Simona De Silvestro, a 22-year-old from Thune, Switzerland, could follow in the footsteps of Danica Patrick and become the second woman to win a race in the Izod IndyCar Series.
She was Chase Rookie of the Year at the 2010 Indianapolis 500, where she finished 14th, and the IndyCar Rookie of the Year in 2010, driving for small and under-budgeted HVM Racing. De Silvestro's performance was rewarded with a three-year agreement from sponsor Entergy and she returns to HVM with experience and additional funding.
De Silvestro's strength in 2010 was on road courses. She finished eighth at Mid-Ohio and ninth at Toronto and qualified seventh at Edmonton. She began racing in North America in 2006 in Formula BMW and spent three years in Formula Atlantic, winning four races, before moving into IndyCar. She's interested -- someday -- in getting a shot at Formula 1, but she's happy to be in IndyCar for now. De Silvestro discusses her career with SI.com's Tim Tuttle.
"There are two categories in open wheel where you want to be and that's F1 and IndyCar, and to have achieved this level is something really cool and I really like it. It's really special to get to this level because you always dream about it and then when you finally get here, it's almost like, 'Wow,' you've made it, but then you realize the hard work only begins because everybody is really fast and you really have to prove yourself every race you go out there.
"The team gave me a great opportunity to do that. Everybody was really believing in me and I believed in them and we got a couple of really good results. Pretty much, that second part of the road courses we found that next gear and we were running with the big teams. I think it was great, especially with the budget we were running on. I don't think entering the season we would have thought we could run so far up front.
Qualifying the car was so nerve wracking. I've never had that where maybe you couldn't make the race. We were all really jittery. It went OK. The race, I don't know how to explain it, but to be part of those 33 drivers that have qualified for the Indy 500, it's just amazing you're part of it. The race was unbelievable. All the people there and everybody is so into it, it's so much fun.
I was lucky to have my dad and my mom support me when I was young. I raced a lot in France and in Italy. We have one go-kart track in Switzerland; we had a couple of races there.