Paretta Autosports IndyCar render, 2021

Simona de Silvestro returns to Indy 500 with female-led entry

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Former Sauber F1 test driver Simona de Silvestro will return for a sixth attempt at the Indy 500 with Paretta Autosport.

Parett Autosport has announced its entry to the 2021 Indy 500, running the number 16 car for the event. The team will “integrate women to ensure that it provides opportunities, including competition, operations and administrative roles such as logistics, marketing and public relations,” as well as running De Silvestro as their driver.

The new team has been formed to contest this year’s Indy 500 as, as an extension of IndyCar’s Race For Equality & Change. The initiative aims to diversify IndyCar, from grassroots programme support to looking at recruitment and procurement processes across IndyCar and its promoters. Last month Force Indy, a USF2000 junior series team, was formed to promote black Americans into motorsport and Paretta Autosport marks the first team aimed specifically to help diversify the main series.

The team is led by Beth Paretta, a former Fiat-Chrysler automotive executive who also led Grace Autosport, which announced a 2016 Indy 500 entry with Katherine Legge as a driver. That entry ultimately did not come to fruition and the team did not attempt to qualify, having not announced whether it would run with Honda or Chevrolet power.

The Paretta Autosport entry will run a Chevrolet engine and receive technical and engineering support from Team Penske. Paretta, confirmed as team principal, said “Today is the beginning of a commitment to gender equity in sport, to encourage women to work hard so they can earn their seat at the table or spot on the grid.

“IndyCar has been a leader and a welcoming place for women for many years because of the hard work of many women and men before us, but now we have a stronger commitment with IndyCar’s ‘Race for Equality & Change’ to make sure opportunities continue in the future.

“Our team, along with our technical alliance with Team Penske, will work hard to give Simona the best car we can provide so she can achieve her best results. Competition drives us. The Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world, and one day soon we hope to have a woman’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.”

Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp, which owns IndyCar, said that the team would be responsible for its own performance, despite the support from the overall series. “It will be up to Simona and the team to qualify the car for the grid, but knowing Beth, I know that her team will be up for the task.”

De Silvestro, who last drove in IndyCar in 2015 for Andretti and has contested five previous Indy 500 events, said “My career really took off through my time competing in Indycar and the Indy 500, so returning to compete with Beth and her new team in alliance with Team Penske is a special and rare chance in my career.

“Being part of the goal of diversity and inclusion for everyone, and especially women in IndyCar, and in motorsports in general, is very important to me and how I would like to see the future of racing. I want to thank the series for taking such an important leadership role in providing gender and overall diversity inclusion in motorsports.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 16 comments on “Simona de Silvestro returns to Indy 500 with female-led entry”

    1. Very good news indeed.

      1. I hope she does well. It’s a pity her stints in FE and Supercars weren’t very succesful, I think she could have shown more if she’d had the chance to stay in Indycar.

      2. Agreed. The fact they have the Chevy engine and have a technical partnership with Penske should make them pretty competitive right out of the box. Very good news.

    2. It’s been a few years now, but Simona was showing promise in Indycar and it was a shame she lost her drive. I felt that she could earn her place in the field with the right opportunity. With a Penske prepped car, she might have a shot. I’m glad she’s getting another chance.

    3. Simona de Silvestro was pretty promising. You know what Indycar has always been a great place for female talent in motorsport. In my era I grew up with Lyn St James and Sarah Fisher, then properly got into Indy when Danica was driving.

      Not sure how I feel about the all-female, or all-black team approach. Like it’s great to see more representation. But the last thing I want is a “token woman” team. Yes, I know they are all serious players. But I want to have a grid where gender isn’t really remarked on, where there are just drivers.

      Maybe what I’m saying is I wish it didn’t need to be a thing.

      1. I agree, ideally you’d just have drivers and they would be judged on performance. But in this world, I’m glad it’s Simona who’s getting the opportunity. Many drivers get established through money, nepotism or gender, but Simona is (imho) the kind of quality driver women in motorsport need more of. I hope she succeeds.

      2. @cduk_mugello
        Tho I agree with you mostly, I believe we need more representation in motorsport even if it’s labelled ‘token’.
        As with most industries, especially motorsport, we all know that talent is not the single deciding factor for a person in landing a role. I’m sure there are more talented women in their respective field that could perform better than their male counterparts but have been looked past simply because of their gender.

        In my previous work place, I witnessed a situation where a fully qualified and experienced lady was dropped from the third stage interview shortlist, simply because the hiring manager felt she wouldn’t ‘fit’ into the male only IT department (we were all football fanatics). The football crazy male candidate that was hired was fired 2 weeks later for not having enough experience and he was late every single day of his first week. The lady was offered the position as she was the only qualified candidate left on the list. 3 years later she now heads the department. This one case changed the entire recruitment process of the company.

      3. I really hope they do well. But if I had to put my money on it, I’d bet it’s going to be a modest but indisputable failure.

        Also… the notion of all-black or all-female lineups is asinine and insulting. I know they are trying to be woke and inclusive, but the top of a motorports discipline is not the place to make concessions in the name of gender or race. It should be about who is best. How earned the results in junior categories, who has showed promise.

    4. Geez I wish I could see this happen, but the simple fact is, it’s not going to happen. The complexity of the 500 and to be first to finish ahead of 32 other drivers is nothing but having a Indy500 dream, good wishes and hopefully a belief in the rarest of rare opportunity
      Is she good enough to fight THIS TYPE of fight, to stay in the lead and to break the draft that sets up a pass 10 seconds into the future? It’s just too much that would have to happen to the greatest group of top notch drivers. You think you can get into these cars and run like a wild dog and beat those who have dedicated and organized teams, race day pit road perfection and will still avoid the pitfalls of others. It happens every race. Somebody falls to another’s moments. So how is it possible to think she can survive at least 15-20 world class drivers to break down, crash or get caught up in others stupid moments. All required for her to stand a chance. Also hearing she been out of the seat for a while. That alone is a milestone to overcome.
      So I will stand on this opinion and say it’s about her chance for victory at the 500 is so unlikely to happen that I will simply say
      ZERO CHANCE OF A INDY500 WIN

      But I’d also like to be very wrong too

      1. Oh well I guess she should just quit then. I mean what’s the point of you have zErO cHaNcE oF aN iNdY 500 wIn

      2. I don’t think anyone is expecting them to win. If they have a reasonable race it’ll be a success. With very few women in motorsport currently I think that’s all that can be asked of them. Not that I’m against women in motorsport, I just think they’re probably managing expectations.

        1. To get a good start on “Success”, they only need to amongst the fastest 32 that show up for qualifications.
          You can’t race if you can’t qualify. I think that was Fernando or someone said that.
          They will need luck and skill, just like all the other teams.

    5. I believe the money invested to put any kind of human in the Indy500 does so with the full intent of getting the win. Reality is most hope to win but more than likely they understand where they are at and to win is to grab some luck. The Indy500 is too important for rolling the dice on an untested package in a new team. But people are willing pay out for that. Teams get financial support and little changes.
      But sometimes those teams win. So in this case I’m stating the pure truth about her attempt. There is little chance this team will accomplish much. Like I said the 500 is too important for this more than unlikely attempt. There are years where miracles happen. Some get a pile of luck but it’s pretty rare and very random. Every500 has teams prepared and their entire package is well suited to last more than 450 miles. But that last 50 miles is run with such intensity such aggression that the right package becomes just 3-4 who actually have a chance. Look at Rossi in the final ten. If the car remains good till the end then he becomes insane behind the wheel. Good insane. Add five or six more like him then things begin to stack up in the wrong way. You gotta last in until that point in 500 when its go time. Only a few are capable at that point no matter how bad you want it.
      So for Simone and this great chance to qualify and race would be important for her, the team and the Sponsors. That’s a massive accomplishment even getting into the race.
      From this point to win is so difficult that odds will be the teller of truths. But the cooler story would be for her to win.
      Higher placings bring big paydays and maybe it’s choice of driver a hopeful team and sponsors who get the payback for the investment. Each driver has a chance to win. Get some Luck raise your chance go Simone have a safe event. Good luck

    6. Why are there no women driving in F1 right now? I’d have thought any woman with the talent would have an easy way into F1, the marketing potential is massive. Will there be any point when women outnumber men in F1 purely on talent?

      1. @surfermark

        I’d have thought any woman with the talent would have an easy way into F1, the marketing potential is massive.

        The marketing potential is questionable, since women seem to engage with sports differently and make purchasing decisions differently. For example, women almost never wear team clothing. They also seem to be more often social viewers, rather than hardcore fans. The audience for sports news sites is more gender skewed than viewing figures, showing a different kind/level of engagement on average.

        Any female driver will get a lot of attention, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that her sponsors would profit. If you look at Dana Patrick, then you see that her sponsors and adverts tend to be focused on men. Women-focused brands don’t seem interested in her or other female drivers, suggesting that they recognize that it’s a poor way to advertise to women.

        And of course, a woman can’t market to most men, like a man can, because men tend to not use female products (just like a man cannot market to women that way).

        Will there be any point when women outnumber men in F1 purely on talent?

        Unlikely, since we see all over society that men are much more willing to make extreme sacrifices to reach the top, probably because of gender roles (including men being much more judged on status, not in the least by women). So anything that is extremely competitive will tend to be dominated by men, unless they are excluded.

        Also, scientific studies have found that gender differences in interest are actually stronger in more feminist societies, so such societies will, in the absence of discrimination, tend to see a lot of very gendered professions. Motor racing seems to lack the traits that tends to attract women.

        Why are there no women driving in F1 right now?

        Ironically, one major reason might be that the current dogma on gender is steering women wrong, by telling them to act like men. This tends to result in a lot of women bailing out when they realize that the incentives/rewards are not there like they are for men or simply not succeeding because they are steered into making choices that cause them to fail.

    7. I watched Simona race in the Australian V8 Supercars series. She was always one of the slowest drivers in her team which comprised of four Nissan Altima shaped cars. How many more capable drivers are going to miss a ride at the 2021 Indy 500 because of her?

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