Q&A with Simona de Silvestro
As she gears up to make her second Bathurst 1000 start, Swiss starlet Simona de Silvestro sat down with Andrew van Leeuwen to talk IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, and her impending full-time move to Supercars.
MOTORSPORT.COM: So how are you settling into the Nissan Altima?
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: The car is good. It gives you a lot of confidence right away, I really felt comfortable right away. To be really quick there are a lot of little details to find out, so that’s what most of the time goes into. There is a lot of working on myself just to understand how to drive these cars.
It’s a little bit different from the Ford, for sure…
Could you feel that? Did you get a good enough understanding of the Prodrive car to tell the differences between the two?
Well, it is hard to say a little bit because I drove the other car a year ago. And in between I’ve driven a lot of different cars. So it is a bit hard to compare back-to-back.
But the team did an an awesome job, we all gelled really well. And that was the biggest thing we needed to get out of this test, understanding how to work with the team.
Do you go into Bathurst this year with the same expectations as last year, or have they changed?
Sure, the expectations always get a little bit bigger. But I think it’s going to be similar to last year. It’s so difficult to go to Bathurst, just the track itself. And then you don’t know the car that well.
We have to be realistic, it’s going to be tough. And knowing that I’m going to be racing full-time in the series, it’s going to be even more work. I need to know more details, to understand more and pay more attention. Because it’s not just a one-off this time.
I need to work on that, look right into the details. Every time I’m in the car at Bathurst that’s what I’ll be doing.
As you say this is the first step in the switch to Touring Cars, for the next three years at least. How do you reflect on your time in open-wheelers?
You know… I’ve had a pretty good open-wheeler career. I think in IndyCar, that was car that really suited me. I wish I could have done a couple more years there, and had some better results. To have been in a big team, that would have been the big achievement which didn’t quite happen.
But I’m really happy with the opportunity to drive Supercars. For me it’s really important to know where I’m going to be racing, and have some continuity to really develop. Not just being year-to-year, not knowing what’s going on. It’s exhausting, and it’s really frustrating as a driver. Nowadays, as a driver, it’s so dependent on sponsorship that it feels like that’s all you’re doing.
So it’s nice to know I have found my place. For sure it’s going to be a big challenge, but it’s a new challenge, a new experience. As a driver it’s just going to make me better and more complete.
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you’d stayed in IndyCar rather than moving to Sauber for 2014?
It’s hard to say. At the end of 2013, to be honest, I’d done four years in IndyCar, three of them with a really small team and then the last year with KV. That was a bit better, we started getting some results. But it was quite hard because sponsorship was difficult to find, and at the top teams there wasn’t really any space. I also always had this dream about Formula 1…
You never know. Maybe if I had stayed in the USA, I wouldn’t be here now. It’s always hard to say. The choices are made, with what we have.
It’s important to be competitive, and I think in Supercars I’m really going to get the chance to be in good equipment. That’s something that has been missing in the past.
What about Formula E? How close were you to securing something to stay there, and at which point did you decide it was time to make the call and take the Supercars deal?
Formula E, I had a difficult season. We didn’t manage to really score a lot of points at the beginning of the season. We were running with the old engine, so we knew there was going to be a deficit and it was going to be really hard. The first few races we had a lot of issues, especially on my side, and that didn’t help either.
There was still talks going on, but this Supercars deal came pretty early too. It was something to really start considering. I always thought it would be cool to come and race here, but I didn’t expect it to come so quickly!
Did your perception of Supercars change after Bathurst last year, in terms of what a professional series it really is?
I knew that before Bathurst. In racing, in Europe you have Formula 1 and WEC, in America it’s IndyCar and NASCAR, and in Australia it’s Supercars. These are the series you want to get to.
But sure, experiencing it, going to Bathurst, driving the car… they are really fast cars! It’s quite impressive for a closed car to go that quick. I just really enjoyed driving the car, and that was the biggest thing that made me consider it.
Were you surprised by how much you enjoyed driving the car last year?
Yeah! I drove the car for the first time at Winton, where the straight is super short – and I was like ‘wow, it goes!’. That was really, really cool. And Bathurst, just the track is unbelievable.
Right now I feel like a rookie again, because everything I learnt in open-wheelers doesn’t really go with this car. There is a lot of learning to go.
Have you set yourself a clear plan of how you see the progression going over the three years of your deal?
I think the first year is going to be the most frustrating one. I grew up in open-wheelers, so I knew what I needed in the car to be quick for my driving style. Now I need to learn the driving style. The first year is going to be a lot of ups and downs.
If we do our job correctly, with the progression of the year we should get more competitive. And in Year 2 and 3, we have to be somewhere where we have a good baseline, I know what I’m doing, and then we can start working on the really small details needed top be really competitive.
It’s a three-year deal, but there are plenty of career Supercars drivers out there. Could you see yourself staying on and making career out of it?
Why not? I’m open to it for sure.
Right now the focus is on these three years, and three years is a long time in racing. You never know what will happen. A year ago I would never have thought I would spend 2017 racing in Australia!
So a lot can happen, but sure, I wouldn’t make the move here to just do the three years and close the door. I want to be successful, so this is just the start of something.
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