Former IndyCar Series racer Simona de Silvestro had her very first taste of F1 machinery yesterday, getting behind the wheel of a two-year-old Sauber in a private test session at Ferrari’s private test track at Fiorano.
The Swiss racer was signed as an affiliate driver by the Hinwil-based team earlier this year, and has completed an extensive number of fitness and simulator sessions to prepare her for this weekend’s two-day test in the team’s podium-winning C31 racer.
The car had its KERS unit disabled for the test and was fitted with special Pirelli tyres, meaning there was no way the team could gain an advantage for its 2014 season campaign on the basis of this outing.
The car also departed from its traditional black, grey and white colour scheme, running the blue and green colour palette that de Silvestro’s fans would be familiar with from her IndyCar days. The car also featured sponsorship from her personal backers, Entergy and Clean Energy.
All up, she completed a very impressive tally of 112 laps around the twisty 2.997-kilometre layout, with her performance praised by test engineer, Paul Russell.
“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 lunchbreak 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,” he said afterwards.
“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 immediatelyclear 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.”
“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,” de Silvestro added.
“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!”
De Silvestro will have another full day behind the wheel on Sunday as part of preparation for a future test in the 2014-spec C33, which would qualify her for her FIA Super License.