Formula E: Mahindra Racing aim to go from race winners to championship contenders in 2018-19 season
For the upcoming Formula E season, will Mahindra Racing be able to go from being race winners to championship contenders?
With the Force India Formula 1 Team name expected to disappear from Formula 1 in 2019, Mahindra Racing has been presented with their best opportunity yet to capture the sentiment of being "India's racing team" in the hearts of the fans. After being one of the founding teams of the all-electric Formula E racing series, Mahindra Racing have gone from strength to strength in the last few seasons to give Indian Motorsport fans plenty to cheer for.
Mahindra Racing's rise in the series has been steady. After finishing 8th in the opening season in 2014-15, the team did well to score a couple of podiums en route to a 5th place finish in 2015-16. However, it was from the 2016-17 season that the team started delivering to their potential to score race wins and podiums as they finished third in the Teams' Championship. While their overall finish in 2017-18 (last season) was only 4th, Mahindra Racing's performances were noteworthy as they were in contention for both the championships from the start of the season.
When Firstpost had exclusively interviewed Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing's championship contender last season), he made an interesting observation. He said, "I've realised that in Mahindra, we usually do our own thing and we don't look outside too much. We had 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. That mentality puts us in the place where we are right now." For the upcoming season, will Mahindra Racing be able to go from being race winners to championship contenders?
We’re getting ready to electrify ⚡️the streets for our fifth consecutive #ABBFormulaE season on Saturday! Who’s excited? Massive #MahindraRacing shout out to @FIAFormulaE for the video! #AdDiriyahEPrix pic.twitter.com/E5KYeZ1CJd
— Mahindra Racing (@MahindraRacing) December 12, 2018
Two cars, three drivers
For starters, the team is fielding an all-new driver line-up for the season. Jerome D'Ambrosio, one of the few drivers who has raced in all ePrixs (45) held till date, will partner Pascal Wehrlein, an extremely talented driver worthy of a serious shot in Formula 1. D'Ambrosio's multiple race-winning experience should come handy, but a startling fact about his Formula E career is that his best season was nearly four years ago. The Belgian driver finished 14th in the Drivers' Championship last year with his best finish coming in Zurich where he finished third. One would assume that D'Ambrosio's hiring is with the view to help with the season-long development of the car — an area that Mahindra Racing wish to focus on for the new season.
On the other hand, Wehrlein joins the series as a rookie and given his form and achievements in all series except Formula 1, one would expect Wehrlein to find his feet and settle in the team and series quickly. In pre-season testing, the German driver was on pace with his several big-named rivals. Given Wehrlein's contractual situation with Mercedes (he left their junior driver program after failed attempts to find a racing seat in Formula 1), Mahindra Racing's most successful racing driver Felix Rosenqvist will feature for the first ePrix of the season Saudi Arabia.
The team's decision to drop Nick Heidfeld after a not-so-competitive performance last season seems sensible. The irony though is that Heidfeld finished higher in the Drivers' Championship (11th) than their new signee D'Ambrosio did. As for Rosenqvist, the Swedish racer's decision to pursue a full season in the 2019 Indy Car Series saw him leave Mahindra Racing. However, did Mahindra Racing's inability to string together a perfect season last year despite having a fast car make other more talented drivers in Formula E look away?
For 2018-19, Mahindra Racing need to focus on their in-season development program — one that the team admitted lacked last season and has boosted its resources for, for the upcoming season. The arrival of new sponsors would have definitely helped the team's cause as it aims to maximise resource utilisation, another factor that is key to success in Formula E itself.
Formula E in India?
We are in favour of international motorsport series hosting a race in India — but under the right circumstances. The scars of Formula 1's failed attempts to set base in India are still visible and let's hope Formula E don't haste as they assess the possibility of an Indian ePrix. There are several metro and Tier 1 cities in India that are capable of hosting large-scale public events, just the way they host marathons. However, apart from infrastructural capabilities, it is the taxation laws that need to be motorsport friendly.
However, in the Mahindra Racing story, an Indian ePrix will only complement their efforts as they work hard to beat far more recognised and possibly advanced car manufacturers in the world in their quest for electric racing glory.
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