It would appear that someone in the US Customs & Border Protection office has had a sense of humour failure, because HVM driver Simona de Silvestro has been held up returning to the United States due to what the team is politely calling “a technical issue” with the government department.

De Silvestro returned to her native Switzerland after completing a private test session at Sears Point last weekend, but she has since encountered problems trying to re-enter the United States ahead of this weekend’s event.

The delay means she won’t be participating in the opening practice sessions for the Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway, and the team has called upon the Series’ perpetual standby driver Simon Pagenaud to keep her seat warm.

The Frenchman – who has twice substituted for Dreyer & Reinbold duo Ana Beatriz and Justin Wilson this season – will drive the #78 car until such time as de Silvestro is able to arrive.

“We could never have imagined this kind of an issue going into a race weekend and it just adds more challenges to our 2011 season,” team boss Keith Wiggins said.

“But it’s in the team’s best interest to continue our programme. We’re lucky to have another world-class driver like Simon Pagenaud who’s willing to step up and work with us to achieve a successful result.”

De Silvestro has had a difficult sophomore season, suffering several major accidents on the oval circuits, including a monster crash in practice for the Indianapolis 500 from which she sustained burns to her hands.

Read our exclusive interview with Simona here.

[Original image via IZOD IndyCar Series]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.