Interview: @Daniel_Abt talks Goals, Di Grassi and a little bit of Gaming…

Daniel Abt

I think you’d be hard pushed to find a time when Daniel Abt doesn’t have a smile on his face. As you might expect, to go with that smile is one of the most approachable, generous and personable drivers you’ll find in the Formula E paddock and undoubtedly any paddock. Daniel Abt will make sure every last autograph is signed before making his move. But do nice guys win World Championships?…

Delve behind the likability and you’ll find a determined young racing driver with a passion to succeed. Abt has a number of significant second places to his name including runner up in the 2010 German F3 Cup and missing out on the 2012 GP3 title by just a single point!

The Audi Sport ABT driver now finds himself lining up alongside an incredibly tough teammate in Lucas Di Grassi; a driver who himself narrowly missed out on the inaugural Formula E WDC. With what looks to be a competitive car this season, the German is ready to make his mark…

So Daniel, it was a very up and down season for you last year, you scored points, set fastest race lap, but also finished outside the top 10 on a few occasions and suffered DNF’s. How do you feel your first season went in Formula E?

Okaaay… It could have been much better I think. We had a lot of races where pace was good, where we just didn’t finish where we should have. If you look at the qualifying performance compared to the race performance I think I missed a lot in the races. It was good to show that I’m able to have the speed to fight at the top, but for sure I have to improve to also finish where I start and to achieve better results.

Of course you’ve got a very tough teammate to compete against as well. What is it like to work and race alongside Lucas? Have you been able to learn a lot from him?

Yeah definitely!… In my opinion he is the best teammate I’ve ever had and for me he is also one of the best drivers in this field. He’s a very competitive guy, a very clever guy and he’s been involved in Formula E since the beginning. Obviously he has a certain age which also gives him a lot of experience, he’s working with Audi so he really knows what racing is all about. He’s a tough teammate to have for sure, but it’s also good for me because I can learn a lot! Last year I was able to out qualify him a few times, it should have been a bit more often maybe *smiles*, but I have another chance now. I think for us as a team and for me it’s very good to have him and hopefully we’re going to have a good season together.

And of course the two of you with the team stole the headlines during week two of testing; with first yourself and then Lucas breaking the lap record around Donington Park. You must be happy with how testing has gone so far? What are your impressions of the new car?

It’s hard to say, you never really know where you are until Beijing; but for sure we see that we’ve improved compared to last year. We see that we are competitive in terms of lap times, we have almost no reliability issues which is the most important part, our car does not break down on track; I think if you look at other teams they have struggled much more than us. So I am happy with the work we’ve done, for sure there are a lot of things still to work on, but so far we’re looking good and it’s always good to have a lap record.

Schaeffler Technologies have partnered with ABT to build the powertrain for this year, how are you finding the package to drive?

Well our aim was to reduce weight in order to make it more efficient so we’ve worked on that and of course we have a little bit more torque on the engine, we have the rear suspension… it’s not massive, it’s of course still the same car; but tiny bits here and there and it all adds up in every corner to gain a few hundredths.

Of course you’ve also taken to the World Endurance Championship this year with Rebellion Racing. Can you tell us your plans for the future in WEC, do you hope to run a career in it alongside Formula E?

Yeah first of all I’m going to finish this season, that was always the plan. To do the 24hrs for the first time was a good experience…

and a great result as well [a win in the LMP1 Privateer Class]…

Yeah it was good! we didn’t have that much competition but still, we had strong teammates to fight up against and therefore it was good for us to finish on top, and of course for us to finish, that is something you have to do first at Le Mans. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and then next year I still don’t know what is going to happen, but like I’ve always said Formula E has priority.

Now I’ve read that you’re a bit of a gamer, is that right?

*laughs* yeah it’s true…

Do you ever use the PlayStation to learn circuits that you haven’t been to?

I did that yeah. It depends because sometimes you don’t get the circuit you want, especially with Formula E because those tracks are not made in racing games yet so it’s tough… but yeah for tracks you find in Formula 1 I would do that.

Favourite PlayStation game?…

The Last of Us!

Good choice. And you’re in to your music too of course!

Yeah I like to listen to Hip-Hop and I like rappers like Rick Ross, Drake, all those guys. I’ll listen to it a lot with friends but not really on race day.

And lastly then Daniel, what would you say is your goal for the second Formula E season?

Well I think always when you start racing somewhere you have to aim for the win. It’s not easy here, there’s a lot of competition going on. We don’t know yet where we are with our package, but I think it’s just very important to improve from last year and hopefully we’ll achieve good results.

Thank you very much Daniel!


For me, Daniel Abt is one of those drivers that you want to see do well in year two. As he mentioned at times he has all the speed it takes, it’s just a case of putting it together in the race and in that regard, he will have learnt a great deal last year and from his teammate to carry in to the new season. Always studying the data, always pushing to get the most out of the car, Daniel knows he should have had a better season last year and with a car that looks to be delivering this year, it would be exciting to see him take the fight to Di Grassi and competing up at the front.

by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

Gallery: #FormulaE Testing 2015 Weeks 2 & 3

Photography by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

#ElectricRacing Ep2: The loyal pets of Khaleesi

formulaediary


Episode 2: The loyal pets of Khalessi

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In Episode 2 of Electric Racing we summarise how the Formula E teams performed across the three weeks of pre-season testing, talk fan interaction and pay our respects to Justin Wilson.

Lucas di Grassi: A Champion in the Making?

Lucas Di Grassi

Speed. Consistency. Intelligence. Likeability. There are few drivers in the world that meet those criteria but Lucas di Grassi might just be one of them. His unique blend of speed and superb race craft alongside his charming and approachable personality got me thinking; is he the complete Formula E driver?

To many, Lucas di Grassi would have been an equally deserving winner of the first Formula E championship. Whilst he ultimately finished 11 points shy of Nelson Piquet, his performances throughout the season were arguably the most consistent of the top drivers. Speaking to him at Donington, I got the feeling that Di Grassi shared the same feeling.

‘I think it was a good season as a whole. I was maybe the only driver to fight for a podium at every race, from the first race to the end. Of course there was the disqualification in Berlin and the suspension failure in Buenos Aires. That cost us at least 40 or 50 points and probably the championship. I believe I did a good job. This year we just need to make sure that the small mistakes don’t happen again.’

Were it not for his controversial disqualification from the Berlin ePrix, which he dominated after he took the lead at turn 2, Di Grassi would likely have won the championship with relative ease. A mechanical failure at Argentina also prevented him from taking away big points – these were not driver errors but simply factors outside of his control. There was still a sense of frustration in his voice as he reflected on that weekend.

‘It was a change in a part of the car that had no influence on the performance of the car. That decision for me was completely wrong and I still think it was wrong. That’s the past though and now I just need to make sure that we don’t have the same problem again.’

Di Grassi’s confidence and body language during pre-season testing revealed a lot to me during our short catch up. He was as relaxed as always but full of self-belief.  There was almost an aura of invulnerability around him as I pressed him on why both Buemi and Prost scored more points than him through fastest laps and pole positions.

‘If you look at my average qualifying position it was maybe the best, or at least one of the best when you consider that I started last in Malaysia. I don’t think it’s a weak point. It was just a case of missing out by a few hundredths or maybe we were just unlucky. In the end that was the only reason. We were consistently fast everywhere and that’s what matters for the championship – to be consistently fast at every track. It doesn’t matter if I take two poles and then qualify in 20th..it makes no sense. We have to make sure we spend every race at the top.’

It’s hard to disagree with that assertion.

Standing in the pit lane I could see him meticulously working away with the engineers, providing feedback on the car before setting another quick lap. One engineer even commented that the level of feedback he provided was superb. He’s a driver who feels at home in the team and someone who they look to as a team leader. Let’s not forget that he scored over 80% of the Audi Sport ABT’s points last year.

I also pressed him on the on-going story that unfolded last year between Nelson Piquet Jr and himself. The pair exchanged a few words over the final few races after Piquet accused Di Grassi of blocking him during his qualifying run in Monaco. As far as Lucas is concerned, any tension is, and shall remain, in the past.

‘We spoke at the Gala and during this test..I don’t think we have any problems with each other. It all started because of the qualifying in Monaco but I don’t think that’s relevant any more.’

Mention Formula E to someone and they’ll likely bring up names like Piquet, Prost, Villeneuve and Senna, but I strongly believe that one of the strongest drivers in the pit lane is one whose name doesn’t evoke memories of a previous era of motorsport. Lucas di Grassi is the real deal; he’s humble and articulate but also consistently fast. In Di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT know that they can challenge for the drivers championship; it’s just up to them to deliver him a capable car.

‘The goal is the championship. We need to score as many points as possible. If that’s enough to win the championship then great, if not maybe I need to work harder.’

Written by: Anil Parmar

#FormulaE Andretti on top of powertrain woes?…

Simona de Silvestro

The Amlin Andretti team have faced a multitude of powertrain issues throughout the first four days of Formula E pre-season testing at Donginton Park. In fact the teams only confirmed driver for the 2015/16 campaign and sole test driver, Simona de Silvestro, has so far been unable to complete a single timed lap.

However the American squad – who finished sixth in last years constructors championship – believe they may now be on top of the initial problems, subsequent coding error and battery issues – that have blighted their progress so far. Day four of the tests did at least see the team complete some installation laps and these seem to have provided vital information about Andretti Technologies in-house, season two powertrain.

Speaking with Autosports, Team Principle Roger Griffiths had the following to say:

“We’re a small team and taken on a lot of stuff ourselves, we’ve built the motor and inverter from scratch,” he said.

“It’s a huge challenge, but something we’ve relished, because it’s very exciting.

“It’s all new technology so it’s not something you can buy off the shelf [to fix a problem].

“Even those installation laps, it’s data we never had before in this configuration and we’re improving the technology as we go.

“It’s immensely valuable.”

“We want to go to Beijing having run as many cars as possible and not turn up with equipment that hasn’t run,” he added.

“Our plan is two have two drivers for the final test – in an ideal world.

“We’ve got to make sure it doesn’t become a difficult situation because then you’ve got two cars with issues sat in the garage and not one.

“We have a limited amount of time [left], and we’ll look at it.”

http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/120391


This breakthrough couldn’t come soon enough for the Andretti team, who without a solution would have faced the decision of having to run last years Spark SRT_01E standardised powertrain – an option already taken by Team Aguri. Fingers crossed the team find greater success over the remaining two test days.

Formula eDiary will be at Donington Park to bring you news from the third and final week of pre-season testing. Earlier this week we spoke to Andretti driver Simona de Silvestro; follow the link to see what she had to say ahead of the new Formula E season…

http://formulaediary.com/2015/08/20/interview-desilvestro-getting-to-know-formula-es-exciting-leading-lady/

#FormulaE #DriveTheFuture

 

Interview: #FormulaE CEO Agag talks Calendar, FanBoost & New Teams

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Some CEO’s and senior figures can be hard to engage with. Alejandro Agag isn’t one of those people. Walking up and down the pitlane during the second week of testing, Agag was making time to talk to team representatives, drivers and members of the media. Never one to miss an opportunity to talk to someone in the series, I managed to get some time with him after he had just finished a round of interviews.

Q: The final race on the Formula E calendar hasn’t been confirmed yet. How close are we to finding out the finalised calendar?

A: Well the final race has been confirmed, we just can’t disclose it yet. We have a new race in Paris that has been confirmed and the race in March is confirmed from our side but the announcement is going to be made in mid-November because the city want to do it on a particular day. You just have to wait!

Q: Do you think we might see a new team in Formula E any time soon? Would you like to see an expanded grid?

A: Well we can’t have more than 10 because we have an agreement with the teams that says that there can’t be more whilst we have the two cars per team rule. Unless someone buys one of these teams we won’t see a new team. There are some conversations going on behind the scenes so maybe we’ll see a new team but it would only be through one of the existing teams on the grid.

Q: Is there a worry about Team Trulli? They aren’t at testing this week..

A: Of course there’s a concern – I would be much happier if they were at the track! I know they’ve got some issues that they need to sort out. I hope they can, but it’s not easy to design one of these power trains. There is concern but I am hopeful.

Q: There was some conversation around the race energy limit going up to 170 kW from 150 kW. Can we expect that?

A: It’s very likely. We are just working out the final details but I expect it to happen.

Q: If it goes up to 170 kW and Fanboost remains at 180 kW, will we see Fanboost become less effective? Is that a concern?

A: That’s true but not always the case. It depends on how efficient your powertrain is. At 170 kW you might have to coast more and so some teams may not always be running at the higher limit. We want to keep Fanboost as decisive as possible so we’ll see what we can do.

Q: And are we on track to see Fanboost voting during the races?

A: Yes, we are trying to do that. We want to do a live Fanboost and we are pushing to do that.

Q: We’ve had a year on Formula E. Reflecting on the first year, how do you feel the series is going?

A: Well to be here is fantastic. It was really good to make the first season and I think it was a big success and now everything is consolidating. Now we just need to repeat what we did last year. Last year everything was new and there were too many uncertainties…now we have the opportunity to building something.

Q: And you’ve got many cities in the world knocking at your door? Japan is one of the biggest Formula E markets, no?

A: Absolutely! I am actually travelling to Japan tonight to meet with some cities. It’s non-stop. We are travelling everywhere. We have a road show at Tokyo coming up…Japan is very important for us.

Q: Formula E is now attracting names like Jacque Villeneuve…that’s great news for Formula E, isn’t it?

A: I’m very happy to have Jacques here. He is a brilliant additional to the championship. The names we have in Senna, Piquet, Villeneuve, Prost, they are drivers that fans across the world know and love. I’m very happy with that.

Q: Formula E is now recognised on the F1 Super license scheme however points are only awarded to the winner of the Formula E championship and no one else. Do you think that’s unfair? Does it need to be tweaked?

A: I would be happy even if we didn’t get the super license. I don’t think Formula E should be a ladder for Formula 1; Formula E needs to stand by itself. I think the super license points are completely irrelevant.


To me, Agag is someone with a clear vision of what Formula E can become. He certainly has the know-how and confidence to make Formula E one of the largest motor-racing series in the world, but he also possesses the personality and likeability to inspire those around him. As long as he’s championing Formula E, I have no doubt the series will continue to head in the right direction.

Written by: Anil Parmar

Interview: #DeSilvestro Getting to know Formula E’s exciting leading lady…

Simona de Silvestro

Simona de Silvestro has only taken part in one Formula E weekend, but somehow she already feels like an established name. Maybe that’s to do with her being a truly exciting talent in the world of motorsport. What I do know… her determination is obvious, and she is one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet…

I think everybody was really excited to see you on the Formula E grid in London, you had a lot of support and you out qualified and raced your teammate during the final round. How did you find your first Formula E weekend?

Yeah it was really interesting for me you know, I learned a lot, especially that the Formula E car is a little bit different. To drive in London, I think it’s one of the tougher tracks the calendar went to and especially for me to jump in the car at the last race I think was a pretty big challenge but it went ok. For sure the result wasn’t quite what I was hoping for but I think we can be kind of happy with how the weekend went.

And now you’re leading the team through testing. When you raced in London was it always the plan that you would continue on with Andretti this season, or was it just meant to be one weekend?

Yeah at the time I was really lucky to be a part of the Andretti racing family, I’ve been doing Indycar with them and they called me to do the race in London. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen after that, for sure it was something I was maybe thinking about… you know we have great sponsors here with Amlin and TE Connectivity and somehow things just went on from there and now I’m here doing all the testing.

You’ve also now been confirmed as an Amlin Andretti race driver for Season 2; What excites you most about being in Formula E?

I think being a part of a new series like this, especially with the new technology, I think it’s kind of cool as a driver to be a part of it right from the beginning.

How are you learning the tracks ahead of the new season, do you feel you’re playing catch up in any way to other drivers?

Yeah well right now we haven’t really done that much, but for sure you know when you don’t know the tracks and the other people have run at them it’s a little bit of a disadvantage. But at the end of the day I think these cars are pretty tricky to drive and I think the biggest thing is getting really comfortable in the car and then I think the tracks shouldn’t be an issue.

You mention the cars being pretty tricky, what’s the most challenging thing about them?

I think with these cars the braking is a little tricky, it’s quite different to any other race car I’ve driven in and I think that takes a little bit of time to get used to to be honest.

Now Amlin Andretti has had a bit of a difficult time at testing so far, have the team been able to identify what the main problems are?

Yeah we have some software issues and some things that aren’t quite going right where we want to and for sure we’re not where we want to be. We have a lot of work ahead of us but the team is working hard and hopefully by the time we go to Beijing we will be ok. With the powertrain it’s definitely quite different I think how they built it. it looks pretty nice. We haven’t been able to unleash the full potential of it right now but hopefully we get to do that pretty soon

You’ve done some testing for the Sauber F1 team before, is an F1 superlicense and racing in Formula 1 still something that still interests you?

Yeah I think F1 is always a dream, but I think right now we kind of all know how Formula 1 is, it’s not really dependant on how good you are or anything like that and it’s a little bit unfortunate, but you know, you never know. Right now my focus is here on the Formula E season and you never know what happens. I think if you’re running well here in Formula E the level is really, really strong and if I’m able to be running up front I think that will show that I can be pretty good.

And just so the fans can get to know you a little better Simona…

How did you get into motor racing?

I started racing when I was six years old in go-karts. My dad has a car dealership so I was always around cars and that’s how it kind of started.

What’s been the best moment of your racing career so far?

My best moment so far… I think you know finishing second in Houston…

the third female driver ever to score a podium!…

yeah it was pretty special, we were close to winning that race!

But also I think winning Rookie of the Year at the Indy 500 is also pretty cool.

This next question I’ve also uploaded as an audio file, because it’s a clear example of just how lovely Simona is to be around…

Now I’ve read that you’ve been given the nickname ‘The Iron Maiden’… is that right, because you seem all smiles!… (Yeah I know! *laughs*) Where has that nickname come from?

Well it came actually… when I came to the US my nickname used to be ‘The Swiss Miss’ *laughs* which sounded kind of a little dull… and um, I had a really big crash during practice in 2011 in the Indy 500. The car flipped into the fence and burned my hands pretty badly; it happened on the Thursday and I qualified the car on Saturday with second degree burns, so the fans started calling me ‘The Iron Maiden’… which is pretty cool! *excited smile*… I know it’s a band actually, and I’ve started to listen to some of their songs *laughs* but I haven’t quite gotten into it yet.

Have you got the name on your helmet?

No I don’t!… a lot of people have been telling me to have the logo or something on there, but we’ll have to think about it.

And you mentioned Switzerland, it looks like you could be getting a home race soon with a Swiss ePrix maybe as soon as Season 3…

Yeah it would be great! I think everybody in Switzerland would be really excited to have an ePrix; especially I think me or even all the Swiss drivers who are in the field, because we haven’t raced at home in a long time!

Formula E really lets the fans get close to the action and we’ve seen many young fans come up to you and ask for pictures or autograph during the pit walks. Can you give any advice to, particularly any young female fans out there, who maybe dream of being a racing driver?

Yeah I think that in anything they want to do, to not be scared and not try it. If you’re passionate about something go and do it and you know, the people will help you achieve your dreams. That’s the biggest thing, don’t be shy about trying things out. Even for me, racing isn’t maybe the first things a girl gets into, but I’ve always been passionate about it, just kept working at it, and now here I am. So I think just keep believing  in yourself.


#FormulaE #DriveTheFuture

by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

Interview: #Senna A learned Mahindra, Brazil and his Fans…

Bruno Senna

When it comes to drivers who make you feel like they have all the time in the world for you, they honestly come no better than Bruno Senna…

Now I asked your teammate this question but he wanted me to deflect it on to you. Mahindra are such a popular team with the fans and everyone would like to see them have a much stronger year. Can you tell us what the team struggled to get right last year and what they’ve learnt to hopefully see you fighting much further up the grid this year?

You know, Formula E is a very tough racing series. I think as a team we didn’t achieve what we needed to achieve in terms of development, especially early on in the season. Some people got more out of their car and more knowledge out of their car than we did and we paid for it… so that’s how it goes in motor racing and of course Formula E was no different.

But of course you finished the season strongly last year with a fantastic 4th place in Battersea Park. The battle you had with Sebastien Buemi was one of the highlights of the season. Can you just reflect back on that race for us?…

It was a tough race!… tough weekend! We were going to finish again in the top five for the first London race but we got a penalty for speeding in the pitlane which was quite a shame considering that we didn’t really speed in the pitlane; we just crossed the line a bit fast but slowed down right after. Anyways it is what it is, it was a big points loss, but we were looking ok in terms of performance and I think it was nice to finish on the best result of the season. But you know the race itself was quite tough. I knew when I saw that he [Buemi] was really attacking me, I realised that something must have been going on with the championship, but I was doing my own race and if he was behind me it was only his own fault anyway so too bad.

So you’ve got a new team mate this season in Nick Heidfeld, who obviously you know from Formula 1 and from racing against him last year… what are your thoughts on having ‘Quick Nick’ as your teammate?

*laughs* Yeah it’s always great. Nick is a very, very knowledgeable race car driver, he knows so much about the car’s dynamics and he really has a very structured plan to try things and push the team in different directions; so it’s been very interesting to see how much we’ve tried in the cars, both my car and his car and the feedback. You know it’s a good challenge to have someone like Nick as a team mate. Not taking anything away from Karun, obviously Karun is also pretty tough to beat, so it’s important I think to move on and keep on pushing and beat your team mate whoever it is.

How does this year’s car feel compared to last year’s? You’ve got the new Mahindra Engineering powertrain in the back, is the weight of the car any different?

Our new powertrain is an evolution and it’s a good evolution of last year’s so we have less weight in the rear of the car which is nice. It feels very similar, it even sounds very similar to what we had last year. We also have much more headroom and with the temperatures, so I think yeah hopefully it’s going to be fast. I’m pretty happy with our times in terms of race trim conditions, so I’m confident that we’re going to be ok.

Formula E has to consider a race in Brazil at some point doesn’t it? do you think Brazil is a nation that would get behind the championship?

I’m sure it will, I mean there’s three Brazilian drivers in the championship, two of them fighting for the championship last year…

third one this year…

*smiles* yes and hopefully three of them this year *laughs*, so I think Brazil should really have a race. We got close with the Rio ePrix, it just didn’t happen in the end and I think we’ve been pushing but it depends on so many thing you know. Stopping a region of a city to put a race there is always pretty tough so we’ll see.

Is Rio where you’d like to see the ePrix held?

For me it’s easy if it’s in Sao Paulo *laughs* because it’s my home town, but again it’s all the same so hopefully we’re going to get a race in Brazil and then we’ll get lots of Brazilian fans coming to see us.

Do you think we could ever see a Formula E night race?

I think so I mean I’m sure that depending on the place you go to, if you go to Singapore for instance everything is already setup, there’s already lots of experiences with street circuits at night and it looks pretty cool.

The cars would look incredible, I mean your car especially under the lights…

Yeah with the fluorescent accents it would look pretty cool.

We’ve had one year of #FanBoost now, how do you think the concept has gone? Is there any way you would like to see it change for the future? For example, fans vote live during the race, or every driver is given a Boost to use during the race, but only a few would be awarded a second FanBoost…

I think that currently you cannot have too much more FanBoost because you’re going to overheat your car and then it’s just going to be a worse thing for you. But I think FanBoost is a cool idea involving the fans, it makes the public interact. I think from a drivers perspective it’s just how the FanBoost voting is implemented. Sometimes you see lots of changes very fast and there are ways to do it; so I’d like to see the fans voting, rather than the teams. It should be for drivers rather than teams.

I said before what a popular team Mahindra are with the fans and I think a large part of that is down to how much time it’s drivers and you especially have spent with the fans since the series began. Have you got a message we can give to all your supporters out there?

Well obviously come to the races, it’s great to see the races full of fans, especially in city centres which are not so difficult to access. Also come to the McLaren races of course, I’m racing in that as well. But yeah, just keep on doing what you’re doing because you’re great fans and the support you give me is always really nice!

And keep FanBoosting you!…

And keep FanBoosting me definitely yes! *smiles*


Interviewing the drivers for the first time during Formula E Testing this year always feels like a surreal experience. You learn a lot each time and take something away from every one… whether that’s finding when to end an interview, being prepared to deviate, driver personalities, as well as trying to judge the tone of the questions for each driver and how they are responding to you.

But you needn’t worry with Bruno. Experiencing it first hand and observing him in the garage, in the paddock and with fans in the pit lane… he just has a knack of making people feel at ease and important to him. A down to earth really genuine guy, he was a pleasure to spend time with. Here’s to a strong 2015/16 Formula E season for him and the Mahindra Racing team.

#FormulaE #DriveTheFuture

Written by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

#FormulaE Di Grassi sets Donington record, as Andretti struggle…

Di Grassi 2

Lucas di Grassi topped the sheets at the end of the second pre-season test. His lap time of 1:29.920 was the fastest Formula E time yet at Donington, comfortably beating the time Buemi set last week for the Renault e.Dams team. Buemi finished second with a time of 1:30.670 with Bruno Senna finishing the day in third place.

‘It felt like a quick lap when I was in the car’, said Di Grassi after the session. ‘We were at maximum power – in the end you need to push hard to see how the car is behaving in terms of traction and braking. We’re very happy with the performance but the advantage that you see between us and the others will be very different in Beijing’.

Pressed on whether there was more time to find within the current package, Di Grassi believed that there was more speed within the package however the focus would be on prioritising speed and set-up for Beijing.

‘There is always more time to find. In Donington there is maybe a lot more to find but it’s not important to be quick here; we need to focus on getting in right for Beijing because it’s very different’.

Sébastian Buemi believed that the gap between the two drivers was not reflective of true pace of both cars. ‘It depends on the circuit conditions. If you look at my sector times today they look the same, it’s just a matter of putting them together. We lost less than a tenth in the last sector and we are similar in the first and second sector. We got blocked a little bit on my second attempt and a few things went wrong, but I think that it’s doable’.

Whereas Monday was relatively quiet on track, Tuesday proved to be much busier, with Jérôme D’Ambrosio topping the lap chart with 39 laps. There was unfortunately more frustration for Simona De Silverstro and the Amlin-Andretti Formula E team; they completed just 7 laps throughout the day after struggling with numerous technical issues. With just two days of pre-season testing to go, the team will have to work flat out to get their powertrain running for next week, otherwise they may be forced to use last year’s unit.

Team Trulli once again failed to show up, raising further questions about the team’s future and commitment.

day 4 times

Interview: #Heidfeld talks Mahindra, The Attraction of FE… and that Hair!

Nick Heidfeld

As I sat down with Nick Heidfeld – who impressively decided to go cross-legged – on the back of the teams transit vehicle I found myself excited to put my questions to Mahindra Racings latest signing – a driver I had watched in Formula 1 for so many years…

So Nick, here in Donington we’re all gearing up for the start of Season 2, but if we rewind a year… what is it that attracted you to the Formula E championship?

Well before signing it was of course the idea of electric racing which was interesting, something brand new and to be a part of that. I watched its build up from the outside for a while and thought ok I enjoy sports car racing too much to do it – but then I thought I would give it a go at least in year 1 and see how it is. I liked it more and more as I saw which teams were coming into the sport and exactly which drivers came in; because I think we have a very high standard of drivers, I think it’s a very strong field. And then the icing on the cake for signing was the venues, the places that we go to. We go to Miami, we go to Moscow, to Berlin; each single circuit is in a fantastic location across the world. Next year we will go to others, this year we go to Paris, and that’s fantastic! What I enjoyed during the season was that the racing was very close and I hope it will stay like this in season 2 because there will obviously be differences between the cars, but hopefully not just one team driving away; that would make it boring for the drivers and the spectators. Part of the excitement of last year was that everybody could win, we had seven different winners I think in the first seven races or something like that, you never knew who was going to win!

Is that a concern then, that one team might have done a much better job with the powertrain this year and just pull away at the front?…

A small worry. I think the regulations are done in a way that means there shouldn’t be massive differences. We’re still limited, we still all have the same battery, which will probably go up to 170kw for the race from 150kw last year; so in the end don’t think there will be massive differences.

You’ve moved from Venturi to Mahindra Racing this year, what was it that attracted you to the team?

Well I spoke to a couple of teams including Mahindra and especially I had conversations with Dilbagh (Mahindra Team Principle); who explained to me all about what he and the team learned from last year, what they want to improve, what they have already changed, what their future plan was, and that’s what convinced me.

That’s great because Mahindra are a really popular team with the fans and I think we all want to see the team have a much stronger performance this year!

I hope so.

I was going to ask Bruno, but as Mahindra managed to convince you, can you tell us what the team struggled to get right last season and what they’ve learnt to hopefully see you guys fighting higher up the grid?

I don’t really want to go into the details and probably Bruno will answer the question a lot better because he was here last year; so that’s an easy question for me to push on to him *laughs*

You and Bruno Senna have worked together before as test drivers for Lotus in Formula 1… has that made having him as your new team mate this year any easier?

Yes a little bit. We know each other, we’ve met on several occasions before and of course a lot last year. There’s a very good relationship between all the drivers in Formula E. It was very easy to settle into this team and also to get on with Bruno, we have a good work relation and we get on well.

Can you tell us your thoughts on the powertrain Mahindra Engineering have developed for the car this year?

There’s some small things that need improvement, luckily mainly on the software side; reliability is very important. In terms of our speed, power and ultimate lap time it’s too early to tell. At the moment it looks like e.dams is on top, at least from the first test, but we will only find out in Beijing where we truly stand.

It seems more and more that drivers are again taking part in multiple racing championships – you yourself have competed in the WEC – do you think that’s a result of anything in particular? are drivers feeling freer? If you go back some 30-40 years (*nods*… “yeah!”) drivers used to compete in multiple championships all the time and it’s something that seemed to go away for a while, particularly in Formula 1.

Yeah I think in Formula 1 there’s not much going on apart from recently Le Mans. I think in the past some people wanted to try other racing but were not allowed. And for the others I think it depends on how big their programme is and if they clash. Formula E makes it possible for many, not only drivers but teams, engineers, mechanics to do WEC, where for them before it was not possible. Also in Formula 1 you’re so dedicated to this one things, so focused as a team, where as in Formula E it’s just starting up, there’s not so many races in a season, so luckily they’re more open to allow you to do something else. On top of that there’s no in season testing so it is possible to do it and I think this is the reason.

Ok and just one last question Nick…

I think a lot of fans on twitter are curious to know how you get your hair looking so good?

*laughs*

I read something last week, but it was the first time I ever saw it…

Everybody wants to know what does Nick Heidfeld use on his hair? how does he look so well groomed?… Do you have any style advice?

Normally I actually never use a comb because I think it takes too much time… I just shower, use whatever shampoo is around, because I like to sleep very long so I have no time *laughs*

So it’s just get up and go!?

Sometimes if I have it, if I don’t forget it I put some gel or cream or *laughs*

That’s brilliant, thank you very much Nick!


Nick was a joy to talk to. Attentive and able to laugh at himself, he came across as genuinely interested, giving consideration to each question. I felt very relaxed talking to him as though he would give me all the time I needed, despite no doubt having a lot of work to do understanding this years car.

Both Nick and Mahindra Racing experienced very mixed seasons last year and neither will have come away satisfied. but the team have shown competitive pace throughout testing so far, even if it’s too early to read anything into the lap times around Donington Park. Both driver and team have a point to prove in season 2 and here’s hoping they can achieve that together.

#FormulaE #DriveTheFuture

Written by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1