De Silvestro has positive return to IndyCar, unlucky race for Calderon at Road America
Two female racers shared the grid for a non-Indy 500 IndyCar event for the first time since 2013: Simona de Silvestro and Tatiana Calderon tackled the challenging Road America circuit. Ot her return to the series and with no testing, the Swiss had a very positive clean race close to the Top-20. It all went wrong for Calderon after a series of unfortunate events. Here's what happened on the eventful weekend.
It had been a while since Simona de Silvestro had started a road course race in IndyCar - more precisely, her last non-Indy 500 race was in 2015. Additionally, it was her first race of the season - making it an even more challenging return.
The last time the Swiss driver had sat in her Paretta Autosport #16 Chevrolet was the 2021 Indy500, when she made history in a thrilling bump day and went on to run a promising race until an unfortunate brake issue. Back in 2015, de Silvestro entered a three race program with Andretti Autosport, scoring an outstanding 4th place best finish at New Orleans.
A lot has changed since then - with cars being the most obvious difference. The series now employs a spec kit instead of different manufacturers' aero packages, plus every car is now equipped with the "new" aero screen that has significantly changed the balance of the car. Simona had a lot to learn in her 70th IndyCar race start, as she joined Tatiana Calderon on the grid - at her first season in Indycar, in a street and road course program with AJ Foyt Racing.
Coming off a positive weekend at Belle Isle, Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) scored pole position ahead of Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) and Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing). It was the first pole for Rossi since the 2019 Detroit round.
Tatiana Calderon qualified in P26 and Simona de Silvestro in P27, after both couldn´t progress in their respective qualifying groups.
Alexander Rossi led the field into the first turn ahead of Newgarden and Palou. Shortly after the race start, the first full course yellow was out when Jimmy Johnson (Chip Ganassi) spun while trying to go around the outside of Tatiana Calderon (A. J. Foyt Enterprises) and ran out of track, ending stranded in the gravel.
The restart was a short one, as behind Rossi and Newgarden, Palou and his teammate Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing) made contact and the reigning champion got stuck in the gravel, later retiring from the race. Fresh indy500 champion Marcus Ericsson was able to continue the race.
At the following restart, Rossi had some work to do to defend his position against Newgarden. Meanwhile, Pato O´Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) was the first driver on the black harder compound, in fifth place. And the drama wasn't over, as Will Power (Team Penske) made a slight contact with Devlin DeFrancesco (Andretti Autosport) and spun. He lost the nose of his car and was forced to pit before continuing the race.
Finally, the third restart was the beginning of a longer green flag phase. Rossi led the race ahead of Newgarden and Ericsson, until the leading group came in for the first pit stop. Newgarden passed Rossi with a faster stop, as it became clear that the whole field would go for a three-stop-strategy.
After a cleaner race, Pato O´Ward stopped on track with an engine failure with eight laps to go. The gaps were neutralized and Rossi had another chance for the win - but the green flag was again a short one as Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing) spun and the race was immediately back to yellow again.
With three laps to go, Newgarden pulled away immediately. Rossi, however, had more troubles and lost his second place to Ericsson into turn 1. They crossed the chequered flag in that order: Newgarden became the first driver this season to win on three different types of circuit and claimed 1 Million US-Dollar from the PeopleReady bonus. Half the prize will be donated and the rest will go to Newgarden and his crew.
Simona de Silvestro drove a calm and collected race, finishing in a solid 21st place. Impressively, with no prior practice in her #16 Paretta Autosport Chevrolet she was close to a Top20 result.
"This weekend has been a dream come true", said de Silvestro. "To be honest it wasn’t an easy weekend jumping back into one of these beasts straight into a race weekend", she added. "But I feel that today in the race things started to click again and I am very happy about that."
"I think it was really important to finish this race", Simona added. "We had so much going on with me getting back in the car, getting to know the team again and working with my engineer. But we finished and I think we can be pretty happy because things started to come together at the end. It's something to build on."
Tatiana Calerdon had a more troubled race, as she first made contact with Jimmie Johnson at the beginning of the race. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of her unfortunate race. With a missing race engineer and a telemetry malfunction, she had fuel issues as the they ran out of fuel during the pit stop and received two penalties because of speeding in the pit lane due to a wrongly-set speed limiter, ultimately bringing home her #11 Dallara in 25th place.
"Nothing turned out the way we wanted", Tatiana commented.
"It was quite a difficult weekend for the whole team. Today my engineer was sick and couldn't be here, the telemetry didn't work and we couldn't calculate fuel and I ran out of fuel."
"When I got to the pits the fuel pump had air in and the car wouldn't start and we lost a lot of time there. Also the pitlane limiter was wrong, so I had a penalty for exceeding the speed limit, that's why we finished so far from the lead of the race."
"In any case, we have to do a lot of analysis work to improve on the circuits, so we need more laps, more experience and now I'm looking forward to Mid-Ohio, which was where I tried an Indy Car for the first time, so at least I know the track. Thanks for the support and see you in a few weeks." - Tatiana Calderon concluded.
Nevertheless, the last IndyCar race was the first time two female entries shared the grid since the final 2013 round at Fontana, when Simona de Silvesto and Pippa Mann raced outside the Indy500.
The next event will take place on 3rd July at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with both Tatiana Calderon and Simona de Silvestro on the grid.