Simona de Silvestro will be moving on from IndyCar after four years in the championship, and has been confirmed Friday as a Sauber-affiliated Formula One driver for 2014.
The preparation isn’t racing-related for the moment, as she’s not been placed by Sauber into a GP2 or World Series by Renault team. It will involve on-track testing, simulator training and mental and physical preparation as part of working to gain a superlicense and move into an F1 race seat in 2015.
“This is a major step towards me achieving a lifelong dream and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to take this step with such a great team,” the 25-year-old Swiss driver said in a release. “The Sauber F1 Team is a team with a legacy and the only Swiss team in Formula One, which I think makes this even more exciting.
The tie-in is a natural one; it’s a Swiss team, with F1’s lone female team principal in Monisha Kaltenborn.
“I can’t thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber enough for their support and belief in my abilities and for giving me this chance,” de Silvestro said. “I’m thrilled to have this extremely unique platform on which to prepare myself to take on the challenge.”
Kaltenborn didn’t elaborate more on the role of “affiliated driver” – the team already has Giedo van der Garde and Sergey Sirotkin in the pipeline behind 2014 race drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez – but did admit she was pleased for de Silvestro.
“After four years in IndyCar, Simona’s ambition is to enter Formula one in 2015,” Kaltenborn said. “We regard her as a very talented race driver, and we, therefore, decided to take her on board as an “affiliated driver” and support her on her way to the pinnacle of motorsport.”
De Silvestro was in Austin to meet the Sauber team at this year’s U.S. Grand Prix. What at the time seemed a PR promotion, has, indeed, turned into so much more.
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.