Put simply, her signing puts Sauber’s two 2014 race drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez already on notice.
Sutil will enter his seventh season this season and first with Sauber, Gutierrez his second. The German has been a serviceable midfielder his last three seasons with Force India, while Gutierrez showed some promise at times during his rookie campaign with Sauber this year.
The inter-team battle between these two will be fascinating to watch, because the Monisha Kaltenborn-led team has a deep pool in reserve.
If you were to make up a projected depth chart, de Silvestro would be third behind team reserve Giedo van der Garde and Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who is a confirmed test driver.
Van der Garde has the most experience in Formula One machinery and is the only one with Grands Prix under his belt. Sirotkin has the potential to bring in a Russian sponsorship package and will no doubt improve with a year’s worth of racing experience in the World Series by Renault.
Don’t underestimate the potential of Ferrari’s role in this, either. Ferrari has been a consistent partner with Sauber on-and-off since 1997 (excluding the BMW Sauber years), and de Silvestro and Ferrari have a connection from the announcement she would race in at least one weekend of the new Ferrari winter series.
If de Silvestro makes it into Formula One in 2015, she’d be the first female driver entered on a race weekend since Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992. Amati failed to qualify in her three starts for the Brabham team.
The last female driver to qualify for a Grand Prix was the late Lella Lombardi at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix; Lombardi is also the only female to score in the World Championship, with a half point achieved for sixth place in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuich Park.
Five drivers: Lombardi, Amati, Maria Teresa de Filippis, Divina Galica and Desire Wilson, have participated in a Grand Prix weekend. Susie Wolff has also tested for Williams in recent years; the late Maria de Villota was a test driver for Marussia before her tragic 2012 accident.
The benchmark for North American sports car racing teams this century, arguably, has been Corvette Racing.
And on Saturday, the Corvette Racing team hit the century-win landmark.
A 1-2 finish led by longtime Corvette Racing stalwart Oliver Gavin, the winningest driver in Corvette Racing history, and newish recruit Tommy Milner, now in his sixth season of the team, occurred during the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock.
“It is pretty amazing to get the 100th,” Gavin said. “We have had some great wins this year. When you look at Daytona, that was phenomenal; Sebring too. Our Le Mans win last year. But to get the 100th is pretty special. I have to thank the team and everybody involved. I have had a few of the wins with the team, but I have to say this is a pretty special one. To fight off the No. 67 car and having our teammates on the podium. It is pretty special for everyone at Corvette Racing!”
“I feel very lucky to say I was in the car that got the 100th win for this team, but you think about all the people that have worked on this team; all of the drivers; the crew, the marketing and PR people, everybody that have contributed to this, I just feel fortunate to be a part of that. It is good to get that monkey off of our back. It was a small monkey, but it was lingering,” Milner added.
The pair of Corvette C7.Rs have soldiered on despite being hampered by certain Balance of Performance adjustments – most noticeably at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans – and returned to the top step of the podium on Saturday following great drives from all four of the team’s drivers. Besides Gavin and Milner up front in the No. 4 car, the “King of Spain” Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen also scythed through the field to end second in the sister No. 3 car.
Corvette Racing first and foremost is a team though, and while it’s program manager Doug Fehan who has always been front-and-center for the Pratt & Miller outfit, the team’s crew is a huge reason why it has achieved the success it has since 1999.
“If you’re going to win your 100th race, you may as well do it with a 1-2 finish,” Fehan said after the race on Saturday.
“We never diminish the input the engineers have in giving the team great Corvettes, and the crew today just had absolutely terrific pit stops. But today, this one goes to the drivers. On this race track and in these conditions, those guys brought it home. I’m tipping my hat to the drivers today.”
Added Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, “Achieving 100 victories is a tremendous accomplishment for Corvette Racing. It’s a testament to the dedication of all the crew members, engineers, drivers and our engine team members over the past 17 years. We certainly couldn’t have achieved this milestone without the support of our partners at Pratt & Miller, Mobil 1 and Michelin. Everyone with Corvette Racing operates as one team and embodies the competitive spirit of Chevrolet. We’re happy to share this success with our passionate Corvette owners and supporters.”
From a team release, here’s the breakdown of wins:
The Corvette Racing team made its first start Jan. 31, 1999 at Daytona. Since that time, the program has claimed championships and victories on endurance racing’s most prominent stages:
Ten manufacturer and team championships in the American Le Mans Series, plus nine driver titles
Eight class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Three wins in the Rolex 24 including an overall victory in 2001
Ten class wins at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
Corvette Racing also claimed endurance racing’s Triple Crown in 2015 with wins at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. It was the first team in 15 years to accomplish the feat.
The tally of Corvette Racing victories spans a number of different series. In addition to its record at Le Mans, Corvette Racing has nine wins in the WeatherTech (formerly TUDOR) SportsCar Championship, 82 in the American Le Mans Series (a record for entrants) and one in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
Here’s a recap video and congratulatory message from Corvette Racing’s longtime tire technical partner, Michelin:
“We are pleased that since Corvette Racing switched to Michelin for the 2004 racing season, the last 75 wins have been with us,” said Ken Payne, technical director motorsports, Michelin North America.
“We want to congratulate our friends at Chevrolet, GM Motorsports, Pratt & Miller, and the entire Corvette Racing teams and drivers on this milestone win.”
Here’s a congratulatory message from longtime oil partner Mobil 1:
British circuit Snetterton has renamed one of its corners in honor of Justin Wilson.
Wilson was killed last August after being struck by debris in a Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono, sustaining severe head injuries.
The British driver spent much of his junior career racing at tracks around the UK, including Snetterton.
Wilson won the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi title back in 1998, a series run by Snetterton owner and ex-Formula 1 driver Jonathan Palmer, the track being part of his MotorSport Vision group.
Palmer worked with Wilson to help him get onto the F1 grid, and the two maintained a close friendship.
On Monday, officials at Snetterton announced that the Montreal hairpin has now been renamed the Wilson hairpin. A special corner board will be placed on the run towards the Wilson hairpin featuring his name and his iconic helmet design.
“Justin Wilson, the champion of my inaugural Formula Palmer Audi championship, thoroughly deserved the support which that success brought him, and it was enormously satisfying to watch him make the best possible use of every opportunity he had through to F1 and IndyCar racing,” Palmer said.
“But not only was Justin an outstanding racing driver, he was also the epitome of a true sportsman, earning universal respect and admiration.
“He leaves a lasting legacy that we will cherish and perpetuate, with the naming of Wilson corner at Snetterton an important part of that.”
Justin’s younger brother, Stefan, who raced at this year’s Indianapolis 500, added: “This is such an incredible gesture by MSV and I know Justin would be very honoured and humbled to learn that he has a corner here at Snetterton named after him.
“Snetterton has a special place in our memories as our dad raced here back in the 1960s and he would tell us stories of racing down the old Norwich straight. Plus, Justin and I raced here many times in our own careers.”
The first event to take place at Snetterton using the Wilson hairpin will be this weekend’s British Touring Car Championship round. All three races will take place on Sunday – what would have been Wilson’s 38th birthday.
Tony George’s new title was made public during Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 (for all intents and purposes, the Brickyard 400) before he gave the command to start engines.
That title is Chairman of the Board of Hulman & Co., which is the parent company of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He replaces Mari Hulman George, his mother, in the role. He’d been voted out of his leadership positions in 2009 before rejoining the board in 2013.
The change actually occurred in March, but wasn’t made public until Sunday – as ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz writes, it actually took a bit of attention off a less than scintillating Brickyard 400 on track.
NBCSN contributor Robin Miller spoke to Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Co., in a RACER.com post to explain what Tony George’s role will be.
“This has no effect on management, policies or strategies. The board has worked hard the past two years to have a clear strategy and that isn’t changing,” Miles told Miller, who also confirmed Mari Hulman George’s new designation of Chairman Emeritus.
Tony George has remained an ever-present presence in North American open-wheel racing for most of the last 25 years.
His dissatisfaction over the direction CART was going led, eventually, to the creation of the Indy Racing League (now IndyCar) in 1994 before its race debut in 1996. That 1994 year was the same year that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) ran its first Brickyard 400.
While IndyCar has spent the 20 years since the fractious IRL/CART split recovering (a long-form chronicle of May 26, 1996 is linked here) and is on better ground now than it was several years ago, George’s contributions and enhancements to both IMS and racing safety in general cannot be overlooked.
His work to get the first SAFER barrier installed at IMS would eventually lead that to becoming the industry standard on ovals nationwide.
George was also a team owner with Vision Racing (ran through 2009), and has remained a semi-visible presence with stepson Ed Carpenter Racing since that team first took the grid in 2012.
Following his dominant display this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he swept both poles and both wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series, Kyle Busch doesn’t have much left to conquer at the hallowed “Brickyard.”
Except, maybe, we can dream, one day, of him running that 500-miler around IMS in May.
His brother, Kurt, did it to national acclaim and a heck of a lot of headlines in 2014 – Kurt Busch finished sixth and was that year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the-Year for Andretti Autosport before jetting to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600.
But while Kyle Busch’s name has been brought up in rumors about running the Indianapolis 500 before, he didn’t seem entirely interested in running the ‘500 just because his brother did.
“Well, I won’t be following in his footsteps. I’ll be doing my own footsteps,” Kyle Busch told reporters during his post-victory press conference.
“It certainly may open up some avenues. I’m not sure. But there’s some people out there that have expressed some interest to me, so we’ll see where things kind of go.
“But obviously my focus is on the Sprint Cup Series and what I’m doing here, and being able to win races with M&M’s and Skittles, Interstate Batteries and NOS Energy Drink on the XFINITY side, too.
“So I’m having fun with what I’m doing right now, and we’ll see if something is able to line up then there’s a possibility, but I probably wouldn’t put too good a chances on that.”
In the interim, while Busch isn’t extrapolating beyond his NASCAR dominance, he’s right in that he isn’t following in brother Kurt’s footsteps.
Kurt’s stretched his legs with runs in IndyCar, a Champ Car test, a GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype, an NHRA Pro Stock car and an Australian V8 Supercar test over his career.
In his career, Kyle Busch has stuck almost exclusively to NASCAR – and made a living of cleaning up the competition in the process.
Both are among the most talented drivers of their generation, and since Kurt Busch did so well in his maiden Indianapolis 500 bow, we can only dream how well Kyle Busch could do if the stars aligned to ever make it happen.