Formula E: 'There’s desire to achieve more', Mahindra Racing drivers Alexander Sims and Alex Lynn on season so far

Kunal Shah and Soumil Arora May 13, 2021 09:49:15 IST
Formula E: 'There’s desire to achieve more', Mahindra Racing drivers Alexander Sims and Alex Lynn on season so far

Alexander Sims and Alex Lynn. Twitter/@MahindraRacing

Formula E is at the half-way mark of its 2020-21 season and Mahindra Racing are 8th in the Teams’ Championship. After a relatively slow start to their season, the team has picked up momentum in the last 4 rounds - scoring two podiums and narrowly missing out on a third in Valencia. With only 13 points separating teams from 5th to 11th place, it’s certain that positions will change multiple times before the end of the season. In the case of Mahindra, one expects that their momentum will only drive them forward.

The 2020-21 Formula E season (or Season 7) is a bit unique for Mahindra Racing. Apart from fielding an almost new driver line-up, the team also introduced significant upgrades to their package. In a pre-season briefing that we attended, the team’s CEO and Team Principal Dilbagh Gill conveyed that it was the second time in the team’s history that such radical upgrades were introduced. To understand the impact of the upgrades, the upswing in form and the podium finishes, we had a virtual sit down session with Mahindra Racing’s drivers Alexander Sims and Alex Lynn for Firstpost.

Early season momentum

“For me, it is just a lot of hard work. I joined the team in Berlin (last year), about 8-9 months ago. I don’t think we’ve stopped working a day. Mahindra Racing and I have big ambitions coming into this season and with what we want to achieve and how much we want to improve. We’re only at the start of what I believe we can do as a team. There’s still a long way to go but I think it’s purely down to hard work,” explained Lynn who scored his first-ever Formula E podium with Mahindra Racing in the second race at Valencia.

Lynn said of his maiden podium appearance, “It was really cool, I can’t deny it. It was a cool race. We were really competitive all weekend. But certainly in the second race, we had strong pace and could’ve-should’ve won, but in the end, I was super happy with third place and another podium for Mahindra Racing.”

But the podium wasn’t as straight-forward for Lynn. The British driver was hit mid-race by Venturi’s Norman Nato - an incident that cost Lynn the chance to fight for the win.

On his recovery drive, Lynn said, “I can promise that it wasn’t a lot of composure for at least half a lap. But genuinely speaking, my side of the garage had this feeling that today has to be the day when we get it done. I had built up a decent energy advantage on the people around me. So there was no choice in my mind but to fight back and come through the field and claim the podium. There was potential for more but the fightback was more important for myself and for everyone in the team.”

Sims’ missed podium in Valancia

In only his fourth race with Mahindra Racing, the other Alexander (Sims) scored his first podium in the second race in Rome. In the next race in Valencia, he finished 3rd but was disqualified post-race for using more energy in the race than regulations permitted. In fact, Sims was one of many drivers to have faced elimination to a farcical rule by the FIA.

Explaining his back-to-back podium loss, Sims said, “We had two laps to go as we crossed the line and the race went green. I got the energy reduction call over the radio after Turn 1, so I had used up a lot of energy on the main straight, which relative to what we expected at that point of time was fine. Then half way around to the second to last lap, I radioed the team and informed them that the car indicated that I had only 0.7 kwph per lap available when a normal lap was about 1.5-1.6 kwph. So it took the team some time to do the calculations and come back to me.

“All that time, I was trying to stay in the race with the drivers around me because I was told earlier in the race that energy-wise I was similar to others around me. So while everyone was driving at a certain speed, I decided to stick with them. And it seems that lots of us pulled each other into a black hole of energy deficit. And then when I crossed the line on the last lap, my car was like you have definitely run out of energy.

“It was very disappointing to be honest, because we came through to 3rd position after starting 11th. It was a brilliant race and then to see it all go up in smoke and come to nothing in the end. It was a horrible misunderstanding and a big shame. But the positives were that we got ourselves into that position on merit and hopefully we can recreate it again some time.”

Energy management fiasco in Valencia

When quizzed about the energy management fiasco in the first race in Valencia, Lynn said, “It’s quite a simple calculation in the end, so to put it simply, the FIA have the ability to remove nearly the equivalent 1% of energy for every 1 minute of Safety Car or Full Course Yellow, they have that power. But if you’re within the last 2-3 laps and everyone’s only got 3-4% of energy and if you remove 3% because you’ve been under the SC for 3 mins, then you’re not going to make it to the end. So anyone that had just a percentage of energy more and then worked out quickly that didn’t have to drive quickly at all. I think there was a lot of confusion and not the best show in the world for everyone to watch.”

The Formula E challenge

14 out of the 24 drivers have scored a podium in Season 7 of Formula E - with Porsche’s Andre Lotterer (18th) being the lowest placed driver in the championship to have claimed a podium. But how difficult is it to score a podium in the all-electric series? “The calibre of competition in Formula E is arguably the highest in the world. I think no other championship has the calibre of drivers and manufacturers competing at the factory level. So to get even a podium at this level is extremely hard. It wouldn’t mean so much if it wasn’t hard!” said Lynn.

Sims offered a much detailed explanation and said, "In Formula E, it’s such a high-level, first of all. We have so many top drivers from different disciplines that are racing together in Formula E - like, endurance racing, single-seaters, tin-tops, etc. You name it and we pretty much got someone with that experience in Formula E. Also, the manufacturers are operating at an incredibly high level. There are a reasonable amount of spec-parts so the opportunities for differences between the teams is reduced compared to Formula 1, for example, where you pretty much know the order of the cars before the racing starts.

“But in Formula E, with that competitiveness between teams plus the qualifying format promotes the chances where drivers higher in the championship qualify further down for the race. So to be able to get a nice clean weekend and good results consistently is incredibly difficult. To add to that mix, the short amount of preparation you have at the track - like an hour or hour and fifteen minutes of practice time before the race.

“And of course, we’re racing on street circuits and they’re so challenging to get on top of it and be doing a better job than the other teams. So a real credit to the whole team at Mahindra Racing for all the work put in. The team have got a good understanding and made great technical improvements over the off-season and bring a powertrain that’s really in the mix and puts us in a strong position in the race. It’s nice to go into the race feeling confident that we can move forward.”

The Mahindra Racing factor

Sims joined Mahindra Racing after racing for two seasons with BMW in Formula E. Explaining some of the differences between the setup of both teams Sims said, “My previous team, BMW, was a bigger corporate company. So having come to Mahindra Racing I’ve noticed the ability for the team to react quickly to changes and challenges and find solutions well with the resources we’ve got.”

Lynn continued, “My noticeable thing about Mahindra Racing is the hard work they put in. I can say that no other of my previous teams did it. There’s this intensity and desire to achieve more than we have and that’s really inspiring for me as a driver and also for the team where we feed off on each other’s energies.”

Formula E’s future

After BMW and Audi announced their departure earlier in the season, almost no Formula E interview is complete without the drivers being asked about the series’ future.

“In Formula E, like any motor-racing category, you have big manufacturers coming and going. The other day, BMW and Audi left and then two other manufacturers could join. It’s the ebb-flow of professional motor-racing. I don’t think there’s any worry. I believe Formula E is going from strength-to-strength. It’s just about different manufacturers and their marketing and product strategies at play and the moment those who have left may want to do something different,” signed off Sims.

***

Additional reporting by Sundaram Ramaswami

Soumil Arora is a Motorsport Commentator for the iRacing eSports Network, host of the web series - The Driving Force and co-founder of Pits To Podium. He is also the Formula E expert on Inside Track, Sony ESPN’s pre-race show

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