De Silvestro boosted by belief shown by Andretti ahead of Formula E debut

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LONDON – The last 18 months have been rather turbulent for Simona de Silvestro. After walking away from IndyCar at the end of the 2013 season to pursue a drive in Formula 1 with Sauber, the Swiss driver found herself back at square one when her financial support fell through.

However, the recent months have seen de Silvestro’s fortunes turn around as she has joined the Andretti Autosport family, taking part in three races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season including the Indianapolis 500.

This weekend brings a great change of scenery for the 26-year-old, though, as she prepares to make her debut in the FIA Formula E series at the championship’s season finale.

“I think it’ll be fun,” de Silvestro told MotorSportsTalk. “It’s definitely way different to anything I’ve done before.

“Having two races is kind of nice because I think after Saturday we’ll know what it’s going to be like and have learned a lot. The track looks fun and I’m really looking forward to it.”

The street circuit erected around Battersea Park in the heart of London has imposing walls and narrow sections, and could catch a number of drivers out across the course of the weekend.

However, de Silvestro hopes that her street course experience from IndyCar will come in handy this weekend as she gets to grips with the electric-powered cars.

“IndyCar is mostly street courses,” she said. “I think when you’re used it a little bit more it can help you. The biggest thing to be fast is really understanding the race car.

“And I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for me compared to the other people because everybody has driven at least once this year. Just learning how to drive the car and how everything is. I think that’s going to be the most difficult part of the weekend.”

De Silvestro is one of five rookie drivers racing in Formula E this weekend, after being given the nod by Andretti just two weeks ago as part of her ongoing role with the team.

She explained how the team’s confidence in her has been a big boost, and that the security offered is something that racing drivers crave.

“I was really lucky to be part of the Andretti family, having done the three races with Michael in IndyCar, and then got the call pretty much two weeks ago asking if I wanted to do this race,” de Silvestro said.

“I think it’s great when you’re in a team like Andretti. They really believe in their drivers and really try to help them, and I think that’s really special from a team point of view.

“It’s really difficult in racing to just be somewhere kind of steady, and so far Andretti has been able to do this for me, so it’s a really special feeling.”

Looking ahead, de Silvestro admitted that she is unsure when she will be next racing, but that she is open to any opportunities that may come her way in either IndyCar or Formula E.

“I don’t know yet, I think things are open,” she said when asked by MST about future opportunities. “That’s the thing, there’s always something that can open up, and you just have to be ready for it, like this weekend.

“For sure, I really want to be racing and I want to be in a race car, and I think we are working hard to do this.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).