IndyCar Driver Review: Simona de Silvestro

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

In lucky 13th in 2013, now free agent Simona de Silvestro…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW

Simona de Silvestro

  • Team: KV Racing Technology
  • 2012: 24th Place, Best Finish 13th, Best Start 17th
  • 2013: 13th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 15.4 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: This was always supposed to be Simona’s breakout season with a switch to KV and a sixth at St. Petersburg – which would have been a podium but for fading tires – provided the first glimpse that the popular Swiss was back in the game after a year in the Lotus wilderness. But despite a quick start, she and the KV team fell into the lower midfield in the midseason even as her confidence on ovals improved. It wasn’t until Mid-Ohio that everything clicked once more and fortunately de Silvestro was able to finish with a flourish, five straight top-10s including her first podium at Houston Race 1. It was a big step forward for her as she and her management team evaluates potential suitors in 2014.

Estrada says: De Silvestro’s 2013 season can be summed up in six words: Good start, bad middle, good finish. Three Top-10s in the first four races were nice to see from her after being saddled with the appallingly bad Lotus engine in 2012, but as summer took hold, she fell back considerably with just one Top-10 in the next 10 races. However, things came back around for her as the season wound down and the runner-up performance in Houston Race 1 must have felt exceptional for her considering what she went through the year before. She feels confident that things are coming together for her in IndyCar, and I’m inclined to agree.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”