“I’ve earned my stripes”

Simona de Silvestro has set her sights on Formula E with Amlin Andretti. The Swiss racer tells Current E that the key to the new electric series is to find the limits – fast.

“Not again,” groans Simona de Silvestro, as Current E photographer Shiv Gohil drags her off for another set of portrait shots at the launch of the Amlin Andretti partnership.

With long dark hair tumbling across her face and a mischievous smile that flashes across her features frequently, the Swiss driver is relaxed, good natured and clearly at ease with life. Having debuted with Andretti at the first season finale in London, di Silvestro is gearing up to mount a proper Formula E campaign with the American team in season two.

“London came about a bit last minute but I had a lot of fun,” she says. “It’s always hard when you come into a series and everybody knows the cars. But it was enjoyable. It’s good to be in a full championship again and driving.”

The compressed race day programme and the tight, bumpy track proved to be challenging for a driver who has both F1 and IndyCar experience. “I’m kind of used to street courses but London was something that was completely different,” de Silvestro says. “I thought that, because the car’s electric, it’s not going to feel as fast. It did feel pretty quick because of how the track was built. There’s not much space! When you’re in the car, it feels like a race car. I was trying to drive the wheels off it!”

Getting to grips with the tracks fast is critical in this series, the Swiss racer says: “In Formula E, you can’t do many changes because there isn’t time. You just have to deal with what you have. That’s why the drivers like it. It’s down to you to figure it out.”

“Figuring it out” requires brains as well as bravery – and understanding how to get the best out of the electric racing car. “There’s a lot more energy management than in any other series I’ve been in,” says de Silvestro. “How you drive the car is really different, especially the braking. That’s something you need a bit of time to get used to. At the end of the day, you want to be competitive so you try to understand as much as you can, as fast as you can. You have to be pretty aggressive because there’s not much practice. You have to find the limit very quickly. In other series, there’s time to do that, to try different things. In Formula E, you have to be aggressive right away.”

With a new Andretti powertrain to look forward to, de Silvestro believes the second season should be even more of a wild ride. “It’s always cool to be part of a new project, especially when the team is building the powertrain – it’s exciting to be there right away,” she says. “You can see everybody working towards a common goal. That’s really special. In season two, we’ll be able to go even harder and longer so the racing should be even better.”

As for season two goals, de Silvestro shies away from talking titles but is convinced she’s in with as good a chance as any. “I feel like I’ve earned my stripes in motorsports,” she says. “If the powertrain is working well, we want to be running up at the front. If we can be competitive in Formula E this year that would be a really good thing, because everybody knows the drivers who are in this field know how to drive a race car.”

As far as de Silvestro is concerned, her immediate driving future is one powered by volts. “As a driver, you always dream about F1 or IndyCar,” de Silvestro admits. “When you’re young you always think about those. That’s where you want to go, no matter what. Then you realise it’s not so much dependent on what you do – it’s more about how to find people who support you. It’s all about money right now. Then you start looking at where you have an opportunity to actually drive and focus on the job. That’s what Formula E is able to do right now and I think that’s why the level of drivers is high. It’s the place to be right now, that’s for sure.”

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