Simona de Silvestro secured a needed and well-deserved fifth-place finish in the Grand Prix of Baltimore on Sunday. Yet her two IZOD IndyCar Series career top-five finishes could not be more different in terms of magnitude. If her first was about her star potential, this one was a sigh of relief after a challenging two-and-a-half year period.
Her first, at the 2011 season opener in St. Petersburg, heralded her as a star of the future in dragging an overmatched HVM Racing Dallara up to a place it had no position being. She nearly beat Tony Kanaan for a podium as Kanaan was racing with a new team, KV Racing Technology-Lotus, and an engineer, Michael Cannon, who had served as de Silvestro’s during her 2010 rookie campaign.
Flash forward to Sunday, and honestly, this was one earned by survival rather than outright pace. But it’s funny how things came full circle. Good luck finally fell on de Silvestro on Sunday, her 25th birthday. Since that first top-five she has had to endure several bad oval accidents, a full year with the woeful and underpowered Lotus engine, and has moved to KV this year as Kanaan’s teammate but not had a great season.
De Silvestro started 17th in the No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva Chevrolet and was into the top 10 for the first time on Lap 13, at the first caution. From there she largely ran anywhere between eighth and 12th but more importantly, never had major damage from any of the contact instances that popped up in the second half of the race. She was up to sixth on the final restart on Lap 66 and passed the ailing Marco Andretti to secure the result.
“I’m definitely really happy with P5. It was kind of a crazy race. I don’t think we had the fastest car out there, but we had a pretty good call on the pits when we got stuck in one of the wrecks,” she said. “After that we were able to move forward and had some pretty good restarts. The Nuclear Clean Air Energy car was really good at the end, so I’m pretty happy with it for sure. Not a bad way to celebrate my birthday.”
Throughout the entirety of the struggles she has maintained her composure and sunny disposition in a way few have been able to do. It was nice to see her break her duck on Sunday, but it would be even better if she could replicate the result in a race that isn’t such a lottery.