Simona de Silvestro rounds out 2022 IndyCar campaign at Laguna Seca
The title showdown wasn't the only exciting point about the IndyCar season finale: Simona de Silvestro was back for the fourth race of her 2022 campaign at Laguna Seca. And it was a really solid end of the season for Paretta Autosport, with promising pace to build on for next year.
The last race of the 2022 IndyCar season saw an exciting championship showdown between five drivers which culminated in an on-track battle that crowned Will Power at Laguna Seca, ending another epic IndyCar season.
At the same time, one of the most exciting talking points of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca was Paretta Autosport's return to the track, for Simona de Silvestro's fourth race of the partial campaign for the female-forward team - on one of the Swiss driver's favorite tracks.
De Silvestro returned to IndyCar with Beth Paretta's brand new project last year, in a one-off that saw the team making history and qualifying for the Indy500.
In 2022, Paretta worked endlessly to secure a place on the grid and, with partnership with Ed Carpenter Racing, entered the #16 machine of Simona De Silvestro at Road America, Mid-Ohio and Nashville.
After an unlucky retirement on the streets of Nashville, Paretta Autosport announced it would add one more round in 2022 - the season finale at Laguna Seca.
"We're happy to be here for the finale for the IndyCar season and happy to add our fourth race with our new sponsor, TurnOnGreen", said Team Principal Beth Paretta, presenting Simona's new bright green livery.
"It's great to get Simona back on track. She hasn't been here since 2009."
In 2009, De Silvestro was under the international spotlight as she fought for the title in the extremely competitive Formula Atlantic championship. With four wins and nine podiums to her name, De Silvestro was on the path to become the first woman to win a major single-seater championship.
She went on to race in six editions of the Indy500, as well in some of the most highly-ranked international racing competitions in the world, including Australian Supercars, Formula E and a stint as development driver in Formula 1.
"It was the first day back so just getting the groove back together", commented Simone De Silvestro after practice at the Californian iconic racetrack. "It's always a fun place to drive."
"On blacks (tires), I felt we're pretty close and then on reds (tires) it just didn't extract all of it.", she explained. "But, yeah, as a team we have a bit of work. Tomorrow's a new day and we know the direction we want so that's really important."
Championship leader Will Power scored his 68th pole at the challenging track to break the record of Mario Andretti for most career pole positions. His closest rival in the championship, Josef Newgarden, started from P25 after a costly qualifying mistake; Scott Dixon would start from P13, Marcus Ericsson from P9 and Scott McLaughling from P7. Power's second IndyCar title felt a bit closer.
Simona De Silvestro had a rough qualifying: "We got stuck behind drivers who were gapping and we just didn't get to put a [good] lap in, which was a bummer", she explained, having set the 26th fastest time.
"This morning I felt it was going to be a good day because we had improved the car from the first practice and I thought we were going to have a good qualifying result. Anyways, it is what it is and we’ll go out there tomorrow and do our best."
Will Power was in a hurry and had the best start into the 95 lap-long race, followed by Alexander Rossi. At the first pit stops, drivers who started on the red softer tire compound changed to blacks. Power had a good pit stop and, after the first round of stops, he retained the lead, with reigning champion Alex Palou right behind him and followed by Pato O´Ward and Callum Ilott.
Ilott was forced to retire soon after for a technical issue that brought out the only caution of the race. Palou, from 11th place on the grid, passed Power for the lead on lap 27 with the faster Red tires.
Power and Palou came in the same lap for the second stop, as everyone took advantage of the caution to pit for fuel and fresh tires. Palou remained ahead of Power and Felix Rosenqvist and, when the track was green again, he pulled away. Newgarden tried to charge back and would pass O'Ward, Rosenqvist and Power - but he had no chance to catch up with Palou, as the latter showed great pace.
Alex Palou won with an over 30 second gap, ahead of Newgarden and Power - who was still in a position to secure his second IndyCar title of his career, after his first championship-winning campaign in 2014.
Christian Lundgaard was P6 and became Rookie of the Year; David Malukas - who was leading the rankings before the race - took the chequered flag in 13th position.
Simona de Silvestro had once again a solid race and finished in P22 at the end of the 95 laps around Laguna Seca. She moved up to P16 at one point in the race, before settling around the 20th position. With just four races in the entire racing season, De Silvestro showed some great adaptability and improvements, as the team is clearly developing race after race.
“The race was not too bad", De Silvestro stated. "We did three stops, but I think four might have been a bit better in the long run."
"I felt we had really good pace and were able to pass people, which was positive", she continued. "For the whole weekend, we had good pace. For today’s race we had a few things happen in the pits, so if we cleaned a couple little things, and even me with the few mistakes here and there, we can be really competitive." - she added.
"I feel like our team is growing from that point of view so that is really positive and hope to do more of it.”
While the 2023 calendar hasn't been announced yet, hopefully we will see Paretta Autosport back on the grid - and with an extended program that would give both the team and the driver the opportunity to improve the car. At the same time, Paretta Autosport is a light of hope for women on the Road to Indy, as more female drivers move up the ladder.
The team has been making big steps - which are also important steps for the sport.