Feb 14, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Tough as nails. Resilient beyond belief. Personable beyond comprehension. Respected by her peers.
Although Simona de Silvestro didn’t win a race in her four years in IndyCar, she ticked a lot of boxes to make her a fan and paddock favorite.
What sticks out to me most was her resiliency.
De Silvestro entered IndyCar in 2010 with Keith Wiggins’ HVM Racing operation, a team with slightly-more-than shoestring finances. She entered after a crushing blow in the Formula Atlantic season finale a year earlier at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, when she was taken out by another competitor on the first lap to cost her the title.
No matter. Her management team and support, from what was at the time Team Stargate Worlds, helped her take the next step in her open-wheel career. Meanwhile the others from Atlantic, Americans John Edwards and Jonathan Summerton, weren’t able to.
Her new car just looked ragged watching it either on the ground on TV. But de Silvestro hustled it like nobody’s business. She was Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, and some of her qualifying and race performances (Edmonton and Mid-Ohio in particular) were just sublime to watch.
The breakout should have happened in 2011, still with HVM but with new support from Nuclear Clean Air Energy and Entergy. Fourth place at St. Petersburg behind eventual KV Racing Technology teammate Tony Kanaan – in a race with its own subplot featuring de Silvestro’s old engineer working with Kanaan in his first race with KV – heralded her as a star in the making. Ninth at Barber and fastest lap in Brazil were further proof.
Then Indianapolis 2011 happened, and quite honestly, it was hard to imagine her being able to recover fully from it. Her practice crash was her second fiery one on an oval (Texas 2010) and also cost her the team’s new, improved chassis.
But the resilience emerged once again even in the unloved, heavier, older backup chassis that she qualified for the field before Bump Day. Working together with her PR rep Monica Hilton at HVM, the legend of Simona and “Pork Chop” was born.
Further results the rest of the year went begging… and the less said about 2012 with the Lotus engine the better. Except that when she had every opportunity to throw her engine manufacturer under the bus, she never did. That was the professional in her.
So, the breakout, part 2, was planned for 2013. And sixth place at St. Pete, with KV, battling Kanaan for what had been a podium position, was the first sign ’13 was the finally year we’d all been waiting for.
To follow the narrative though, even though she finished in the top 10 in three of the first four races and battled through a tough midseason, the resilience returned again. She was one of the series’ top-10 drivers on a consistent basis the last five races (finished top-10 in all five), and her first podium with second at Houston was no less than she or her supporters deserved.
In summation, then, 65 starts, three top-fives, and 14 top-10 finishes, a best start of third at St. Pete this year and a couple fastest race laps. Not great numbers on paper, but toss out the 15 starts from 2012 with the hapless Lotus sled in her car and you see she did overachieve at a rather good level given the equipment at her disposal.
Ultimately though, 13th in the final standings – as she was this year – was probably as good as it was going to get given her career struggles on ovals. She made strides, but with the field as deep as it is, it was the final mountain to hurdle. Even her best oval finish, eighth at the IndyCar season finale in Fontana, came after being caught up in an accident and merely surviving the high attrition rate. Her road and street course prowess, however, was very much evident.
For IndyCar, the loss is its second major driver gut-punch of the offseason, following Dario Franchitti’s medically enforced retirement.
De Silvestro was liked by some because she was the “anti-Danica Patrick,” who built her brand purely on her racing ability rather than her sex appeal. In interviews, de Silvestro often said she didn’t want to be the next Danica, but the first Simona.
But she was also liked because of her down-to-earth nature, effervescent smile, and ability to wring as much as possible out of less than the top machinery.
De Silvestro and her management team deserve credit for sticking it out this long, and for her, F1 has always been the goal. At 25, she’s far from “old,” but when you consider she’s older than almost half the field of 22, she’s got another test of resilience to come.
But I’ve had the chance and privilege to cover her consistently since her first Atlantic season in 2007. Knowing her, she’ll tackle it full on.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT
Good news, Ricciardo made the podium. Bad news, his trophy didn’t survive it.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
Jakes kept his visor down after all on a pit stop in Iowa.
Jul 27, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT
A quick look back at Chaves’ short track debut.
Jul 27, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Karam needs a clean, consistent weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Jul 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Rahal and Force compete against each other in a series of fun challenges at Sonoma.
Jul 27, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
If another Dixon Mid-Ohio win happens, it will save his championship chances.
After blowing his chance to cut the gap to Hamilton, Rosberg must now avoid the mistakes of last summer
Jul 27, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Luke Smith considers the fall-out of a dramatic Hungarian Grand Prix that saw both Mercedes drivers miss an opportunity to seize control of the drivers’ championship.
Jul 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Manor makes it through a difficult weekend by getting both of its cars to the finish in Hungary.
Jul 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Vettel storms to his 41st career victory in Hungary as both Mercedes drivers hit trouble.
Jul 26, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won in Sunday’s NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals.
Jul 26, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
Sandell finally gets on the board in Round 6 of the Red Bull GRC season.
Jul 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The F1 grid comes together ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix to pay its respects to Jules Bianchi.
Jul 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
The Red Bull Global Rallycross doubleheader in Detroit concludes with today’s Round 6.
Jul 26, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT
Ferrari caps off an emotional weekend with victory at the Hungaroring as Mercedes came unstuck.
Jul 26, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Verstappen claims his first top five finish in F1 in Hungary, capping off an impressive first half-season in the sport.
Jul 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
A penalty for Massa and a puncture for Bottas leaves both Williams drivers outside of the points in Hungary.
Jul 26, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
At one stage, Rosberg had been poised to take the lead of the championship into the summer break, only to lose yet more ground on Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Jul 26, 2015, 12:59 PM EDT
A poor start, off-track excursion, collision with Ricciardo and drive-through penalty can’t stop Hamilton from finishing sixth and extending his championship lead.
Jul 26, 2015, 12:02 PM EDT
The stewards were kept very busy in Hungary on Sunday.
- For Dixon, it’s likely Mid-Ohio or bust in terms of 2015 IndyCar title hopes 0
- Race Recap: Vettel draws level with Senna on all-time win list with victory in Hungary 1
- NHRA Mile-High Nationals winners: Torrence, Beckman, Morgan, Krawiec 2
- F1 grid unites to pay tribute to Jules Bianchi (VIDEO) 1
- F1 Paddock Pass: Hungarian GP post-race (VIDEO) 1
- Vettel dedicates Hungarian GP win to Jules Bianchi 2
- Vettel storms to victory in Hungary as Hamilton and Rosberg hit trouble 9