INDY Shorts: Meet Simona de Silvestro

A Chat with
Simona - Toronto
Simona de Silvestro
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with IZOD IndyCar Series driver Simona de Silvestro. The driver of the No. 78 HVM Entergy Nuclear Car joined other teams for a full day of testing at Infineon Raceway. The event was in anticipation of the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma during the weekend of Aug. 26-28.

Unlike NASCAR, IICS drivers are allotted a certain amount of miles and tires per season. Unless you’re a rookie, it's 18 sets of tires and 800 miles per season. In comparison to NASCAR, which does not allow testing on NASCAR-sanctioned tracks (ban went into effect in 2009).

Fans were invited to come out and take part in this special event, which also included a press conference in Infineon’s Panasonic Technologies Media Center. Drivers took part in a Q & A session, answering questions from both media and fans.
Simona was born in September 1988 in Thun, Switzerland. She is an only child and her parents currently live in Switzerland. Simona began racing go-karts when she was 6 years old. The early part of her career was spent racing in Europe in 2002-2003 and working on her skills so that someday she’d become the driver that she had always dreamed of being.

When Simona was about 15, she competed in the Trofeo Industria Parma, where she placed second. A year later she competed and placed third in in Primvera Lonato. Her series finishes include a second in the Bridgeston-Cup Switzerland and a seventh in the Swiss Championship. Recognized by U.S. sponsors and wanting to tackle open-wheel, Simona made a big move in 2006 that would change her life and bring her opportunities that would eventually lead her to the IICS.

On board with Formula BMW USA, Simona completed her first season, mounting up stats from her first victory at Lime Rock, six podiums and 11 top-10 finishes. At the U.S. Grand Prix Simona made history by becoming the first woman at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to ever earn a podium result.

Currently Simona is racing for HVM Racing with sponsor Nuclear Clean Air Energy as well as Entergy and a few others. Now at 22 she is fast becoming open wheel's next star.

Below you will find the results of our interview while she was at Infineon for testing. I hope you enjoy getting to know her, and possibly become a new fan.
Simona de Silvestro
LB (Lindi Bess): Where were you born and raised?
SdS (Simona de Silvestro): Thun, Switzerland

LB: Racing is banned in Switzerland, correct?
SdS: Yes, since 1955. Still is. We're trying to lift that, you know. But I kinda think it will take a while. (snickers a bit)

*Note: With Switzerland’s ban on racecar driving since 1955, most would go to surrounding countries like Italy or France to race.

LB: So you’re young and adventurous and want to race. In Switzerland, what do you do?
SdS: Well luckily, Switzerland is pretty small. So you can go race in Italy or France where go-karting is huge there. Which is how I started. It’s pretty cool. There is a lot of stuff to do besides racing.
Simona karting 2
LB: At what age did you move to the U.S. and was your move due to your desire to race?
SdS: I moved here in 2006. Yes, I moved because of racing. I got a sponsor over here to do Formula BMW and that’s how I came to the U.S.

LB: What inspires you to move along?
SdS: I have a great set of people behind me. My manager and my family too. They have always been really supportive and it's thanks to them that I am here today.

LB: Is it difficult to run in a male-dominated sport?
SdS: Not really, as I’ve been racing since I was 6. I’ve always been in this kind of climate pretty much. But I’ve never looked at it that way. I’ve always had good results when I was racing, so everyone just considered me as a racecar driver and I’ve never felt it was more difficult or anything because of it.

Simona karting
LB: When it gets hectic, what do you like to do to unwind?
SdS: Uh … I’ve played a lot of golf lately … (laughing and she turns to look at her manager.) It’s pretty mellow but it gets pretty competitive.

LB: Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?
SdS: I’ve always been a big fan of Michael Schumacher and what he has done in his career. It's something pretty special and I wish my career would be as good as his. I like looking up to great drivers like that.

LB: How old are you now?
SdS: I am 22.

LB: Well you got some time still.
SdS: Yes. ( responded with a big smile)

LB: You’re having a decent season so far, 1 top-5 and 3 top-10s. Is your career going in the direction you’d like at this time?
SdS: I think next year will be better. We’ve had a pretty rough patch here through INDY and that set us back a bit. But we’ve kinda recovered from it and we’re really trying to have a strong end to our season. I wish we didn’t have those rough patches in the middle, but it just happens in life and you gotta make the best out of it.

LB: Which track do you prefer, ovals or road courses?
SdS: That’s the cool thing about IndyCar Series. It’s the only series in the world where you get to race on many types of tracks. It’s a challenge for every driver. The one who wins the championship is the one who’s best on all the surfaces. I really like the street courses. I think they are fun because the fans are right there.

LB: Do you ever think of crossing over to another series, like for instance NASCAR?
SdS: Not NASCAR. I’ve always dreamed about going over to Formula One. That would be something I would consider. But not NASCAR.

LB: Do you feel that the testing is going to give you an advantage for this?
SdS: Definitely coming testing here is going to help us. We’ve got a couple of things we want to try and will give us an advantage because during a race weekend, you really don’t get a chance to test things. So having a day here in advance of the the race is really going to help us. Not to mention I’m always happy to be in a race car, so I’m happy to be here.

LB: Last May was a pretty tough month for you. You were in a serious accident while in Texas. Tell me a little about it? Are you okay?
SdS: Yes, I am fine. It was the worse crash I ever had, so it was pretty difficult recovering from it. The team has given me great tools for that and also my sponsors, they’ve all been really supportive. It made it much easier to come back and really get acclimated again on the ovals.

Below is footage from her crash in 2011 practice. spoke with Simona and asked if getting back in the car was the hardest thing she has had to do.

"Yeah, definitely," she said. "After the crash, I was like, 'I don't need this. This is too crazy. It's way too dangerous.' You know, after a while you're back to being a race car driver and thinking, 'Nah, I can do this.' And you suck it up. This morning, I felt pretty good. Then I went to qualify and thought, 'Ah, I'm not too sure about that.' And especially when you're sitting (waiting to go qualify) and they're showing your crash on the screen. It's like, really? Thanks. But it's great, the crowd, too. They've really lifted me up yesterday and today. Because of them, I really want to do something well here."

WIN Series and INDY Shorts are exclusive to Skirts and Scuffs and were created by Lindi Bess. WIN Series was the first original column to the site, a niche that Lindi felt was missing in motorsports coverage. Bringing our readers interviews with some of NASCAR's most notable females such as Samantha Busch, Kim Wallace, Krista Voda, DeLana Harvick, Simona de Silvestro, Wendy Venturini, Lindy Hornaday and many more. Lindi has also recently interviewed drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and Andy Lally. If you've missed any of her interviews, just click on her name on the Skirts and Scuffs home page. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to tweet @LindiB_NASCAR or leave a comment at the bottom of an interview. I read all comments. Thank you.

**The INDY Shorts Series is a new column for with the hopes to provide our readers with a broader coverage of motorsports. Please leave comments and let us know how you feel. Thank you for reading!
INDY Shorts: Meet Simona de Silvestro INDY Shorts: Meet Simona de Silvestro Reviewed by Lindi Bess on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 Rating: 5