Fan favorite Simona De Silvestro is returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
De Silvestro, 26, will drive an Andretti Autosport Honda in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27-29, the team announced. Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz also will drive Andretti Autosport-prepared cars in the 110-lap race (3 p.m. ET, ABC) that features the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.
De Silvestro will join her new teammates and catch up with other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for the initial full-scale team testing of the road/street and short oval aero kits. The sessions are free and open to the public. Live timing will be on www.IndyCar.com. She will be in the car for the first time the next week at Sebring International Raceway.
“I feels really special to be back in IndyCar; I have some unfinished business here," de Silvestro said in an interview at the Andretti Autosport shop. "I am very excited to be joining Andretti Autosport and to become part of a team with such a successful history. It feels special to have been given this opportunity to drive for them. I also want to thank (team owner) Michael (Andretti) for believing in me and I can’t wait to start working with the team.
"With four drivers, it's definitely the biggest team I've ever been a part of. Andretti has been really successful with their combination and I'll get to work right away and hope to have success with them. The drivers are very competitive and I think it's really cool to be part of a team like that."
In 2013, De Silvestro qualified a career-best third on St. Petersburg street circuit in her first race with KV Racing Technology. Fourth place in the 2011 opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course had been her career-best finish until she posted a second place in 2013 in Houston 1.
“We are really excited to have Simona come on board with the team for St. Pete,” Andretti said. “She will be a great fit for the team, and hopefully we’ll be able to build on the program, eventually taking it from this race to future events and maybe even a full-season relationship. Fans should stay connected with the team to hear more about our potential future with Simona.”
In 65 races over four seasons, De Silvestro recorded three top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.
The native of Thun, Switzerland, returned to Europe for 2014 to pursue a Formula One opportunity with the Sauber F1 team. Financial issues within the paddock, including the Swiss team, prematurely ended her aspirations.
"IndyCar is where my career really grew and from a series perspective I think it's the most competitive series out there. I've seen a little bit of Formula One last year, and I think the competitiveness is much more exciting for a driver in IndyCar," she said. "It didn't pan out like I wanted it to, but I'm looking forward to having a really strong career in IndyCar. I belong here and I'm really happy that the fans are welcoming me back."
De Silvestro made her first Verizon IndyCar Series start on March 14, 2010, at Sao Paulo, Brazil, in an HVM Racing entry. She was voted Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year following a 14th-place finish and the Tony Renna Rising Star award recipient following the season. She is one of three women who have recorded a podium finish in Indy car competition (Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick).
De Silvestro moved to the Verizon IndyCar Series after finishing third in the Atlantic Championship standings with four wins and nine podium finishes overall in 12 races.