As I sat down with Nick Heidfeld – who impressively decided to go cross-legged – on the back of the teams transit vehicle I found myself excited to put my questions to Mahindra Racings latest signing – a driver I had watched in Formula 1 for so many years…
So Nick, here in Donington we’re all gearing up for the start of Season 2, but if we rewind a year… what is it that attracted you to the Formula E championship?
Well before signing it was of course the idea of electric racing which was interesting, something brand new and to be a part of that. I watched its build up from the outside for a while and thought ok I enjoy sports car racing too much to do it – but then I thought I would give it a go at least in year 1 and see how it is. I liked it more and more as I saw which teams were coming into the sport and exactly which drivers came in; because I think we have a very high standard of drivers, I think it’s a very strong field. And then the icing on the cake for signing was the venues, the places that we go to. We go to Miami, we go to Moscow, to Berlin; each single circuit is in a fantastic location across the world. Next year we will go to others, this year we go to Paris, and that’s fantastic! What I enjoyed during the season was that the racing was very close and I hope it will stay like this in season 2 because there will obviously be differences between the cars, but hopefully not just one team driving away; that would make it boring for the drivers and the spectators. Part of the excitement of last year was that everybody could win, we had seven different winners I think in the first seven races or something like that, you never knew who was going to win!
Is that a concern then, that one team might have done a much better job with the powertrain this year and just pull away at the front?…
A small worry. I think the regulations are done in a way that means there shouldn’t be massive differences. We’re still limited, we still all have the same battery, which will probably go up to 170kw for the race from 150kw last year; so in the end don’t think there will be massive differences.
You’ve moved from Venturi to Mahindra Racing this year, what was it that attracted you to the team?
Well I spoke to a couple of teams including Mahindra and especially I had conversations with Dilbagh (Mahindra Team Principle); who explained to me all about what he and the team learned from last year, what they want to improve, what they have already changed, what their future plan was, and that’s what convinced me.
That’s great because Mahindra are a really popular team with the fans and I think we all want to see the team have a much stronger performance this year!
I hope so.
I was going to ask Bruno, but as Mahindra managed to convince you, can you tell us what the team struggled to get right last season and what they’ve learnt to hopefully see you guys fighting higher up the grid?
I don’t really want to go into the details and probably Bruno will answer the question a lot better because he was here last year; so that’s an easy question for me to push on to him *laughs*
You and Bruno Senna have worked together before as test drivers for Lotus in Formula 1… has that made having him as your new team mate this year any easier?
Yes a little bit. We know each other, we’ve met on several occasions before and of course a lot last year. There’s a very good relationship between all the drivers in Formula E. It was very easy to settle into this team and also to get on with Bruno, we have a good work relation and we get on well.
Can you tell us your thoughts on the powertrain Mahindra Engineering have developed for the car this year?
There’s some small things that need improvement, luckily mainly on the software side; reliability is very important. In terms of our speed, power and ultimate lap time it’s too early to tell. At the moment it looks like e.dams is on top, at least from the first test, but we will only find out in Beijing where we truly stand.
It seems more and more that drivers are again taking part in multiple racing championships – you yourself have competed in the WEC – do you think that’s a result of anything in particular? are drivers feeling freer? If you go back some 30-40 years (*nods*… “yeah!”) drivers used to compete in multiple championships all the time and it’s something that seemed to go away for a while, particularly in Formula 1.
Yeah I think in Formula 1 there’s not much going on apart from recently Le Mans. I think in the past some people wanted to try other racing but were not allowed. And for the others I think it depends on how big their programme is and if they clash. Formula E makes it possible for many, not only drivers but teams, engineers, mechanics to do WEC, where for them before it was not possible. Also in Formula 1 you’re so dedicated to this one things, so focused as a team, where as in Formula E it’s just starting up, there’s not so many races in a season, so luckily they’re more open to allow you to do something else. On top of that there’s no in season testing so it is possible to do it and I think this is the reason.
Ok and just one last question Nick…
I think a lot of fans on twitter are curious to know how you get your hair looking so good?
I read something last week, but it was the first time I ever saw it…
Everybody wants to know what does Nick Heidfeld use on his hair? how does he look so well groomed?… Do you have any style advice?
Normally I actually never use a comb because I think it takes too much time… I just shower, use whatever shampoo is around, because I like to sleep very long so I have no time *laughs*
So it’s just get up and go!?
Sometimes if I have it, if I don’t forget it I put some gel or cream or *laughs*
That’s brilliant, thank you very much Nick!
Nick was a joy to talk to. Attentive and able to laugh at himself, he came across as genuinely interested, giving consideration to each question. I felt very relaxed talking to him as though he would give me all the time I needed, despite no doubt having a lot of work to do understanding this years car.
Both Nick and Mahindra Racing experienced very mixed seasons last year and neither will have come away satisfied. but the team have shown competitive pace throughout testing so far, even if it’s too early to read anything into the lap times around Donington Park. Both driver and team have a point to prove in season 2 and here’s hoping they can achieve that together.
Written by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1