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De Silvestro had to unlearn "bad habits" in adapting to modern IndyCar

Simona De Silvestro had to "unlearn bad habits" adapting to IndyCar's current machinery in her Road America return, which gave her a base to work from with Paretta Autosport.

Simona De Silvestro, Paretta Autosport Chevrolet

De Silvestro, who raced the 2021 Indianapolis 500 for Paretta, opened her 2022 account on a road course – the first time she had raced an IndyCar on a road course in seven years.

Her return to the notoriously challenging Road America circuit was a tough refresher course, and Beth Paretta’s team is this year run in partnership with Ed Carpenter Racing (as opposed to last year’s outing with Penske) - which struggled throughout the weekend.

In first practice, De Silvestro was 3.1s off the fastest time, 1.8s from Conor Daly and only one second slower than the struggling Rinus VeeKay, while in FP2 the gaps were similar to top spot and her lead teammate.

That deficit grew in Q1, but De Silvestro was hard on herself for not exploiting the extra grip offered by Firestone’s alternate compound tires, although her efforts were interrupted by a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

She finished the race in 21st, and said that she has "a way to go" to get the results she wants.

De Silvestro, who had last raced at Road America in the Atlantics Championship in 2008, admitted that it had been an eye-popping venue for her IndyCar return.

“It was good to be back in an IndyCar, I was really happy about that,” she told Autosport, “but for sure, results-wise there is a way to go yet. I never thought I might be back, so I’m pretty excited about that.”

“On one side, it’s a really fun track,” she said, “but on the other, with no testing before and getting back into an open-wheel car [on a road course] after seven years, it definitely impressed me.

"The speeds are so much higher. My engineer [John Gentilozzi] just sent me a comparison of speeds between a GT car and an IndyCar. It’s a big, big difference!

Simona De Silvestro, Paretta Autosport Chevrolet

Simona De Silvestro, Paretta Autosport Chevrolet

Photo by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

“So on Friday when I got in the car, it felt fast. You need a little bit of time for things to feel normal again at that speed, and in the race, it was starting to feel that way again – not as fast – so that’s a good sign.

“We are getting a test day this week [Thursday] on the Indy road course, and that will be really positive for me. Now I know what to expect and I can really start to work on the things that I know need most work.”

De Silvestro said that putting trust in downforce and in the extra grip offered by Firestone’s alternate compound tyres had been the toughest components of her weekend.

“Running a car with downforce again, I hadn’t done that in so long,” said the 33-year-old from Switzerland. “That takes a lot of commitment and trust in the car.

“I had to work so hard to learn how to drive a GT car fast, and now I have to unlearn that again! I have a few bad habits that I picked up from racing a GT car that I have to clean up to race an IndyCar, things I need to relearn.

“[That includes] exploiting the red tyres. We got one set on the Friday, but at that time I was still trying to get my head around everything about being back in an IndyCar. So I didn’t use them that well.

"The next time I tried them, it was qualifying, when you really need to push hard and be on the limit right away to get the best laptime out of it while the tires are at their maximum grip.

"It’s been a while since I drove in a series that needed that, so again, now I know what to expect and will work on getting up to speed faster.”

De Silvestro agreed that the venue for the third (and likely final) IndyCar race in her 2022 schedule, the streets of Nashville, was a daunting prospect.

She pointed out that, for a driver and team hoping to become full-timers in the short- to mid-term future, getting the feel of a temporary course would be a significant help.

“I think for us it was important to go on a street course,” she said, “and it was important to Beth that Paretta Autosport ticks another box this year.

“Also, a street course can sometimes be chaos, and you can look pretty good after that if luck goes your way!”

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