May 23, 2015 / 11:36 PM / in 2 years

Indy 500 reality replaces her F1 dream

Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland sits on the pit lane wall smiling during a practice session prior to qualifications at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana in this file photo taken on May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Brent Smith

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Simona De Silvestro had planned to be racing in Monaco on Sunday, but with her Formula One dreams on hold, it is back to IndyCar reality for the Swiss driver and another run for Indianapolis 500 glory.

After four years of sometimes pioneering work on the IndyCar circuit, De Silvestro decided last year to try and break more new ground, signing a testing deal with Swiss based F1 team Sauber as she set her sites on becoming the first woman to start a grand prix since 1976.

Already the first woman to finish on the podium at an IndyCar street race, De Silvestro was considered the woman most likely to join the men on the starting grid in the near future.

But like most drivers, De Silvestro’s ambitions are fueled by cash and when her sponsorship ran out, so did her brief time in Formula One.

”For sure it would have been good to get a chance to drive Monaco, the dream is still there but if it’s going to happen I don’t know,“ De Silvestro told Reuters. ”My Formula One experience was great, it is really special to drive one of those cars and I am lucky to have driven one now.

“But that’s racing today. It depends on lot of money, a lot of sponsorship and (it) didn’t quite work out like I wanted to, but maybe this gave me a chance to race for Michael (Andretti) now.”

When the Formula One door slammed shut, another opened for the 26-year-old Swiss with Andretti Autosport as she signed a part-time deal with the IndyCar glamour team that Danica Patrick once called home.

De Silvestro will be part of a five-car Andretti entry that includes last year’s winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and she will have her best chance of reaching Victory Lane, qualifying a career best 18th.

While no woman has appeared on the Formula One grid since Italian Lella Lombardi 39 years ago, De Silvestro is seeking to become the first woman to get her likeness on the massive Borg Warner winner’s trophy.

“It would be huge, winning would be an unbelievable feeling, it would also be really special to be the first woman on the Borg Warner,” said De Silvestro, who will be making her fifth Indy 500 start. “For sure it would have been good to get a chance to drive Monaco but the 500 for me, I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business here at the speedway.”

Girl power has been a part of the Brickyard story since Janet Guthrie broke the gender barrier in 1977.

Over the decades nine different women have qualified to run the 500, with four on the starting grid in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

De Silvestro and England’s Pippa Mann will wave the female flag at the Brickyard on Sunday, but next year there are plans to field an all-female team for the 100th Indy 500.

While supportive of equality efforts, De Silvestro prefers to be judged by her performance on the track and not have her results defined by gender.

”It is an interesting approach but for me I have never really looked at it this way, to make it special for women to get into this sport,“ said De Silvestro, 2010 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year. ”I feel more if I am good at something that I should get the opportunity, and not only a special way, to get there.

”I think if you are a good driver or a good mechanic, it doesn’t have to be special because you are female or male. It should be that you are just the best people.

“At the end of the day if you are good at your job you should get opportunity wherever it is.”

Editing by Gene Cherry

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