It hasn’t been the easiest year for Lotus HVM Racing’s Simona de Silvestro. The driver of the #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy machine has been hard at work with her team developing the Lotus engine, with updates to that package coming in the next few races. No one disputes that it’s been a challenge, but the “Iron Maiden” has retained her popularity with fans through it all.
Fresh off a test of some Lotus engine upgrades at Mid-Ohio, Simona gave INDYCAR Nation time for an interview on engine development, perseverance, and even her thoughts on her nicknames from fans:
How did the Mid-Ohio test of the new Lotus updates go?
Simona de Silvestro: Well, we didn’t actually test the new engine — we’re keeping it for Toronto — but did work on our shifts and our limiter, since that’s been an issue pretty much all season. It looks like we made some big improvements on that department Monday, so we’re going to take that to Toronto, and see with all the different updates, if we can get some definite improvement.
On that note, you’ve hung in there this year, and delivered some better results in recent races. Has the team remained optimistic so far?
SDS: I think so, yeah. It’s a difficult sort of season to stay positive about, but I think we’ve managed to do that. Every weekend, we’ve just focused on what we have to do, and really improve on the engine side. I think we’ve had some really stronger race cars, which really shows how hard the team has been working in that department. So, that’s really positive, and hopefully the engine is really going to come along in the next couple races so we can be competitive in the last few events; that’s really our focus. Going to Toronto, we know we have to just keep doing what we’re doing, and keep working hard for those results.
Have you or the team set any specific goals for the schedule ahead of you?
SDS: Not really, we still have a lot of work to do in the development of the engine, so that’s more our goal. I think in the next two races we can make huge steps forward in development, and then we can start setting goals on results. Right now, our goal is to make this engine better, and hopefully those updates I mentioned are going to help us on that end of things. Hopefully, we can get into the Top 10 very soon.
With the upcoming schedule, are you looking forward to any particular track or tracks?
SDS: I think Toronto is always fun to go to. It’s a cool town, and the track is a lot of fun, too. I’m also looking forward to Baltimore — it’s a place where we were really strong there. It’s always nice to go back to places where you’ve been strong, and sort of bring that confidence with you.
Was Iowa the biggest sense of accomplishment you felt this year, or what was your best moment so far this season?
SDS: Well, for best race I think we’ve had — I think you have to put Detroit or Iowa up there. Detroit was really good for us — we outqualified some people, which was a nice accomplishment, and the race pace was quite ok. It was sort of the same for Iowa—it was the first oval we finished, which was a huge accomplishment, and we kind of were able to hang in there. It just shows our race cars have been pretty good, and hopefully with the engine development, we can show that even more.
What’s been your feel as a driver for the DW12?
SDS: I’ve really enjoyed it! Pretty much from the first couple of tests we’ve done. It’s just a lot of fun—especially on the road courses, it has quite a bit of downforce, and corners really well. Plus, the brakes are awesome, which is great, and I think it’s produced a lot of great racing. It’s a challenging car to drive, especially with how tire management is going, but I think it’s been a whole lot of fun.
A bit outside racing for a minute: you just played in the Travelers Pro-Am, right? How was that? Are you a big golfer?
SDS: Yep. Well, I try to be! It was really cool to play in the tournament with [pro golfer] Y.E. Yang, who was really cool. Golf is a lot of fun, but I think I’ll stick with racing, for now.
The fans online love to give you nicknames, it seems. We often hear “The Swiss Missile” or “The Iron Maiden” as nicknames. Do you like either one of those?
SDS: Well, I think “Iron Maiden” is pretty cool to have as a nickname (laughs).
So how have the fans been for you as you’ve worked through this year’s progression?
SDS: The fans have been really supportive, which has been really helpful for me and the team. Hopefully, we can give them some really good results for being so supportive throughout this year and over the course of the season.