car events in the following years.
Formula One Statistical Overview
Formula One Record
|Year||Entrant||Team||WDC Points||WDC Pos.||Report|
|1995||Pacific Grand Prix Ltd||Pacific-Ford Cosworth||0||NC||Report|
|1996||Minardi Team||Minardi-Ford Cosworth||0||NC||Report|
|Front Row Starts||0|
|Distance Raced||1013 km (629 mi)|
|Complete Formula One Results|
|3rd||DNQ||Did not qualify|
|5th||Points finish||DNPQ||Did not pre-qualify|
|14th||Non-points finish||TD||Test driver|
|Italics||Scored point(s) for Fastest Lap||DNS||Did not start|
|18th†||Classified finish (retired with >90% race distance)||NC||Non-classified finish (<90% race distance)|
|4thP||Qualified for pole position||[+] More Symbols|
|v·d·e||Nominate this page for Featured Article|