There won’t be a large influx of fresh names for the 2013 IndyCar season as even the new up-and-coming drivers have either already had rides in the past or have been working their way up the development ladder, such as Indy Lights. What those young drivers can do this year is still a question. However, there is one driver we indeed know what they can do -- and they may be making motorsports history in 2013: Simona de Silvestro.
Sometimes called the ‘Swiss Miss’ or the ‘Iron Maiden’, whatever you want to call her, the talented 24 year old is quite possibly the least known of the women drivers who have plied their wares in motorsports and in particular, American open wheel. However, as far as accomplishments, de Silvestro may be the most accomplished of them all. She won five Atlantic series races and led the point standings for most of the 2009 season before ending up third overall just six points out after two poor late season finishes.
The past three years have seen de Silvestro drive for a small and under-funded HVM Racing team. She started off with HVM in 2010 – a year that interestingly had a total of five women drivers including: Ana Beatriz, Milka Duno, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick and de Silvestra. But dismal performance by the team kept Simona from a good year; and still she managed two Top 10s.
The 2011 season saw the Swiss driver show promise at the beginning of the year with a fantastic bit of racing on the streets of St. Petersburg, which ended with a fourth place. Another Top 10 at Birmingham had her fourth in points but during practice for the Indy 500, she was involved in a terrible fiery crash that burned both her hands. She still managed to qualify for the Indy 500 but most of the rest of the year found her HVM car mired deep in the pack. A wreck at Milwaukee forced her to miss the next event and then later that summer, visa problems caused her to miss the Sonoma race.
In 2012, HVM Racing signed up and stayed with Lotus, who was a newcomer to the sport. Dutifully, de Silvestro drove a car that could only be described as pathetic. HVM Racing was the only Lotus to run the entire schedule and the best she could squeeze out of the slow and poorly engineered car was a 13th place at Belle Isle.
However, 2013 appears to be a different situation altogether. For starters, de Silvestro will be partnered with a teammate for the first time in her career. And her teammate isn’t just any driver but one of the more successful drivers in IndyCar: Tony Kanaan. At the time, Tony was impressed and famously said back in 2011 at St Pete., “Great job girl. Next time take it easy on the old guy here.” Kanaan had to hold off Simona at the end of the race for the podium.
In addition to being partnered with Kanaan, de Silvestro will be driving for an established team at KV Racing. The team chemistry along with sponsors, et al, is emerging and seems to be excellent. In her words: “It just feels like a big family, which I think is important.” (Source: ESPNW) Furthermore, Kanaan - the ‘old guy’ who might actually be the most fit driver in the world - feels more than obliged to mentor de Silvestro and feels this is her time saying,
“To be honest, this is her chance. She's on the best team, in my opinion, that she's ever been on since she's been in IndyCar. I have a history of teaching and I'm willing to give her whatever I can.”
This coming season looks like it will have only one female driving full-time in IndyCar. However, 2013 may be a breakout year for Simona de Silvestro and if the breaks go her way, she should be able to grab podiums and maybe even a victory. And that would make history and could certainly be the surprise of the season.
Additional sources: Racing Reference, Tampa Tribune