You moved to America early in your career, fighting your way to IndyCar via Formula BMW USA and Atlantic Championship. Do you feel like you are coming home?
De Silvestro: Little, because Indianapolis and the IndyCar chain shaped my career. I was lucky enough to compete in this tournament for four seasons. The races are very close and exciting, and the Indy 500 is something very special. In Europe you can only compare it to Monaco or Le Mans. I am very happy to be back in Indy.
What are the characteristics of the American racing scene?
De Silvestro: In America they see themselves more as a community, while in Europe sometimes there is a little bit of camp thinking. At IndyCar, everyone knows each other, everyone talks to everyone.
How many cars have changed since your last 500 Indy cars?
De Silvestro: In my last race in 2015, regulations were more open and allowed Chevrolet and Honda to develop their own air crews. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t so fortunate that the Honda’s pneumatic kit wasn’t as fast as the Chevy’s. This was a shame because I drove the Andretti Autosport, which has always had good cars in the Indy 500. In addition to the aerodynamics, which are now the same for everyone, the biggest difference is the windshield, that is, the halo base windshield. The driving is still very similar, and once you get used to the hydro aquarium above your head, you feel safe in the car. That was a big step forward for IndyCar.
In the next few days, temperatures are expected to reach 30 degrees in Indianapolis. Expect extreme car temperatures due to the air barrier?
De Silvestro: After the street circuit race in Saint Petersburg, my teammates talked about heat problems. But as drivers, we train for something like this and prepare for hot conditions. So I am not worried, either because it is not as extreme in oval shape as it is in street circuits.
Did you have to change your readiness for Indy?
De Silvestro: Since I’ve mostly driven in enclosed cars with power steering for the past five years, I’ve really had to train a little bit. Due to a lack of steering assistance at IndyCar, for example, I did more strength training than usual.
The guest starter is part of a special project. What is the name of Paretta Autosport?
De Silvestro: It is a whole new team with a new philosophy. The initiator is Beth Barretta, who ran Dodge Motorsport programs. Her big dream is to build a team that gives women racing opportunities. This is something I’ve always been missing when looking at my career like this. In other words, something that provides the right environment at the right time and in the right place. Beth put it all together well and found Roger Pinsky’s must-have strong support. It’s especially cool, for example, that the pit crew also consists of women. They have been training every day since January and are now just as fast as boys. This is a great opportunity for everyone on the team.
Roger Penske’s team will act as Indy Technical Partner. How far does the collaboration go?
De Silvestro: We will be part of the Penske team, otherwise the project will not be successful. Mechanics participating in the project learn from colleagues on the Penske team and train directly on site. I also attend debriefing sessions with other Penske pilots that I have known for many years. As a team, we learn from the best and have great respect for each other.
Does this reassure you regarding disqualification for the first 33 places on Sunday (23.5)?
De Silvestro: Bump Day is of course in the room and something can always happen. We’ve all seen that not even Fernando Alonso entered the race. But the car, the preparation so far, and contacting the Penske team makes me confident. I know it’s my best chance so far. But I feel more anticipation than the pressure because I have all the tools for a good race. That’s a great feeling and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the right people on Team Penske and Paretta Autosport.
With Janet Guthrie, Danica Patrick and more recently Peppa Man, some female role models were already at the start of the Indy 500. So was the scene more progressive in that regard or did your colleagues have to fight hard for these opportunities at the time?
De Silvestro: I think the strong personalities of these riders beat the odds in the end. Because America is more open in this regard and provides more opportunities, but here, too, it took time. When I was driving full time in IndyCar from 2010 to 2013 and until I made it to the podium, no big team knocked on my door. This is exactly why Paretta Autosport is now such a milestone and also the satisfaction of fellow drivers like Catherine Legge, who have fought for women in racing for years.
For me, it was important that the project was seriously prepared along with this letter. Nowadays, it just doesn’t work out in motorsport if you try something on your own. You have to have people around you who believe in them and are willing to help. That is clearly the case here with Roger Pinsky. It was clear to him from the start: If we do it, we’ll get it right. I’m so proud that Beth Barretta and Roger Pinesk immediately thought of me.
What are your additional plans for the 2021 season?
De Silvestro: As a Porsche driver, I’m competing with Klaus Bachler for the Herberth Motorsport in this year’s ADAC GT Masters. I am also a replacement driver for a Porsche Formula E project.
You still know the first generation Formula E. What’s the difference?
De Silvestro: In a race, it is normal for things to keep moving. But what has happened in Formula E over the past few years has been pretty cool. While the first generation didn’t feel well thought out, today’s cars can now be driven like real racing cars thanks to better brakes and motors.
Has Formula E now found its place in global motorsport?
De Silvestro: When I think of 15 years, I don’t even start thinking of electric racing cars. Now, with Formula E, there is a world championship of its own, which offers incredibly good races and can inspire people. This indicates that a lot has happened. There are many new opportunities for us racing drivers and we can help develop the cars of the future. So Formula E has found a good spot and will keep on its way.
Your calendar currently looks like the dream of many racing drivers. In addition to the mentioned projects, she also has a pass in Nordschleife. Are you at the height of your career?
De Silvestro: It’s great to be able to lead great races on so many great chains. As a driver, it is natural to dream of participating in such events. Thanks to new projects such as LMDh sports car models, even more exciting possibilities will soon appear.