Marshall Pruett -
Simona de Silvestro will be an affiliated driver with Sauber this year with a goal of competing for a Formula One seat in 2015.
The IndyCar Series will lose one of its brightest and most popular stars this season as she pursues the dream that has motivated her since childhood. If all goes well, Simona de Silvestro could find herself on the Formula 1 grid in 2015, and to give herself the best chance to succeed, the 25-year-old will dedicate the rest of the year preparing for a Grand Prix future that comes with no guarantees.
Coming off her fourth IndyCar season, one where the native of Switzerland recorded her best finish of second at Houston Round 1, the former KV Racing driver will embark on an intensive track testing regimen with the Ferrari-powered Sauber F1 team.
The Swiss team recruited de Silvestro for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas last October, aiding Sauber and the F1 series with its F1 in Schools program. From that firsthand interaction, a plan was hatched to bring two of Switzerland’s biggest names in motor racing together with the goal of preparing de Silvestro for a future race seat.
“F1 for me has always been my dream and my ultimate goal,” de Silvestro told RACER. “The opportunity that has presented itself with Sauber is pretty huge, and when something like this comes around, it’s special. It certainly doesn’t come around often.”
Asked if she was prepared to make the leap from IndyCar to F1, de Silvestro answered quickly and with confidence: “It’s a big jump, but I’m ready to do this.”
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was pleased to bring de Silvestro on board as an ‘affiliated driver,’ in deference to the unique program that will involve fitness training, simulator training and a significant amount of on-track testing.
“After four years in IndyCar, Simona’s ambition is to enter Formula one in 2015,” said Kaltenborn. “We regard her as a very talented race driver, and we, therefore, decided to take her on board as an ‘affiliated driver’ and support her on her way to the pinnacle of motorsport.”
Sauber’s program for the 2010 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year is centered prepping de Silvestro to gain her Super License, which she’ll need to take part in Grand Prix events. The tentative plan would see de Silvestro’s private testing program immediately after the Chinese GP on April 20.
The goal is to conduct between eight and 10 days to prepare her for official testing at Barcelona after the Spanish GP. If all goes well in Spain, she’d qualify for her Super License, allowing de Silvestro to partake in Friday Grand Prix practice at one or more events later in the year.
With her Super License in hand, the door would be open for de Silvestro join Sauber (BELOW, LAT photo) in a race seat next year. News regarding the commercial support for the initiative is expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.