Simona de Silvestro’s signing as a Sauber-affiliated driver for 2014 is already the first domino in the 2015 Formula One silly season.
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.
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.