Simona de Silvestro has only taken part in one Formula E weekend, but somehow she already feels like an established name. Maybe that’s to do with her being a truly exciting talent in the world of motorsport. What I do know… her determination is obvious, and she is one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet…
I think everybody was really excited to see you on the Formula E grid in London, you had a lot of support and you out qualified and raced your teammate during the final round. How did you find your first Formula E weekend?
Yeah it was really interesting for me you know, I learned a lot, especially that the Formula E car is a little bit different. To drive in London, I think it’s one of the tougher tracks the calendar went to and especially for me to jump in the car at the last race I think was a pretty big challenge but it went ok. For sure the result wasn’t quite what I was hoping for but I think we can be kind of happy with how the weekend went.
And now you’re leading the team through testing. When you raced in London was it always the plan that you would continue on with Andretti this season, or was it just meant to be one weekend?
Yeah at the time I was really lucky to be a part of the Andretti racing family, I’ve been doing Indycar with them and they called me to do the race in London. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen after that, for sure it was something I was maybe thinking about… you know we have great sponsors here with Amlin and TE Connectivity and somehow things just went on from there and now I’m here doing all the testing.
You’ve also now been confirmed as an Amlin Andretti race driver for Season 2; What excites you most about being in Formula E?
I think being a part of a new series like this, especially with the new technology, I think it’s kind of cool as a driver to be a part of it right from the beginning.
How are you learning the tracks ahead of the new season, do you feel you’re playing catch up in any way to other drivers?
Yeah well right now we haven’t really done that much, but for sure you know when you don’t know the tracks and the other people have run at them it’s a little bit of a disadvantage. But at the end of the day I think these cars are pretty tricky to drive and I think the biggest thing is getting really comfortable in the car and then I think the tracks shouldn’t be an issue.
You mention the cars being pretty tricky, what’s the most challenging thing about them?
I think with these cars the braking is a little tricky, it’s quite different to any other race car I’ve driven in and I think that takes a little bit of time to get used to to be honest.
Now Amlin Andretti has had a bit of a difficult time at testing so far, have the team been able to identify what the main problems are?
Yeah we have some software issues and some things that aren’t quite going right where we want to and for sure we’re not where we want to be. We have a lot of work ahead of us but the team is working hard and hopefully by the time we go to Beijing we will be ok. With the powertrain it’s definitely quite different I think how they built it. it looks pretty nice. We haven’t been able to unleash the full potential of it right now but hopefully we get to do that pretty soon
You’ve done some testing for the Sauber F1 team before, is an F1 superlicense and racing in Formula 1 still something that still interests you?
Yeah I think F1 is always a dream, but I think right now we kind of all know how Formula 1 is, it’s not really dependant on how good you are or anything like that and it’s a little bit unfortunate, but you know, you never know. Right now my focus is here on the Formula E season and you never know what happens. I think if you’re running well here in Formula E the level is really, really strong and if I’m able to be running up front I think that will show that I can be pretty good.
And just so the fans can get to know you a little better Simona…
How did you get into motor racing?
I started racing when I was six years old in go-karts. My dad has a car dealership so I was always around cars and that’s how it kind of started.
What’s been the best moment of your racing career so far?
My best moment so far… I think you know finishing second in Houston…
the third female driver ever to score a podium!…
yeah it was pretty special, we were close to winning that race!
But also I think winning Rookie of the Year at the Indy 500 is also pretty cool.
This next question I’ve also uploaded as an audio file, because it’s a clear example of just how lovely Simona is to be around…
Now I’ve read that you’ve been given the nickname ‘The Iron Maiden’… is that right, because you seem all smiles!… (Yeah I know! *laughs*) Where has that nickname come from?
Well it came actually… when I came to the US my nickname used to be ‘The Swiss Miss’ *laughs* which sounded kind of a little dull… and um, I had a really big crash during practice in 2011 in the Indy 500. The car flipped into the fence and burned my hands pretty badly; it happened on the Thursday and I qualified the car on Saturday with second degree burns, so the fans started calling me ‘The Iron Maiden’… which is pretty cool! *excited smile*… I know it’s a band actually, and I’ve started to listen to some of their songs *laughs* but I haven’t quite gotten into it yet.
Have you got the name on your helmet?
No I don’t!… a lot of people have been telling me to have the logo or something on there, but we’ll have to think about it.
And you mentioned Switzerland, it looks like you could be getting a home race soon with a Swiss ePrix maybe as soon as Season 3…
Yeah it would be great! I think everybody in Switzerland would be really excited to have an ePrix; especially I think me or even all the Swiss drivers who are in the field, because we haven’t raced at home in a long time!
Formula E really lets the fans get close to the action and we’ve seen many young fans come up to you and ask for pictures or autograph during the pit walks. Can you give any advice to, particularly any young female fans out there, who maybe dream of being a racing driver?
Yeah I think that in anything they want to do, to not be scared and not try it. If you’re passionate about something go and do it and you know, the people will help you achieve your dreams. That’s the biggest thing, don’t be shy about trying things out. Even for me, racing isn’t maybe the first things a girl gets into, but I’ve always been passionate about it, just kept working at it, and now here I am. So I think just keep believing in yourself.
by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1