Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 4/13/12
LONG BEACH, CA Is Simona de Silvestro the next Danica Patrick? Not if Simona has anything to say about it. "I'm not here to replace anybody," said de Silvestro, who will drive the HVM Racing car in Sunday's 2012 Long Beach Grand Prix. "I am here to be myself, and I think everybody's looking at me that way, too. I've been able to show that I can win races, and when people see me, I hope they see what I've accomplished and just see me. "I'm not surprised at all with the comparisons, though, because with (Patrick) leaving (for NASCAR), it's natural that people would look for a replacement. That's fine, but I just to be the best racer I can be. I'm not looking for the attention of trying to replace her. I just want to improve and become the most consistent driver I can be." Being a woman in a male-dominated sport is going to bring attention, especially when you're a talented performer. Simona de Silvestro is certainly that. The 23-year old native of Thun, Switzerland has won six times in her career so far, and finished third overall in the 2009 Atlantic Championship series. A 14th place finish in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 earned her the Rookie of the Year award. And sometimes notoriety comes in unexpected moments, such as a crash during practice for the 2011 Indy 500. She suffered second degree burns on both hands, yet became a fan darling when she competed with both hands wrapped in gauze. "Sure, there are times when things outside your control have an effect on how you do and how people think of you," said de Silvestro, shaking her head wistfully, "but you've got to forget about those things and move on. You can't let them get to you, and at one time I would have let that happen. But I've learned from everything that's happened to me, and it's made me a better driver. Fellow driver Scott Dixon agrees. "She's done a fantastic job with everything," Dixon said. "For a small team (like HVM), a single-car team, it's difficult to put it all together, especially as a rookie. "Most of the time as a young driver you try to learn from members of your team who have experience, but she's had to do a lot of it on her own. It's been a constant change in her career, and she's done a great job." A single-mindedness learned at a very young age also has contributed to Simona's rising career. "My dad used to say that the only time I was quiet as a baby was when Formula One was on TV," she recalls with a laugh. "I've wanted to be a race car driver since I was six years old. I had the racing bug really early. "I was playing tennis with my friends and doing other things, but I knew I wanted to drive, so my parents bought me a go kart, and I just kept going."Did the different type of childhood she ledmuch like a swimmer or skater who has to devote nearly every extra hour to practiceaffect her ability to make and keep friends? "Not really," she says. "I still have a lot of friends who come over and visit me, and they think it's really cool that I'm racing in the United States. They all like it. And I didn't have a normal childhood because I choose a career at such an early age. "But I look at it this way: I got to do something that I wanted to do; that I love to do. I believe that you should always take the opportunity to do something you've always wanted to do, if it presents itself." And de Silvestro has seen the opportunities Patrick has received off the race track, but isn't sure she wants to follow the same road. "My priority is always that I want to win races," she said. "I want to fight for championships. I'm working really hard for that and I'm sure those opportunities are going to come around. "Women racers are no longer (a novelty), and we can't just live on being a woman in racing. We have to go out on the track and prove that we're good."For me, that's the biggest thing."
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