Don't mess with Simona de Silvestro in traffic
Simona de Silvestro does not cook, doesn't drink, considers watching movies a hobby and eating Swiss chocolate a vice. Well, that's not very compelling. But then there's the 1962 Autobianchi careening down alpine roads, her fondness of "Iron Maiden'' and a multilingual potty mouth. Better, Simona, better.
espnW sat down for 23 solid minutes with the 24-year-old IndyCar driver.
espnW: Are you one of those race car drivers that needs a fast car for your street ride?
Simona de Silvestro: No. I drive a Volt.
espnW: A Volt, the electric car?
SD: Yes! I really like it. I'm pretty mellow. In Switzerland, the car I drive is a 1962 Autobianchi, which is really small. I think it has, like, 20 horsepower. It's really slow. I kind of like a car like that. I saw it in a movie, and I got that car. Here I have a Volt. You are actually challenging yourself to make more miles with the battery, so you look at things a little differently. It kind of gives a different purpose to what you are doing every day.
espnW: How does the Autobianchi handle that Swiss topography?
SD: It's a little shaky because it's pretty old, but it goes pretty fast actually, when you take some speed through the corners. It's not bad.
espnW: What's the Simona vice?
SD: I don't drink. Guilty pleasure, for sure, when I go home I have to eat chocolate, me being Swiss. It's kind of a bit of shame if you don't eat chocolate when you go home.
SD: I don't. I'm a pretty bad cooker. It's not something I take the time to do.
espnW: You have a couple nicknames, "Swiss Miss" and "Iron Maiden." Have a preference?
SD: Those are the two prominent ones. Swiss Miss is kind of weird because I feel everyone that's from Switzerland becomes Swiss Miss. I think Martina Hingis, the tennis player, was the Swiss Miss, too. Iron Maiden, I think, is pretty cool. A little badass and stuff. So that's not bad.
espnW: What were you like as a kid?
SD: I wasn't quiet. I would have some fun. I wasn't the greatest kid in school. I would get along with everybody. If something was interesting to me, I would be OK, but there were some subjects I didn't really care about. I would always manage to have kind of good grades, but it was kind of a last-minute thing I would go through. I don't think I have ever read a book I was supposed to read in school.
espnW: You don't read?
SD: I used to never read. I hated reading until a few years ago.
espnW: What do you read now?
SD: I like biographies and things like that.
espnW: People are fascinated that racing is outlawed in Switzerland. Is it something the Swiss talk about?
SD: It's funny because there are a lot of Swiss drivers, actually. I think at one point there were a lot of female drivers coming out of Switzerland. I think the only thing good about it is Switzerland is really small, and we get to go to Italy or France which is kind of the mecca of racing in Europe. I think it should change. I think we should have a racetrack. I think it would be good for young people to kind of be on a racetrack and drive fast, but in a safe way. Until now we have not managed to get that. I think it would be cool.
espnW: How many languages do you speak?
SD: Five: German, and Swiss German -- which are different because German people don't understand Swiss German -- Italian, French and English.
espnW: What language do you use if you're yelling at someone?
SD: Usually when I am pissed off, the German side comes out. My dad, when he used to yell at me, it was always in German. I think it's a little harsher.
espnW: Have you avoided the dreaded first prank from teammate Tony Kanaan?
SD: I have. It's been weird because everyone has warned me about that. He hasn't yet. I told him, I get pretty flustered when stuff like that happens, so don't throw me off my A game, here.
espnW: Perhaps a preemptive strike by you?
SD: I'm not really a good pranker. I am too nice. That is the problem.
espnW: What makes you laugh?
SD: A lot of things.
espnW: What makes you mad?
SD: Sometimes when we have a plan and the plan drifts away all of a sudden, in general. I hate when people all of a sudden switch it around, and I'm like, 'What? That's not what we were supposed to do.' It's, like, annoying, yeah.
espnW: Not like people cutting you off in traffic or something?
SD: No, because I can give that back. If somebody cuts me off, I know what I need to do to give it back to them.
espnW: What's the maddest you've ever been in a race car?
SD: In 2009, when I got taken out in the last race [by Markus Niemela on the first lap] when I was leading the championship in Atlantics. I was really mad, heartbroken, because it was somebody that didn't have anything to do in the championship, and to take somebody out. … I feel like when you're in the last race and you don't have anything in the championship, I think there is some respect there. I know you are racing, but there is some respect, too, for people who are running for the championship. It didn't happen. I was pretty mad at that.
espnW: You curse a lot on the radio?
SD: I keep it under control. Well, I don't push the button when I say bad things. I would yell but not on the radio. I have said some really bad words, sometimes, too.
espnW: Any worse than any other race car driver?
SD: Well, I have a lot of different languages. Sometimes it happens when I have a mix of two languages and I don't know what I said just now, but I was mad.
espnW: What's the happiest you've ever been in a race car?
SD: When I qualified for Indy [in 2011] after I burned my hands, because I was like -- I didn't know I would be able to do that. And qualifying on the first day, not the second day, just getting the car in there, that was a huge relief. It was kind of a weird day. We had never run minus degree on the wing the whole week and all of a sudden they send me out there minus-four and I am like, 'Oh, my God.' And kind of getting over that was pretty crazy.