This year, there wasn’t a single woman competing in the Indy 500 - a huge shame considering the vast amount of female talent in motorsport.
Even though the Indy 500 has been around for over a century, female representation in the race has been far from great. Only 10 female racing drivers have entered the 500-mile race at least once, with Janet Guthrie being the first in 1976 and Simona de Silvestro being the last in 2021.
Simona de Silvestro was born on September 1st, 1988 in Switzerland. She started her racing career in 2008 in the Atlantic Championship, a formula series in North America. Her first big achievement was the race win at the Grand Prix of Long Beach that same year through which she became the second woman to win in that series, with fellow role model Katherine Legge being the first.
The year after her debut, she got a chance to participate in an IndyCar test, which started her career in the series. She competed full-time in 2010 and took on the Indy 500 in that same year, instantly achieving her highest finish to date with a 14th place. She was awarded the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and the Tony Renna Firestone Rising Star accolade.
The Indy 500 fire had been lit and De Silvestro was back on the grid the following year for HVM Racing, but the excitement faded soon after. A big crash during one of the practice sessions resulted in a fire, which led to second degree and superficial burns on her hands, after which she was nicknamed ‘Iron Maiden’. Despite this setback, De Silvestro used her backup car and qualified 24th for the 95th Indy 500.
She secured her first podium finish in IndyCar soon after - in October 2013 at the Grand Prix of Houston. Finishing second, she became one of the only women in IndyCar history to record a podium finish, alongside the legendary Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher.
De Silvestro continued her IndyCar career up until 2015 in the Andretti Autosport car, but the Swiss Miss wasn’t afraid to try something new. She joined the Sauber Formula One team in 2014 as an affiliate driver. In 2015, she joined the Andretti Formula E team and became the first and only female driver to score points in the series with a ninth place finish in 2016. Meanwhile, she continued to be a test/development driver and reserve driver for TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team.
Alongside her career in Formula E, she drove for Nissan Motorsport in the Australian Supercars Championship from 2017 onwards, tackled the ADAC GT Masters in 2020 and combined that with her job as a factory Porsche GT driver.
In 2021, she returned to the Indy 500 grid for a historic appearance with Paretta Autosport, the first female-majority crew and female-forward team in IndyCar series history that successfully qualified for and ran in the Indy 500, with Beth Paretta at the helm. Starting from the final spot on the grid, she climbed up to 21st place before their maiden run ended at the final pit stop on lap 170. Despite the early ending, Simona was proud of her performance and the team’s efforts and the Swiss declared her interest in racing in IndyCar in the future, preferably with Paretta Autosport.
Her dream comes true as De Silvestro and Paretta return to the IndyCar grid in 2022. A new technical partnership with Ed Carpenter Racing allows them to compete for a partial campaign that includes three races: Road America, Mid-Ohio and Nashville. Most, if not all, of the women who have been a part of the Indy 500 team will return for this IndyCar season and together with the Ed Carpenter Racing’s IndyCar staff, they will look after the No. 16 Chevrolet with which De Silvestro and Paretta hope to write more history.
They had to bypass the chance to become the 33rd entry for the 106th running of the Indy 500, but the opportunity in IndyCar was something the team could not refuse looking at Beth Paretta’s ultimate goal, which is to run a full-time IndyCar campaign. Paretta does not want this to be the end of their IndyCar journey.
De Silvestro’s partial campaign in IndyCar means that Road America will be the first time since 2013 that two female drivers compete in the same race. We cannot wait to see the Iron Maiden and Tatiana Calderón line up on the grid together on June 12th.
We are so proud of Simona de Silvestro and Paretta for getting more women into the American racing industry.
We will continue to cheer for the trailblazers who inspire girls and women across generations to follow their dreams. If you can see it, you can be it.