Formula E 2019-20: Mahindra Racing's Jerome d’Ambrosio looks for sustained intensity in upcoming season

  • In the relatively young history of Formula E, there are only four drivers who have competed in all the 58 ePrixs conducted till date. Mahindra Racing's Jerome d'Ambrosio is one of them.

  • Across the five seasons he has raced in, d'Ambrosio has scored two pole positions, three ePrix wins and nine podiums.

  • In this exclusive interview with Firstpost, Jerome d'Ambrosio explains his and Mahindra Racing's prospects for the 2019-20 Formula E season and more.

In the relatively young history of Formula E, there are only four drivers who have competed in all the 58 ePrixs conducted till date. Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio is one of the four — Lucas di Grassi, Sam Bird, and Daniel Abt being the others. Across the five seasons he has raced in, d’Ambrosio has scored two pole positions, three ePrix wins and nine podiums. Before signing up to race for Mahindra Racing last season, the Belgian driver raced the first four seasons with Dragon Racing.

Understandably, it is his overall experience that Mahindra Racing will be banking on as they start their second season together this Friday at the 2019 Ad Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia — a race they scored their first podium at last season. They followed it up with a victory at the Marrakesh ePrix and were championship leaders in the early part of the season. However, a dip in form saw them finish 11th in the Drivers’ and sixth in the Teams’ Championship.

Formula E’s biggest asset is the globally renowned manufacturer teams — Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, and Audi being some of them. It is a matter of pride for India and Indian Motorsport fans that Mahindra Racing is competing with the best of the best. In this exclusive interview with Firstpost, Jerome d’Ambrosio explains his and Mahindra Racing’s prospects for the 2019-20 Formula E season and more.

Formula E conducted an official pre-season test in October. What are team’s learnings from the test?

The preparations have been going on fairly well. We keep learning every day we get on the track or every time we get into the simulator. It is really difficult to know where we will be compared to the others in Riyadh (Ad Diriyah ePrix), but we are putting in the efforts we can. We definitely have a good car so should be able to fight at the front. In terms of learning, we have learned a few things from last year. We are trying to learn the reasons why aren’t we able to perform towards the end of the season as well as we do in the beginning. We believe we have addressed these points. The main conclusion from the pre-season tests is that the field is extremely tight. It is really too early to say anything. Let’s see what happens in Riyadh. The competition is going to be fierce and tighter than last year.

In the last two seasons, Mahindra Racing have started strong and faded away as the season progressed. What could be the reason and how do you and the team plan to avoid it this season?

A part of the reason is (perhaps) the way we are structured. We are fighting big names. The teams in Formula E are getting more and more professional every year. I believe the move of bringing everything in-house makes a lot of sense, something that will help the whole team maintain performance and rate of development throughout the season. There’s a lot of travel once you come back to Europe, the races are one after the other, and to be able to regroup in the same spot, in the same office will hopefully make a difference.

What are you and the team’s goals for the 2019-20 Formula E Championship?

Our goals are aligned. Personally, I want to fight for the (Drivers’) championship and it is the same goal for the team (the Teams’ championship). We have two drivers who want to fight for the championship — nothing less than that, we know we can do it. I think we have a good car. It is a matter of working hard enough for it and hopefully putting together during the races. There’s huge competition out there, some big names. But we have proven in the past that on occasions we have beat them, now we need to do it more regularly.

Given the limited track time, what areas does/will Rudy’s simulator time help in race preparations?

A simulator is a big part of Formula E and Motorsport in general. But in Formula E, because of the energy management of things, we spend a tremendous amount of days on the sim to be as prepared as we can be. It isn’t really on the car setup but on the energy management and the on-going season work that never stops.

Being a Formula E driver, are you expected to follow a sustainable lifestyle outside of the race track too?

Note: Last month, Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton’s ‘go vegan, save the planet’ plea evoked mixed reactions. The reactions were filled with irony — how could a Formula 1 driver even think of sustainability? A few days ago, Formula 1 announced their Net Zero Carbon initiative — a target for the series to be carbon neutral by 2030. But does the world have different expectations from a Formula E driver?

I don’t know if there’s an expectation or not, I don’t know what people expect from me. But yes, it would be in a way bit hypocritical to go out there and push for more sustainable development in the automotive industry and doing that without trying to apply it in one’s personal lifestyle. Of course, it should apply to our way of living — I think of plastic consumption, water and electricity usage. I do have a small electric car at home I use when in Monaco because it is more convenient. I also do have a (collection) of classic cars and old school things. They’re used on occasions and not on a daily basis. On a daily basis, I try and have a positive impact on everything I do and other projects I get involved in.

Given your experience in the series, what do you think Formula E needs to do to continue to grow as a championship?

I think we need to make sure we remember what has made Formula E so successful and helped in growing so fast. I believe there’s a combination of different things, it is the core DNA of the championship. We’re close to fans, we’re reaching people, we are accessible. Also maintaining development on the cars in areas that are relevant to manufacturers — that will continue to attract them (more manufacturers). This also means that we need to contain costs. This is important when manufacturers are all in because at one point there will be a development war.

That (development war) is fine as long as the development is relevant to the road car. We shouldn’t get into an area where you start developing on aero and stuff like that. All these details are to keep in mind while also sticking to our core values. Hopefully, we will keep growing. We have made tremendous progress in a short period of time. And in this fast time and changes, it is important to remember where we are coming from and why people like us in the first place.

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2019 12:41:08 IST