Welcome, to my final blog post of 2018. It has been a pretty good year with me being able to attend more race weekends then ever before, visit events as accredited media that I had previously only ever dreamed of, oh and there was the day where I travelled to and from Switzerland all within 12 hours. In this blog post, I will reminisce and reflect on my key motorsport highlights from the year and give an honest review of my experiences and any corny life lessons I might have learnt along the way. If you are patient, you can also read about a new project I will be tackling in 2019. It is something that has been in the works since the summer and I am so happy to be sharing it with you all now as we approach the new year and welcome new beginnings. Anyway, enough waffling – I have made myself a huge mug of tea and am ready to confess all from my year in motorsport.
As season five of the Formula E championship rapidly approaches, I have been spying plenty of you on social media pondering if the hype for the all-electric championship is actually real. Well, Ladies and Gents, I am pleased to confirm that the rumours are in fact true: Formula E is one of the best championships motorsport has to offer.
Don’t worry, I was once like you. Living my life in the dark, thinking that roaring V12s were motorsport’s best and only offering and anything below that would send me to sleep – I grew up a nineties baby for goodness sake. Heaven forbid I was to ever find myself watching a motorsport championship which produced little to no noise at all (not true by the way), solely battery-powered even, but then along came Formula E. It was new, innovative and fresh and as my interest in championships like F1 took a dive, Formula E was there to remind me why I fell in love with motorsport in the first place.
Having defined herself as an influential figure in racing through her intense hard-work and talent both behind and away from the wheel of a racing car, Susie Wolff is no stranger to grabbing a challenge with both hands and overcoming it. Her grit, determination and willingness to learn and teach others makes her not only someone I greatly look up to, but also the perfect ingredients for a Team Principal for a ‘life after racing’.
“It was never in the game plan,” Susie tells me as we sit down for this one-to-one interview in the back of the garage for Venturi Formula E Team at Formula E Pre-Season Testing. Despite the torrential rain outside resulting in no running on track, the Venturi team remain busy with their season five driver line-up, Edoardo Mortara and Formula E debutant Felipe Massa, making the most of their time spent with engineers and mechanics.
The last time I sat down for an interview with Allan McNish was at the Geneva International Motor Show earlier this year. Months before our meeting at the world-famous exhibition, McNish was confirmed as the Team Principal at the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Formula E Team – arguably a big jump for the hugely successful racing driver into managing a Formula E team. It is fair to say the start of the season for the team didn’t quite go to plan: disqualification, disappointment and disaster for then-series Champion Lucas di Grassi. Odds of winning the Constructors’ title seemed near impossible mid-way through the season, with McNish telling me that “the chances of winning the championship is a bit like a train that had already departed the station.” Fast forward just a little over seven months later and Allan and I reunited for another 1-to-1 interview. This time we are sat in the Audi Motorhome in Valencia as pre-season testing gets underway behind us. It is a very chilled environment, drivers Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi continue to soak up laps during the three day test in a car that looks to be pretty competitive for season five, oh and Audi did the impossible and are the current Constructors’ champions.
“That sounds like a good analogy, doesn’t it?”, McNish begins with when I tell him of his ever-so slightly pessimistic attitude the last time we managed to sit down for an interview. “There was a few times when I look back and think, there is no way that that could ever happen,” he continued. “If you look at the points and where we were and the performance we had and the performance everybody else had, then normally, it wasn’t possible. I think it was partly due to, I would say, a reasonable car, because I do think the car was good. No, we knew the car was always good. We knew we could be competitive.
“Us taking advantage of every situation that came, I think that was one key factor. Another key factor was having two drivers that were competitive all the time. And that wasn’t the case with everybody in the pit lane. And the final one was, when it came down to it, we held our nerve, and not everybody did.”
His name has been linked with the F1 Toro Rosso seat, as well as various Formula E drives, however ex-F1 driver and former DTM Champion Pascal Wehrlein was confirmed to be joining the Mahindra Racing line up for season five of Formula E yesterday.
His partnership with Formula E veteran Jérôme D’Ambrosio has impressed many and it’s hoped that the new duo can continue the impressive form the team has managed over the past four seasons with three wins to their name.
However, speaking to katyfairman.com, the Formula E debutant revealed that part of the influence of singing with Mahindra was because he could participate in another motorsport series in addition to his Formula E drive.
After the announcement last week that current McLaren Formula 1 driver, Stoffel Vandoorne, was to swap the world of F1 for the all-electric circus of Formula E, many motorsport fans were left in shock. However, the decision made to embrace electric has lead to him being part of one of the strongest team-mate pairings the sport has seen, with current DTM Champion Gary Paffett concluding the HWA Formula E Team line-up.
With his fresh commitment to Formula E, in addition to his existing racing contract with McLaren, Vandoorne only has two days of testing available to him in Valencia. A fact made even more unfortunate when his car suffered battery issues on the first day of testing, resulting in only a handful of laps being set all day.
“No, I don’t know what’s going on,” Vandoorne started when asked about his reliability woes on Tuesday evening to katyfairman.com. “It’s not been an easy day for us. I think it was always going to be a bit difficult for us. The whole team is new to this series, myself and Gary [Paffett] as well. We are all new. We knew that we would run through a few issues and I think it’s a shame not to be out there and be running but you have got to give us and HWA a little time. All the people working here are extremely competitive and extremely competent and I’m sure in the future, once we get up and running, everything will go well.”
The desire for more diversity in motorsport is something that is wanted by the majority of us that write about, watch or have any interest in motor racing; that is, unless, you are stuck in the eighteenth century.