For 1st time in 9 years, we’ll have multiple females in an INDYCAR race, their thoughts heading in

Paretta Autosport and Simona de Silvestro are back. Following a 1-race deal for last year’s Indianapolis 500, they have worked tirelessly to get back on the NTT INDYCAR Series grid. It was a winding path that finally led them to make their 2022 debut for this weekend’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).

This race on Sunday is as of now, the 1st of a 3 race deal that they’ve set up with Ed Carpenter Racing to team with them in hopes of securing a full time opportunity for the 2023 season.

But first things first, Road America.

“I’m super excited to get back in the car,” de Silvestro said this week. “Yeah, it’s been a while since we announced it, so there was a lot of time to think about it, maybe overthink it. Talking a lot with the engineers and stuff like that. I’m just really glad to be in the week of the race now, kind of just getting down to work and get going.

“So, yeah, I can’t wait to be back in an INDYCAR. I’ve been waiting for this for a while now, especially on the road course. So, yeah, pretty excited about it.”

It has been a while since she’s been on a road course in fact. The last time she’s been in an Indy Car away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval was in New Orleans back in 2015. A lot has changed over the past 7 years.

“For me as well, I think the last seven years I’ve always tried to come back to INDYCAR,” she said. “It was really a struggle, to be honest, to get a seat or something like that. Trying really hard to do it because I think for me INDYCAR is very special and I think it’s something that really suits me, where I really wanted to race.

“She (Beth Paretta) putting this program together, especially now doing more races, I think it’s really important, a really big step forward actually for us as well, just to see how we’re doing, and hopefully we can really build on this and become full-time.

“Yeah, I’m super pumped. She’s an amazing person. I wouldn’t be here without her from that point of view. I think all of the women involved, me, myself, the other ones, I think we’re pretty grateful for her really fighting for this and getting it going.”

Tatiana Calderon races at Belle Isle last weekend. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

De Silvestro isn’t the only woman on the grid this weekend. Tatiana Calderon is back in the No. 11 Dallara-Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing too. She’s running all the road/street courses so this will be her 6th appearance of the season making this the 1st time in nearly a decade that we’ve had more than 2 females in a single race.

“Yeah, first of all I’m super happy to see another female driver joining the grid, to see women in motorsport,” Calderon said. “I think it’s great for the series, great for the sport. Is another very competitive driver joining the grid that is already quite competitive. Yeah, looking forward to see Simona and compete against her this weekend and in the next couple of rounds.”

De Silvestro says that when she first came to the series in 2010, there were quite a few females competing. It’s wild how much has changed on that front since then she says.

“It’s interesting the last few times it hasn’t really happened. I think in a sense, seeing at a top level it’s only going to be the two of us, but I think the trend has changed a little bit, there’s some up-and-coming. If you look at the junior series, I think it’s much more common to see female drivers, which I think is really positive.

“But for sure, I think being the two of us in a top series, also hopefully get results, I think it can encourage even more girls to go driving and all that. I think it’s really important that we are able to be competing in INDYCAR.”

Calderon agreed. She looked up to De Silvestro and Danica Patrick and now she’s happy she finally gets to share the track with her.

” I look up to Simona, Danica. There was Bea at some races when I was there, as well. It’s a shame it was a long period the last couple of years that we hadn’t had somebody in the top level of single-seaters.

“I think sometimes you have to see it to believe it, for the young generation to say I want to be in INDYCAR, because there are females that can compete against men in a very competitive championship.

“I hope that together we can keep that momentum going and to see more females starting also in single-seaters because at the end that’s what we need. It’s a circle, so hopefully there will be more and more joining us in the future, and we can stay and represent women in the best possible way.”

First up though is this weekend for which both feel like they’re not quite there yet in terms of race winning potential…..yet.

“You know, it’s been very tough for me coming as a rookie with very little testing,” Calderson said. “So I think we have improved particularly, like, in the road courses where I can, like, explore the limit of the car a little bit more. These street circuits are really tough here, compared to Europe even or some other places. The bumps that you experience in Detroit, for example, I think that’s unique from INDYCAR that you can have all these kind of tracks.

“I’ve been enjoying suffering a little bit, as well. It’s tough, but we like the good competition. Yeah, hopefully once we get to places where I’ve been before, like Indy GP again, Mid-Ohio where I tested for the first time last year in July, to go to familiar places, I hope that our performance can continue to improve.

“I think the first time I did more than 20 laps in the car was, like, in the race in St. Petersburg. Then to understand a little bit the tires like I’m used to, like Pirelli, the Yokohama I was running in Super Formula a few years back. It’s a very different type of tire and style I think you need in INDYCAR.

“Just getting a little bit of the specific style for this type of car, a bit heavier, but good power. I think it took me a little bit longer than I would want to. Also because we started with the street circuits. It’s a little bit more challenging to explore the limit of the car when you know the wall is right there, and if you miss the track time in a place like this.

“Yeah, I think just understanding a little bit more of the car behavior and the tires is what will bring me more performance towards the end of the year.”

De Silvestro said that the expectations on their front are similar.

“Yeah, I think the last time I was at Road America was 2009. Yeah, it’s been quite a while,” she said. “But I don’t know. For me, the expectation, I think at the end of the day you want to do the best job you can. I think we have to be realistic as well. We have not tested. It’s the middle of the season, all these guys and girls have been running half the season already. We need to see where we kind of stack up.

“I think for me in a sense, I’m really looking forward to getting back in an INDYCAR. So from that point of view I think I’ll push quite hard to get up to speed as quickly as I can.

“Yeah, I don’t know. I think if we do our job correctly, I think we can be on the competitive side for sure. I don’t think we can win the race or be a podium. I don’t think. I think that’s really unrealistic. Even if we see Will (Power) qualifying 16th and stuff like that, I think the field is super deep.

“From that point of view, yeah, I think we have to be realistic. We just need to do our job correctly and just kind of, yeah, keep chipping away at it, finishing the race. I think if we do everything correctly, I think the race could be all right.”

Luckily, De Silvestro says that when she was in the car last year, it felt similar because the chassis is the same as it was when she last left. It’s the Aeroscreen that has changed and it’s caused her to maybe overthink it a bit.

“Definitely with the Aeroscreen it seems the behavior of the car has changed quite a lot, as well as looking at the onboard looks different than how I used to drive it.

“To be honest at the moment, I haven’t driven it. I’m a bit maybe overthinking sometimes a little bit. I need to go into the weekend and see what we got.

“The good thing is it’s been quite a while. I think in a sense I won’t really remember how it really felt like so I can start from a blank sheet and work from there. I think a lot of the guys who have been running a lot, I think the Aeroscreen changed that a lot. I think they’ve been trying to get the feel they used to have without it. In that sense for me it’s been so long that maybe I’ll just hopefully adapt to it a little bit quicker.

“But the other thing, I only haven’t done a really long race, like an INDYCAR race in a while. I did GT last year where I think we were in the car for like 45 minutes. I think that’s going to be interesting to be back in the car for two hours.

“I don’t know. For me, I feel like a little kid again getting to drive an INDYCAR. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten how to drive so I think we’ll be okay.”

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