Ahead of the final Formula E race of 2015, Team Principal Dilbagh Gill and Bruno Senna reflect on the opening races and look forward to rounding off the year with some thrilling seaside racing in the Uruguay sunshine.
The team scored a podium in the first race and a double points finish in the second. How do you feel when you reflect on the season so far?
D.G. The opening races have been very positive for the team. Building on lessons learnt in first season, we are notching up high place finishes and getting a better handle on the best way to set up the car. The planning for this season started a long time back and the results so far show that we made the right technical and engineering decisions early on and that has paid off.
We should have taken away more points from the first two races but given that this is the first year of the powertrain development race in Formula E, most teams would say the same. We have achieved third place in the team championship so far and we must keep pushing to refine our car and continue to put both drivers in a high points scoring position.
B.S. From a team perspective, the opening races have been positive. The car feels much better to drive than last year and the team has done a great job preparing a package and race strategy that has allowed us to compete at the front. Beijing was disappointing for me as the pit stop put us out of the points but I think it’s clear that the team is capable of scoring high points and more podium finishes like we had in Beijing.
This is the first season of Manufacturers developing independent powertrains for their Formula E challengers, how do you feel this has influenced the racing?
D.G. I would challenge anyone to watch the race we had in Putrajaya and argue that the addition of competitive development makes the racing anything but thrilling. We are racing with pioneering technology developed with world-leading manufacturers and there are hugely varying solutions throughout the grid.
We have continued to experience the close racing we saw in the inaugural season but now we are also seeing the added factor of some tracks and climates suiting some teams over others plus the increased value of strategy as the cars all have 170kW at their disposal. It will be fascinating to see how the season continues to unfold.
B.S. From the driving seat, the racing feels very similar to last year. We have close racing on challenging tracks with one of the most competitive grids in the world. This year we have a car and a set up that allows us to compete. In Putrajaya we came from the back of the pack to finish fifth and we capitalized on the issues others had. This gives me confidence that we have the right mix of reliability and race pace and with a clean weekend on my side of the garage, we will fully exploit that potential.
The team is off to Uruguay next. What are you memories of last season’s race in Punta del Este?
D.G. The location is one of the most beautiful locations on the calendar. It made for some very exciting racing along the beach. Both drivers qualified in the middle of the pack last year. Karun had a tough race and damaged his car when he had contact with a kerb and he had to pit earlier than planned which compromised his second stint.
A penalty for Bruno meant he started from the back of the grid but he finished fourteen places ahead of his starting position and earned his first Formula E points. In my opinion, Bruno’s communication with the team and his own tenacity on track made Punta del Este one of his strongest performances of the season.
B.S. This is one of the Formula E circuits that drivers look forward to most. It has some very fast sections which makes it very challenging in a Formula E car. You have to get your set up just right. Last year, I got a penalty before the start of the race so I had to start from the back of the grid and work my way back through the pack. It was very satisfying to finish in the points but I am aiming to finish much further forward this year.
There is a change to driver line-up this weekend as Nick Heidfeld continues to recover from an injury he sustained in Putrajaya. What was behind your decision to select Oliver Rowland?
D.G. Mahindra Racing is currently third in the team championship and it was important to select someone who would be able to get to grips with the technology quickly. We have selected a young driver but one who already has a vast amount of experience of racing and, more importantly, of winning. I believe that Oliver will allow us to continue the momentum that we have gained since testing.
B.S. I am happy to see a driver like Oliver earn an opportunity in Formula E. There is no doubting his ability. With eight wins in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and a championship title to his name, he has fully put his name on the map this year. My focus will be on helping him get to grips with the technology but I am confident that he will enjoy his Formula E debut.
What are your expectations going third race and the last race of 2015?
D.G. The team is optimistic about the race in Punta. We know we have developed a reliable car and so far we have shown good race pace. Based on last year, this is a race with a high potential for incidents and safety cars so the aim will be to perfect the elements that we are in control of and avoid man-made errors. The best Christmas present anyone could give me is a clean weekend and we will show exactly what the M2Electro is capable of.
B.S. Punta del Este is a challenging, high-speed circuit so it is one that the drivers really look forward to. The garage is right on the beach so it is a beautiful place to be when you aren’t in the car but the proximity to the beach does mean that sand blows across the track and some sections of the track change can gain or lose grip from lap to lap which can be very challenging. We know what the M2Electro can do so we will be ready to capitalize on every opportunity and hopefully finish the year off with some points to put in the Mahindra Christmas stocking.