Sarah Fischer tested with McLaren in 2002, Katherine Legge for Minardi in 2005, Susie Wolff signed on with Williams two years ago and María de Villota was with Marussia until her tragic crash and subsequent death. Now it's Simona de Silvestro's turn. An accomplished Indy driver, de Silvestro won five races in the Atlantic feeder series and landed on the podium at the IndyCar race in Houston last year. Born in Switzerland, de Silvestro signed on with Sauber this year as an "affiliated driver" on the track to a potential race seat next season. And she just took her first major step towards getting there.
These past couple of days, de Silvestro has been at Fiorano – the test track at the Ferrari headquarters in Maranello – testing out the 2012-spec Sauber-Ferrari C31. The car was fitted with special tires from Pirelli and no KERS, which may be a little ironic considering the Clean Air livery in which the car was repainted for her sponsors, but gives de Silvestro a chance to test-drive a modern F1 car on a challenging track.
"Overall, I'm happy with my first day in a Formula One car. I concentrated mainly on understanding the tires and finding out how to get the best out of them. And with every outing I learned more about the behavior of the car," Simona said after completing 112 laps of the three-kilometer circuit on Saturday. "I can't wait to get into the car again tomorrow. The feeling you get driving a Formula One car is just awesome!" Watch the video below to see F1's next female racing driver attack the curbs.
26.04.2014 - Fiorano. Today, Simona De Silvestro completed her first day of testing in a Sauber Formula One car on the Ferrari test track in Fiorano. She completed a total of 112 laps in a two year old Sauber C31 (without KERS and with special tyres from Pirelli). Simona used the opportunity to become familiar with the specifics of a Formula One car and was able to improve constantly during the day.
Circuit: Fiorano Circuit / 2.997 km
Driver: Simona De Silvestro
Weather: Overcast, sunny, air 16-21 °C, track 19-30 °C
Chassis / engine: C31 / Ferrari
Laps today: 112 laps, 336 km
Paul Russell, Test Engineer:
"In the morning, Simona went out for baseline runs. She drove at a reasonable pace, getting the tyres and the brakes to work and taking it easy finding the limits. Simona then drove short runs. Before the lunch break she did a run on new tyres which was at a good performance level. In the morning we achieved even more than we had planned. For Simona it was really about learning and building the pace. In the afternoon she continued doing shorter runs, which gave us time to look into the data and discuss things in order for her to get a better understanding of the car. We also did some set-up changes. At the end of the day we used a couple of new sets of tyres, which is always interesting for new drivers in order to experience how far they can push. Simona did a very solid job today. It was immediately clear that she is an experienced driver. It was as good a start in a Formula One car as you could hope for, and you couldn't really ask for more today."
Simona De Silvestro:
"Although it's something very special to drive a Formula One car, I was not too nervous in the morning. I was more focused on what my job would be. But, after completing the installation lap, I realised that this was my first lap in a Formula One car, and that this was something really special. What impressed me most was the downforce of the car and the braking. When I did my first lap the brakes were cold, but even then the decelaration was beyond what I had experienced before. The g-forces are significantly higher compared to what I was used to in IndyCar. Overall, I'm happy with my first day in a Formula One car. I concentrated mainly on understanding the tyres and finding out how to get the best out of them. And with every outing I learned more about the behaviour of the car. I can feel now where there is more potential and how I can use it. Physically I feel quite good, which is definitely a result of my preparation in recent months. I have been training really hard and this paid off. I can't wait to get into the car again tomorrow. The feeling you get driving a Formula One car is just awesome!"
What comes next
Tomorrow Affiliated driver Simona De Silvestro will again be behind the wheel of the Sauber C31-Ferrari in Fiorano.