Any hopes that we might see a female driver on next year’s Formula 1 grid look to be dead and buried: Simona de Silvestro’s test driving programme with the Sauber F1 Team has been terminated after her backers were unable to meet their financial obligations to keep her with the team.
The Swiss driver joined the team as an affiliate driver after a successful four-year stint in the IndyCar Series, where both sides hopes she would finally break through and become Formula 1’s first female racing driver in over 20 years.
She took part in two private test sessions and a number of PR activities for the team, and was expected to earn an FIA Super License in order to drive in Friday Practice at the United States Grand Prix at the end of the month.
She now has two major stumbling blocks: firstly, the 90-day time limit in which to apply for the Super License has lapsed; and secondly, her backers haven’t stumped up the cash that Sauber desperately needs to keep the project going.
“Simona’s driving programme will not be continued due to financial reasons on her side,” a team spokesperson confirmed.
“She does though remain an affiliated driver with the team. Future possibilities will be evaluated.”
What those possibilities are – aside from the metaphorical F1 scrapheap – remain to be seen. Sauber’s cashflow issues are well-publicised, and the team clearly needed her income stream in order to drive the project forward, rather than waiting on the money to materialise if it took the gamble of promoting her to a race seat at their own expense.
De Silvestro has been all but invisible from the F1 paddock since the European summer, suggesting that the deal has (sadly) been cold for some time.
Unfortunately no one else looks likely to snap up her services given she doesn’t have the backing, and all are ignoring the fact that she has the potential to be moderately successful if she were given the chance. You can’t put a dollar figure on what revenue that kind of success and attention would look like, but the Formula 1 paddock is certainly continuining to show its colours when it comes to being remarkably short-sighted…
Image via Sutton Images