Simona de Silvestro has been cleared to drive in the initial practice session at Indianapolis this morning in order to assess whether her injuries have healed enough to allow her to participate in Pole Day qualifying today.
The Swiss driver was treated at Methodist Hospital yesterday for second-degree burns on the back of her right hand and superficial burns on her left hand and fingertips. She was examined by IndyCar medical staff this morning, but they declined to clear her to drive in Friday's practice.
“It is my goal to get back in the car as quickly as I can,” de Silvestro said. “For any racecar driver, it's important to get right back in the car. If you step out of it, you'll always think about it and think whether it was the right decision. I think when I go out there again I'll enjoy it. It will be their decision (IndyCar) and also mine, because it's pretty shocking.”
She acknowledged that gripping the steering wheel and using the paddle shifters will be difficult with her injuries.
“I can move my hands, but it is pretty tight because it pulls the skin,” she said. “It will hurt a lot. Luckily, on an oval it's not as physical as a road course.”
De Silvestro was on her seventh lap of Thursday's session when sparks were seen trailing the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car Dallara. The car made contact with the SAFER Barrier between Turns 3 and 4, spun and rode the wall backward before making secondary contact with the SAFER Barrier and lower portion of the catch fence in Turn 4. The car slid down the track on its top, with flames surrounding it. De Silvestro confirmed that the accident followed a suspension failure on the car.
“Something broke on the rear suspension and when that happens, you're just a passenger,” she said. “You can't really do anything about it, especially when you're going about 220mph. I hit the wall and it took forever to land, it seemed, and then it started getting pretty hot out there (because of flames). It was pretty shocking, actually, especially to be on fire. It's kind of weird because the fuel is splashing on you and you don't really know what to do. A lot of things go through your head, but you want to get out of the car as quickly as possible.
“I was pretty shocked, but I can say I'm lucky to be here. It just shows how safe the car is. I don't think a crash like that in any other car I would be standing here. When I got out of the car, I couldn't believe it because it was so crazy being along for the ride and being on fire.
"I don't think I was a good patient in the infield medical center because I was in a lot of pain and I was screaming for water to cool my hands down. They took good care of me and then we went to the hospital, where they said it was second-degree burns."