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Formula E fans must be very familiar with Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro, either because of her drive in the gleaming blue Amlin Andretti in season 2015-16, or for her role as test driver under Susie Wolff’s command last season. Not to mention that she’s the first female driver in Formula E to score points. And now her name is affiliated with German car manufacturer Porsche.
After a not so go-as-planned season in Formula E, she moved down under for Australian Supercars Championship in 2017 with a three-year commitment with Nissan Motorsport. When she was asked about the difference between V8 supercar and open-wheel single seater, her answer came along almost spontaneously.
“There’s big difference between sportcar and formula car, I spent last three years in Australian Supercars in V8, which is very different to an electric car to be honest, it’s pretty polar opposite, but as a driver you have to be very versatile, you need to learn how to adapt, at the end of the day, what counts is being fast, whatever car you drive, you should be fast in it.”
Although far away from home, she didn’t actually leave the paddock of electric street racing. Being test driver for Venturi Formula E Team in 2018-19 season, she’s got the chance to drive the batmobile-esque Gen2 car in a rookie test with the other 8 female drivers including Tatiana Calderon, Jamie Chadwick, Beitske Visser, Katherine Legge and Amna Al Qubaisi following the season opener in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December, 2018.
“I’ve tested the Gen2 car but not with the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team yet. But last year I did the test at Riyadh with Venturi, and it’s quite the difference between the Gen1 and Gen2, feels like a proper race car now. It’s pretty fun to drive for us drivers.”
RIYADH STREET CIRCUIT, SAUDI ARABIA - DECEMBER 16: Driver line up with Pippa Mann, Tatiana Calderon, Amna Al Qubaisi, Carrie Schreiner, Carmen Jorda, Beitske Visser, Jamie Chadwick, Simona de Silvestro, and Katherine Legge. Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT
Talking about joining manufacturer team like with Porsche, Simona didn’t hold back her pride and excitement. As for which party started the conversation, she said:
“For me joining the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team is kind of a working progress. I met with some of the people when I was at Hong Kong this year actually, knowing that they are going to join a program like this, it’s pretty exciting for me because as driver I always dreamt to be with a manufacturer, to be here it’s pretty cool. ”
Apart from Porsche, world class OEMs such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Nissan and DS have been in this battle field for several seasons already. For the upcoming sixth year of Formula E, BMW signed German youngster Maxi Guenther to fill in the vacancy Antonio Felix da Costa left, new comer Mercedes Benz EQ Formula E team brought newly crowned Formula 2 Champion Nyck de Vries onboard, and Brendon Hartley, who had a long-term relationship with Porsche and been testing for Porsche in their exclusive test days, chose GEOX Dragon as his first step into Formula E. More and more talents headed to this trending electric championship because it is the only racing series that managed to gather all these manufacturers.
“As a driver, I think when you grow up you always dreamed about Formula 1 and things like that.” Said Simona, “Definitely, being with a car manufacturer is something really special. Because, first of all, you always know that you’re gonna be in a good car when you go racing, it just creates you really good chance to win races, it’s pretty cool. And Porsche is special as well, with such a legacy in motorsport, and with this new journey now, I think we are going to carve their way as well.”
“Test driver’s fun but racing driver’s more fun. It’s a goal, you know, at the end of the day I would love to drive in Formula E. And I think this is a good step joining the team, we’ll see what the future holds. At the moment everything is pretty tied up, my job would be helping the team in the simulator and testing next year, so let’s see what happens.”
If Simona is going to have her shot in Formula E, she thinks “It’d be the best to be in TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team. I’d love to join the team, although it’s still really new. At the moment they just joined the series and we’re yet to go to the first race, we’ll never know what the future holds.
With the competitiveness so intense in Formula E, the Iron Maiden doesn’t consider herself inferior to others, or to be precise, male drivers. “I don’t know. I think in racing we should be racing against the guys. I’ve proven that, you know, I can get to the podium even when I’m racing with the boys.”
This would as well be her argument against W Series, her point of view towards it doesn’t change a bit in spite of a full-of-action first season. “I think the concept of the series is good but I think it’s especially for young talents. I think not so many girls got the opportunity to jump from go-karts into cars, I think that’s good. I won’t join W Series because for me now my goal would be joining Formula E and maybe hopefully win a championship here in Formula E or in other series, that’s still my goal. I don’t think a segregated racing series is a good thing but it’s definitely a new step for young talent.”
“I haven’t been to W series, it’s an interesting concept, not sure I’m the biggest fan of it but I think when you’re 15 or 16 years old it’s good because it’s really difficult to find money to go racing. This series is to find young female talent, it’s good. At the end of the day Jamie won the championship, hopefully she can get a good shot in a good team in another series. In the end of the day I think that’s what it’s missing, for us female drivers to get this shot for a proper team. I feel like I’ve gone a really good step now by joining this team, and we’ll see what happens.”
To provide opportunities for young female talents, Formula E also did a great job. They provided the Riyadh mid-season test for female drivers, hosted several events of Susie Wolff’s D2BD and gained a diverse viewership in younger generation and held more of female audience.
HONG KONG STREET CIRCUIT, HONG KONG – MARCH 10: Susie Wolff, Team Principal, Venturi Formula E and Simona de Silvestro (CHE), ABB Ambassador during the Hong Kong E-prix. Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT
“I agree that Formula E is pretty diverse, but I think in every industry at the moment, diversity is a big thing. And for sure me being involved as a driver is quite exciting, we also have Susie as team principal. It’s good to see, that the right people are at the right places and they’re getting the chances.”
“My opinion has always been that until now no female driver has really got a proper shot, if I look in my career, I’ve never been in a top team, never been in a team where I could have won championship. All these things are missing is just giving opportunities. Having Porsche signed me is really a big deal, because it’s first time in history that it’s happening, hopefully together we can make this journey, and I can get the chance to be fighting for the championship one day with them, and hopefully that’s going to open a lot of eyes, to other people, to all the teams out there to actually give us a shot.”
As the old Chinese saying goes: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Let’s see what the future holds for Simona.