Give Simona De Silvestro an A+ with five gold stars for her attitude in the 2012 IndyCar series. As the only Lotus-engine team, Simona's straight line speed is a woeful seven miles per hour off the Honda and Chevy pace on road and street courses. On ovals she's lapped early, and there's nothing in the world she can do about it as a driver.
Yet despite the underpowered car, De Silvestro was upbeat in an interview Friday, talking about making the best of things, savoring her recent good run at Belle Isle, looking forward to possible new engine updates in a few weeks.
She also said she believes she'll be back in IndyCar in 2013, but with what team is still a question mark. Read more from the Woman of pressdog® below.
pressdog: Welcome to Iowa. How many times have you raced here now?
Simona De Silvestro: Last year didn’t race here (she was suffering from the ill effects of a concussion). This is my second time here. We haven’t’ tested here. I think from all the teams we are the only team that hasn’t tested, so it kind of puts us a little bit behind. But I think we had a good first session, and now we are going to make some changes for the second session, and hopefully we will improve it. That kind of is the good thing, that we are always improving during the session and hope even into the second session.
pressdog: I hear updates are coming from Lotus, perhaps.
Simona: We haven’t had any updates from Lotus, but I think they sent in the new updates that have to get approved by the league or something like that. We haven’t had them yet, so hopefully for the next couple of races we’ll get them. But we’re still struggling with the same things we’ve been struggled with since the beginning of the season and we have to work through it and find a solution.
pressdog: How do you deal with the Lotus situation? Does it change your approach mentally?
Simona: It’s definitely more difficult because you know our engine is not where the other engines are, but you just have to stay open minded. At Detroit we had a pretty good race and a pretty good result, (even though) we were seven miles an hour slower on the straightaway speed, so you never know what happens during the race day. I think the important thing is we really focus on our chassis and have a really good race car that is really raceable so we can have a good race and have a good result at the end of the day.
pressdog: How are you adapting to ovals?
Simona: I think Milwaukee, until I made a mistake, was pretty good and I was having fun. Unfortunately in Texas we didn’t run the race but, yeah, I think Indy helped me really going through that (practice leading up to the race). I felt pretty comfortable for sure. I think I have a lot to learn on the oval. It’s a little more difficult being a one-car team. We don’t really know what to expect, especially with this car. You are really doing everything yourselves and you can’t really compare it with any other drivers out there and talk about it. It would be nice to have a second car, but it is what it is and it the situation I’m in, we just try to get the best out of it. We’ve not done any tests on the ovals with this car, so we always try to kind of always trying to catch up a little bit. I like the ovals, but I think I have a lot of things to learn on the ovals still.
pressdog: On road and street courses are there more things you can do to work around issues with the car?
Simona: You can work around it more. I think it’s a little bit easier for me on the road and street course because that’s all I’ve been doing since I am little, so I kind of know what I like in the race car. I think with my engineer, especially in the last race in Belle Isle, we really got everything out of the car. That was really cool and I think if we can do that and Lotus brings in some updates that are going to be better I think we are going to be pretty competitive. I think that is going to happen, so we can really show what we can do.
pressdog: So you've been living in the U.S. for six years now, are you becoming an American?
Simona: I don’t know. (Laughter) Every time I go home everyone says I have an American accent. It’s fun to live here, but I do miss Europe. When I get a chance to go home it’s fun to go back to Switzerland.
pressdog: So you still live in Phoenix?
Simona: I live in Indy now. It’s a little bit different than Phoenix. Phoenix was warm and a pretty cool place, but Indy is pretty cool too because all the racing is there, the team is there I have lots to do and that’s fun too.
pressdog: But you have winter ..
Simona: Yeah yeah, but you know I’m from Switzerland ...
pressdog: Good point ..
Simona: ... so it’s kind of OK. But definitely the winters are pretty brutal in Indy I think.
pressdog: What language do you speak back home (note: Simona knows FIVE languages)?
Simona: I speak German and French back home.
pressdog: So they say you speak those languages with an American accent?
Simona: (Laughter) No, they say I have an American accent when I talk English. I don’t think I do, but it is what it is, I guess. I’ve adapted to the American slang, I guess. I don’t know.
pressdog: What do you miss most about Switzerland?
Simona: I miss my friends and my parents and family are there, but I think actually the thing I miss the most is bread. You can’t find good bread here. It’s really hard. I know when I go home I want a nice piece of bread.
pressdog: So you have more years coming with this team, or what's the situation there for next year?
Simona: We’ll see. Things are pretty open (with the team). I’m lucky to have the (sponsors) Nuclear Clean Air Energy and Enetergy on my side, and I think we are going to be together even next year. I’m not sure what is going to happen next year but for sure I am going to stay in this series and show what I can do.
We have (sponsor) Ariva which is the world leader in building nuclear plants and running them so I am really lucky to have all this companies in the nuclear business trying to promote the message of nuclear clean air energy. I am really proud to have that on my car and to educate people about nuclear electricity.
pressdog: Have you toured a plant?
Simona: I went to Grand Gulf down in Mississippi and got the full tour of it. It’s really cool. It was a really cool experience to do and all the people who work there are so passionate about it. It’s just kind of like racing; you’re passionate in racing and give your everything and same thing in the nuclear plant. It’s really cool and so much going on and a lot of young kids could aspire to that because it is pretty cool I think to work for a nuclear plant. It was pretty amazing, I thought.
pressdog: So you couldn't score a mini reactor for your car?
Simona: (Laughter) I’m trying. I’m trying. I’ve been pushing to get a mini nuclear reactor. I don’t think that is going to happen. Maybe one, but who knows, but not right now?
pressdog: Maybe a 900 horsepower electric engine driven by a mini reactor?
Simona: It would be cool. It would be pretty cool. I think we would be winning every race if we had that.
pressdog: So the next street race is in Toronto. Do you like the Toronto track?
Simona: Yeah. I think it’s pretty tricky track because in the corners there are a lot of concrete and a lot of different patches and that makes it difficult. There are long straightaways. We’ll see what we got. I think we can have a really solid race car we can be all right and have a really strong pace during the race and try to come forward. I really enjoy it in Toronto. It’s a cool city and a really cool event.
pressdog: So what is your favorite road and street course?
Simona: Street course, I really like Brazil. It’s a really cool track. In road courses, I think Mid-Ohio. Everything kind of has something special. They’re all just a lot of fun. On the road course you do a lot as the diver so you can find a lot in yourself to make the car go fast. That’s always a fun challenge to be confronted with.
pressdog: The old car and the new car, compare and contrast.
Simona: I really like the new car, on the road courses especially it’s been doing really well. It’s really fun to drive especially brakes with the carbon brakes. Even chassis-wise it’s been great. On the oval so far been alright too. For us it’s harder to say because we don’t really have the results and stuff like that but I think the car is pretty good. It’s a good change and a lot fun.
pressdog: So it's a better road and street course car than the old Dallara?
Simona: Definitely better on road and street course. I think so, yeah. Definitely. Especially with the front suspension. We had pull rods before and now we have push roads and now it feels more like race car. You can definitely push the car way more. The cool thing about it too is last year car the teams had their setups and they kind of knew where the car wanted to be, and with this car is so new you have to find really what you like. I think we found that especially at Belle Isle we were really quick so you can do a lot of little changes to make the car quick. It’s just really fun to drive it. It’s a blast.
pressdog: Dario (Franchitti) said the other day that when he first got into the new car it felt huge. Did you have that experience as well?
Simona: The old car it had kind of weird nose a little bit so it felt really low. It (new car) almost felt like an Atlantic car how it is kind of big, but I think we all kind of adapted to it. Even in the beginning everyone was not so sure about the looks but I think it looks really good now. Everybody kind of got used to it and I think it’s looks really pretty out there.