A Swiss race car driver Simona de Silvestro, also known as „Iron Lady” and „Swiss Miss”, is a pioneer of Formula E – she was the first woman to score points in a Formula E race. As she likes to say, gender doesn’t matter when you’re going 225 km/h into a turn. In an interview with BiznesAlert.pl, she tells about the beginning of her career, the development of Formula E and the future of motorization.
BiznesAlert.pl: How did you get into Formula E racing? What barriers did you have to overcome?
Simona de Silvestro: I got into racing when I was quite young, about six years old, mainly thanks to my father who I knew was passionate about Formula 1. I used to watch races with him, and I was always really excited about it. The first time I have ever driven a vehicle was a gocart, I was so little that I couldn’t reach the pedals, so I cried all day (laughs). As I grew up, I got my first gocart and on the weekends we would go to tracks to drive it, which I enjoyed a lot. When I was about eight years old I entered my first ever race and I won it, so I got passionate about it as well.
I always get asked what it feels like to be a woman in this sport, but I don’t think about it this way, because at the end of the day I’m just a race car driver and what matters is the result, and this brought me to where I am today. I tried to persevere and be the best I could. I was all around the world, I raced in America in IndyCar, and finally in Formula 1, which was always a dream of mine. And then I got a chance to go to Formula E, which was quite exciting – in 2015 I attended my first race and it was completely different to what I have ever done before – the engine is electric and it doesn’t cause so much noise that I was used to. Apart from that it felt like a proper race car and it was real fun experience, and I became the first woman who scored points in Formula E. In motorsports, equipment is a crucial factor and I’ve been pretty lucky in this matter.
What are other differences in driving a traditional Formula 1 and a Formula E?
It is quite different – as I mentioned before, the car is all-electric, so there is no engine noise and it’s a bit strange when you get in for the first time. In change, there are some different noises, for example the noise of tires braking which you can’t hear in a traditional vehicle. All together it makes a different feeling, but apart from this it feels like an actual race car, and you have to be the fastest on the track. The racing is a bit different too, because the additional factor in the race is energy management – if you do it wrong, there is a possibility that you won’t finish the race, so there is an additional element of tactics. You have to be in a top form to drive quickly and save the battery at the same time.
What is the role of big companies, like ABB, in the development of sports like Formula E, or electro mobility in general?
ABB plays a leading role in the development of sustainable electromobility, for instance by developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the globe. Big energy, automation, automotive and – more generally – technology companies have the necessary experience, market expertise and resources in order to indicate the direction, create awareness and lead the way in terms of technical development. Technological advancement of subsequent generation of Formula E cars is one of the best examples. Cars of the future are going to be electric. I think together, ABB and Formula E convey a message that electro mobility is already out there, and it is supposed to show that e-racing is cool, and in my opinion this goal has been achieved. As a Formula E participant and an ABB ambassador I am proud to be able to contribute to that shared mission.
Interview by Michał Perzyński