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A Conversation With ... Simona De Silvestro

MODERATOR: Welcome to the Economaki Press Center. Simona lacks poise as you all probably know. (Laughter) You come back to a place where you had a really great month a year ago, obviously capped by Rookie of the Year performance, and you began this year with a couple of great races, particularly at St. Petersburg. Congratulations on a solid start to the year. Welcome back.

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: Thanks for coming. Yeah, we had a really great start of the season at St. Pete and even Barber, you know, I think we had a strong beginning of the season. Then Long Beach and Brazil didn't go our way quite well. But, you know, it happens. It's racing. I'm happy to go on the ovals right now, and starting with the Indy 500 is a really special feeling. You know, I really like this place. It's a little bit intimidating every time you go out there. But it's a lot of fun, and I can't wait to go out there on Pole Day because that's really when it starts counting.
You know you've got to put it together, and I think that's real intimidating.

MODERATOR: Interestingly enough, as I reflect, you came here as someone who was very involved in racing, a relatively unknown to some people. Now, in case you've followed this, you've become one of the really popular drivers among fans at the IZOD IndyCar Series. How about that?

DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, it's great. I think it's great that people have actually started to follow what I'm doing on the racetrack, and I think that's a really special feeling. Throughout my career, I've always really focused on that to show the results and being fast, and the people appreciate that. Then now they like this in the IZOD IndyCar Series what I am doing here, is a really special feeling.

MODERATOR: Before we get to questions, I do want to get on the record, you've been telling me that you've been playing racquetball in a competitive sense with your driver coach. And according to you, you have been kicking his rear relatively often.

DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, well, it's raining a lot here in Indy this week, and we've had a lot of, yeah, racquetball matches. I've been pretty good. So he wants a rematch pretty much every time it rains now. So I'm trying to beat him every time.

MODERATOR: That's good. Questions for Simona? Don't be shy.

Q: Who is that coach that you've been thumping?

DE SILVESTRO: It's Bob Perona. So we've been working together since 2008, actually. You know, yeah, he's been around to every race. And especially being a one-car team, it's pretty difficult to, you know, find things not having data. So he really helps being out there and being on the track. I think that's why we get to be up to speed pretty quickly, because he's out there looking at corners and telling me right away what other people are doing.

Q: I heard you say your folks are coming in tomorrow. Anybody else coming from home?

DE SILVESTRO: Well, actually, yeah, tomorrow my parents are coming, and then there's a big group coming from Switzerland for the race. So it's really exciting because a lot of people have supported my career when I was younger and even now. So they're all coming. It's really cool that, you know, Swiss people get really involved in the IndyCar Series, and I think because it's a great sport and people can't wait to see the Indy 500.

Q: When you say a bunch of people --

DE SILVESTRO: I think it's like, I don't know, 30 or 40 people coming. So it's a – I better qualify so they won't be disappointed.

Q: Will any Swiss writers come? I just wonder how much do they cover you since racing is banned back home?

DE SILVESTRO: Actually they've started following us quite a bit. I've been lucky that even in Atlantics they were following me, but now definitely the newspapers are following me. In St. Pete, the TV came to follow us at the race, which was pretty cool because there's not that much coverage of IndyCar. And that Switzerland is actually pushing it and following me as their driver is something pretty special. It's starting to grow in Europe. I have a lot of friends who started watching IndyCar, and they get up tonight to watch on the Internet and things like that. I really hope the TV coverage gets even a little more exciting in Europe.

Q: Simona, on a week where you might wind up playing more racquetball and squash than actually being on the track, how much pressure does that add for you going into qualifications this weekend? 

DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, it's kind of weird not having that many laps out there, and it's already Wednesday. So – but we still, I think tomorrow and Friday it will be nice. So we're going to be out there quite a bit. You know, we're pretty confident. We really did only one run on new tires, and it went OK. So I think we have a direction we want to go with the setups, we want to try a couple of different things. Yeah, for sure, as a driver, you know, you want to do more laps because it is an intimidating place. The first lap I did on Saturday, I was, ‘Wow, it is pretty fast out there.’ Just to get used to it, you know, like your mind has to kind of get used to the speed and things like that. So throughout the week it goes better, but we didn't run that much. You have to kind of fast-forward that. But I think we're going to be good, and I think the energy and Nuclear Clean Energy car will be all right.

Q: When you say getting used to this place, what is the most difficult thing about getting used to this place?

DE SILVESTRO: Well, it really is, I think it's the speed. You know, going down the straightaway, which is so long and then thinking you're going to be flat out through the corner, too, it takes a little time to get used to that that. Especially when you go on the ovals, your brain has to get used to the speed. In the beginning, you're all stressed out because it's so fast and then you start to relax, especially here at the Speedway, it's even more so. So you have to do a couple laps and kind of calm down about it and get comfortable with the car, because especially when you come from road courses, the car feels so different on the ovals. You know, it's a completely different animal out there, so you just have to get used to that.

MODERATOR: You had said you were looking forward to the ovals. Are you surprised that that's something that you say now?

DE SILVESTRO: Yeah, definitely. You know, last year it was a big eye-opener for me. It was – when you look at it on TV, it looks kind of easy but it's definitely not. It's completely a different art of racing, you know. Yeah, this year I have a new engineer, Brent Harvey, who has had a lot of experience on the ovals, so it gives you as a driver a little bit, it gives you a little more confidence because you kind of know what he really is talking about. You know, I had fun last year on the ovals, you know, when it was going well, it was a lot of fun. So I really hope we're going to have a couple of good races on the ovals here and especially here at Indy.

MODERATOR: Others? Ken.

Q: Simona, your season has gotten off to a great start. Were you a little disappointed you were going to an oval and not staying on the street and road courses for a while? 

DE SILVESTRO: No, I don't think so. I feel like this is almost like a new start of the season. For me it's always like the road courses is one season and the ovals is one season. I think the cool thing about the

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