The Swiss driver - who was the Indy500 Rookie of the year in 2010 - is back: Simona de Silvestro will return to the Indy500 in the female-led new team Paretta Autosport, hopefully launching a new chapter in IndyCar's increased diversity.
Six years after her last IndyCar participation, Swiss racing driver Simona de Silvestro will be back for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, in the female-led new team Paretta Autosport and in association with Penske, targeting an increased equality in the category.
Paretta Autosport is in fact a new NTT IndyCar team owned by Beth Paretta: she was the first female director of a performance brand and motorsport operations (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and in this position, Paretta led the racing programs with success. She is also a board member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and has now launched Paretta Autosports to lead diversity initiatives in a category that has not seen a female entry this year for the first time in 20 years.
“Today is the beginning of a commitment to gender equity in sport, to encourage women to work hard so they can earn their seat at the table or spot on the grid,” Paretta Autosport Team Principal Beth Paretta said. “INDYCAR has been a leader and a welcoming place for women for many years because of the hard work of many women and men before us, but now we have a stronger commitment with INDYCAR’s ‘Race for Equality & Change’ to make sure opportunities continue in the future."
Iron Maiden - as Simona is nicknamed in the US - started racing in karting at the age of 7, before stepping up to single seaters in the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 series.
In 2006, de Silvestro competed in Formula BMW USA, as she started her successful career in the United States, followed by her multiple race winning campaign in the 2009 Toyota Atlantic championship.
Her IndyCar came one year later and she was awarded Indy500 Rookie of the Year and with the Tony Renna Firestone Rising Star. Her first podium in IndyCar came in 2013 at Houston, where she claimed her best finish to date with second.
Her nickname 'Iron Maiden' comes from her second IndyCar season with HVM Racing, when a huge crash occurred to de Silvestro in the Indy500 test day for the Indy500 resulted in a big fire surrounding the driver. With second degree burns to the back of her right hand and superficial burns to her left hand, Simona managed complete the qualifying session on the next day and qualified for the 95th Indy500.
After her USA journey, de Silvestro moved to Australia and was the first woman to compete full-time in the Supercars series, Australian's premier motor racing championship.
She then joined Porsche as a factory driver and reserve driver in Formula E, position that she keeps to this day alongside her commitments in the ADAC GT Masters championship in Germany. With today's announcement, Simona de Silvestro pursues her sixth Indy500 start in 2021.
“I am very excited to have this incredible opportunity to return to Indianapolis and the Indy 500 with Paretta Autosport this year,” De Silvestro said. “My career really took off through my time competing in INDYCAR and the Indy 500, so returning to compete with Beth and her new team in alliance with Team Penske is a special and rare chance in my career."
"Being part of the goal of diversity and inclusion for everyone, and especially women in INDYCAR, and in motorsports in general, is very important to me and how I would like to see the future of racing. I want to thank the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for taking such an important leadership role in providing gender and overall diversity inclusion in motorsports.”
The 2021 Indy500 is scheduled for the 30th May.