Our guest is Simona de Silvestro, reserve driver for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team. Simona is an exceptional racing talent. Her skill and passion have taken her from Formula Atlantic and IndyCar to Formula 1 and Formula E. In 2010, Simona was crowned ‘Rookie of the Year’ at the legendary Indy 500. We had the honor of interviewing Simona on the eve of Season 8’s London E-Prix. She tells us about what it’s like to be a woman in motorsport, how a crash shaped her career, and her thoughts on Formula E.
Presented by your host Teo Van Den Broeke, Style Director of British GQ, you’ll discover Simona’s views on inclusivity in motorsport, her time driving in the IndyCar series, and her experience working with the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team.
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Entering motorsport as a young girl
To be honest, for the longest time, I just saw myself as a driver, you know? Yeah, I was a girl. We were quite a few girls racing. We were about 5 or 6 [girls] between the ages of 10 and 15. For sure, compared to the guys, it was definitely a smaller number, but I never really thought about it. To me, I just wanted to go karting and I wanted to win races and be fast. I never thought about the fact that I’m different.
In 2011, I had a big crash in Indy. I think that shaped me throughout my career. But you know, I think it makes my story a little bit more interesting, I guess. As a driver, you kind of feel a bit invincible. We’re driving really fast next to walls. There’s a danger aspect because you’re driving, but you’re not really aware of it. In [the] 2011 crash, I had a suspension failure going at 370 km/hr…flipped and caught fire. I couldn’t get out of the car, so it was really hard. They came with the fire extinguisher, woke me up and I got out of it [the car]. And I was like, “I’m never driving a race car again”.
That was the first time I was like, “Nah, I’m done”. My parents were flying over that day. They showed up at the hospital. I had pretty bad burns on my hands. And then my mom said, “Oh, you know, maybe you should try it again” because I was like, “I’m not getting back in the car”. But because she said it, I was like, “You know what? Maybe I need to try it”. On Saturday I went out with my burns and qualified for the Indy 500.
Formula E and its future
If I look back 15 years ago, I never thought we would go racing electric. It didn’t cross my mind. So I remember when I drove in Season 2, I think a lot of people were skeptical because it was so different and so new. And now we are in Season 8. The cars have evolved so much in the last 8 years. So that’s cool to see. And I think as a driver as well, to be involved in this process, I think it’s quite special. If you look back 40 years, to what Formula 1 has done or safety and things like that. I think Formula E is really doing a lot for what is happening in the future. And as a driver, it’s cool because you can say you’re part of this and hopefully in 30, 40 years I’ll be looking back and be like, “Yeah, we developed all these cars that we’re driving around”. So I think there’s huge potential. Electric mobility can be cool, it can be fast. And it’s cool to be involved in it.
On inclusivity in motorsport
When you look at smaller categories, there are more and more girls getting involved. And I think that’s important. On the engineering side, on the mechanics side, I think there are more girls, but I think it’s still missing at a really high level. Somebody…like a female driver that has been really successful. I’ve been lucky to have success in IndyCar and now with Porsche as well. There are a lot of things going on, but there’s still one more step. I feel like one of us, or like especially in my career, I want to be in the right car at the right time, in a really top series. Because I think I can show that I can fight for a championship and that’s still something I’m fighting for. Hopefully I’ll get there and hopefully that will change a lot of perspectives in the sport as well.
Working with the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team
It’s super! It’s really cool, as a factory driver, especially for TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, it’s definitely a manufacturer that’s on the top of the list. Even with my teammates, Pascal [Wehrlein] and André [Lotterer], they’ve done quite a lot in their racing careers. To learn from them, spend time with them, I think it’s pretty cool. You learn a lot, and everyone has their journey. I think Andre spent a lot of time in Japan. So it’s kind of funny to hear the stories and how they got there. And here we are, in this one family at TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team. So I think it’s pretty special.