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Simona de Silvestro says gender no issue in F1 racing

Simona de Silvestro says she has encountered no gender discrimination in motorsport during her rise to a Formula 1 role with Sauber.

The former IndyCar racer has given up her race seat for an affiliate role with the Hinwil-based F1 squad for this year, which includes testing in a two-year old Sauber C31.

She reckons most racing teams are more concerned with how fast a driver is, rather than whether they are male or female, and that the lack of top-level female drivers is due to a relative dearth of girls competing in the lower tiers compared to boys.

"If we look in karts there's maybe 100 boys racing and maybe three or four girls so the ratio is definitely at the smaller end," she said when asked by AUTOSPORT if she had encountered gender bias during her rise through the ranks.

"In general racing to get to a high level is difficult whether you are a boy or a girl.

"You have to prove yourself and there are so many drivers.

"Every driver on the planet wants to get to F1 and there are only 22 seats.

"I've never felt it was tougher or different, because I think the important thing is to prove you can be as fast, and if you are winning races or upfront people just consider you a race car driver."

A female driver has not raced in F1 since Lella Lombardi finished 12th in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix, though others have attempted to qualify.

De Silvestro said she felt no extra pressure or expectation to succeed as a woman in F1, if she graduates to a race seat as planned.

"I don't think it's pressure or expectation; to me the important thing is that I show we can be competitive and up until now I think I've been able to do that in my career," she added.

"Until IndyCar I've always won races and always been up front. Those are important criteria, and if I get the chance to go into F1 I want to do the same thing - show that we can be as fast as the guys. That's the key."

De Silvestro also rubbished suggestions that Sauber having a female team boss in Monisha Kaltenborn might be an advantage to her.

"I don't think it helps [that] I'm a girl, but it's the first time I've had a female boss, so it is different," de Silvestro said.

"What she has seen in me is that I really want this, that I really want to make it happen.

"I don't think it changes anything because at the end of the day I'm here to work."

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