Alejandro Agag, the CEO of Formula E, boldly declared a few days ago that “Formula E will be the top tier Motorsport championship in 20 years.” Given the new generation car that Formula E unveiled a few days ago, Formula E will definitely be the most futuristic looking racing car series in the world.
But this post isn’t about Formula E vs Formula 1. This post is about Mahindra Racing Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist, currently the hottest property in the all-electric series. In his debut season last year, Rosenqvist finished third in the Drivers’ Championship with three pole positions, one win and five podium finishes.
For the current season, Rosenqvist leads the Drivers’ Championship ahead of Sam Bird by four points. He scored back-to-back wins at the Hong Kong (Race 2) and Marrakesh ePrix, propelling him and Mahindra Racing to the top of the respective championship standings.
Ahead of this weekend’s Santiago ePrix, we interacted with the the Swedish racer, who has proven his pace and talent on-track and in the simulator too. Rosenqvist was the only Formula E professional driver who qualified to race and finished second against a field of simulator specialists in the Formula E Virtual Race last year.
In this interview, Rosenqvist talks about his team Mahindra Racing and how they work together to be a step ahead of their title challengers, his favourite Formula E racing venue and of course, his Formula 1 aspirations. Rosenqvist belongs to a rare breed of drivers who are hoping that Formula E success will help secure a promotion to Formula 1.
Felix, can you elaborate on your Formula E and Mahindra Racing experience?
Formula E is clearly a competitive championship. Under Formula 1 it is the most competitive in terms of teams and drivers. This is definitely a place you want to settle into as a young driver and grow through the ranks. My target is to win the championship. Last year we had a really good run in my rookie season and the Mahindra Racing team really managed to integrate me well. This year we will certainly try to go for the win.
Who are you biggest title rivals this season?
Rosenqvist: In Formula E, there’s such a beehive. You don’t really know who can win races so you have to keep an eye out on everyone this year. I personally think Sam Bird is my biggest rival. He is a very talented driver and has a solid car this year. He is very good in qualifying and he’s strong in the races in terms of overtaking. When he runs in the front he leads the pack completely and wins the race.
How do you & Mahindra Racing work together to stay ahead of your rivals?
Rosenqvist: At Mahindra Racing we usually do our own thing and we don’t look outside too much, except maybe for some design ideas. We have a lot of good things (especially in our software system) that I know most teams don’t have. Basically, the team has a mentality that everything is possible. If the driver has asked for something to be implemented, the team has never said ‘we cannot do it’, they will always say, we’ll have it ready within two races, and it’s been there, and it’s been working. This mentality puts us in the place where we are right now, leading the championship. I really hope we can continue that level of ‘willingness to win’ and the family feeling the team has because that’s very underrated.
Note: Mahindra Racing recently announced partnerships with Mahindra Group companies – Pininfarina and Tech Mahindra, with the intention to stay ahead of the curve in their championship challenge this season.
What’s a typical Formula E weekend like for a driver? How do you adjust to the short schedules?
Rosenqvist: The week starts off slow but then on Thursday it all goes crazy. We have a lot of meetings to catch up with the team. What happened in the simulator since you last met, for example. There are a lot of media activities as well. Then comes Friday, which is less media and more about actual driving, working with the team; we do a lot of driver car change practices. The actual race day is just complete madness. I had a couple of races where I actually didn’t look at my phone from 6 am to 8 pm – like I didn’t even see one message because I was fully occupied for the entire day. Preparing for the short racing schedules is quite mental but I prefer it that way than having the long sessions and long races. I think this is better for the fans and drivers overall.
What levels of fitness does a Formula E driver require?
Rosenqvist: I think it’s a different kind of fitness in Formula E. First of all, the steering wheel is very heavy on some circuits so that is very physical, for example, Mexico. Lots of drivers that struggle at the end of the races. But all in all I wouldn’t say that it is a massively physical car compared to other things I have driven like Indycar, GP2 or Formula 3. Due to all the things you have to manage in the car you get quite tired and start to fade by the end of the race.
You race in different categories (single seaters, GT, etc.), how do you adapt?
Rosenqvist: Adapting to different cars is a bit of an art. It’s important to open up your body to new potential and that’s why I keep doing as much racing as I can. If you try and ride a bicycle backwards, obviously you will fall but you can also learn to ride a bicycle backwards. That is the same mindset that I try and have with racing cars. If I jump in a rallycross car or a prototype car there should be no reason why I cannot drive it. I try not to have a favourite car. I just love driving and I try to do as much of it.
Having raced cars with combustion engines and electric motors, how different are these two to go racing in?
Rosenqvist: The difference is not massive–the difference is the delivery from the time that you put your foot down till the time where you actually go forward, especially since in Super Formula you have the turbo which is the new technology now in combustion engines. It’s quite slow. It takes four, five tenths of a second before you get the power you request from the pedal. The Formula E engine is very good in slow speed corners because whatever you request from it, it will give you. It’s a bit weak in the high speed corners though. That said, as the championship goes on and there’s more and more power every year. I would say that an electric engine in the end is a perfect engine and it does exactly what you ask for, but it has to get more powerful.
Do you harbour Formula 1 aspirations?
Rosenqvist: Yes, of course. My dream is to race in Formula 1. I try everyday to prove to the teams there that I am capable of a seat. I haven’t given up that dream but I am realistic. I think it is better to be with the best drivers, try to beat the best drivers. If you try to do Formula 2 for example, you have to find budget because the teams there are not manufacturer teams and they cannot afford to pay their drivers. So I prefer to be a professional driver, try to beat the best drivers, prove myself and in that way I might have a chance to go to Formula 1 rather than the classical way that says you need to go through single seater ladders and basically pay yourself to get a drive, which I haven’t had the possibility to do.
Note: His team-mate in the 24 Hours of Daytona (concluded on 28th January 2018) was Williams’ Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll.
From an Indian team in Formula E to an Indian team in Formula 1, would a seat at Force India interest you?
Rosenqvist: Force India is doing a very good job. I think it’s a very similar story to Mahindra Racing in Formula E. The team has less resources than other teams in the championship and are still gettings far better results than everyone expected–an underdog. But, Mahindra Racing is not underdogs anymore in Formula E. Force India has a very good car and does a great job every year, that is something Indians should be proud. Force India is carrying the (Indian) flag in the best championship in the world so I would definitely love to drive for that team.
Formula E races in cities with picturesque backdrops, which is your favourite venue?
Rosenqvist: I think it has to be a draw between Hong Kong & Monaco. Hong Kong was my first race and it had such a ‘wow’ effect on me. I won a race there this year so I have some great memories. Monaco is my hometown now so going down to the paddock from my home was a cool feeling. It felt like a minor version of the F1 weekend! I’d never raced before at Monaco so that was something to tick off the list.
Who is your favourite Formula 1 driver?
Rosenqvist: I think it was Kimi (Raikkonen) until he started posting training videos (laughs). It’s hard to say. I know Esteban Ocon really well and I respect him as a driver. I really hope that he will get a Mercedes seat one day. I think he can be a potential World Championship winner.
Whether Rosenqvist is destined for a breakthrough in Formula 1 or not, he certainly seems destined for a long and successful career in Formula E. Let’s hope he is able to bring laurels to Mahindra Racing and their legion of Indian fans.
Updated Date: Feb 02, 2018 20:47 PM