Simona De Silvestro targets F1 drive with Sauber next season

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  • Breaking the mould: Simona De Silvestro believes she has what it takes to succeed in F1.

    Simona De Silvestro sees no reason why she cannot compete in Formula One next season and prove women have what it takes to drive at motor sport's highest level.

    In February this year De Silvestro was appointed as an affiliated driver by Sauber, embarking on a preparation programme with the ultimate aim of her gaining a superlicence and driving in F1.

    The 25-year-old Swiss took her first step towards her ambition by spending two days at the Fiorano test track in Italy last month driving a two-year-old car.

    Appreciably, De Silvestro still has many hurdles to overcome before she becomes the first woman since Lella Lombardi in 1976 to start a grand prix.

    After a four-year career in IndyCar, with a high of second in the penultimate round of last season in Houston, De Silvestro is eager to prove a woman can make the grade in F1.

    "It is a risk to leave my career in the US, but since I was a small girl I've always wanted this," said De Silvestro on her first visit to a Formula One paddock ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

    "It was actually a pretty easy choice because this chance only comes once in life and you have to take it.

    "I don't think about not racing, I'm thinking about doing everything right and getting in the race car, and racing next year is the goal.

    "There's still a long road ahead, but if I do everything correctly and show good pace, I don't see why not. I just have to get the job done in the car."

    As part of the learning curve, De Silvestro will continue to attend future grands prix and observe how the team works ahead of a second test in Valencia towards the end of next month, again in the old car.

    Even though it has been 38 years since Lombardi's appearance – and she remains the only woman in F1 history to finish in the points – De Silvestro refuses to be burdened by pressure or expectation.

    "It's something that hasn't happened for a long time, but to me the important thing is I show we can be competitive, and up until now I think I've been able to do that in my career," added De Silvestro.

    "Until IndyCar I'd always won races and been up front, and those are important criteria.

    "If I get the chance to go into F1 I want to do the same thing – show we can be as fast as the guys. That's the key."

    Crucially, though, like with any seat at one of the midfield teams, being able to bring in sponsorship is crucial.

    De Silvestro claims she has backers as she said: "The sponsors I have on the C31 (the two-year-old car) are those I've had since 2008.

    "They've always known F1 is my ultimate goal, and they're helping me try to get there, and there are opportunities (for new sponsors) out there, for sure."

    Unlike IndyCar, and other racing series in the United States where female drivers have been embraced, De Silvestro appreciates F1 is a tougher battleground.

    "The biggest thing is what Danica (Patrick) has been able to do," said De Silvestro. "She started in IndyCar eight years ago and was pretty competitive, and I definitely think that opened the mentality a little bit.

    "In Europe it is a little bit different, and F1 is different. It's the highest level you can get to, not many drivers get the chance to do this. Whether you are male or female, it's hard.

    "You have to want it really badly to make it happen."