International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Louise Goodman (part 2)

Read 1st part here: http://bit.ly/3rsX54x

AF: You must have some brilliant memories from the F1 paddock. Can you share some of your fondest memories with us?
LG: So many of my fondest memories revolve around the people that I’ve worked with. I think being part of a team is always something special, be that working for a race team, being Press Officer at Jordan, or working with the ITV team, learning all about broadcasting and how to do that side of things. And so many memories that relate to particular interviews. Getting the first interview with Rubens Barrichello when he won his first Grand Prix – I worked with him as one of my drivers at Jordan. Getting the first interview with Eddie Irvine, for similar reasons.  Getting the first interview with Lewis Hamilton when he won his first world title. There are lots of special moments.

I guess another one is being involved – not only in the first two-seater race for Formula 1 cars – but the first ever crash for two-seater Formula 1 cars! I was in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car. It was basically a Minardi PR event; they had built some two-seater Formula 1 cars that they could do passenger rides with, and they had arranged a race and Nigel Mansell was on board as one of the drivers,. Mansell’s deal was that he would win the race: it would work for everybody.

There was a bit of a miscommunication. I was in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car. He was just at beginning of his Formula 1 career. We ended up having Nigel Mansell driving into the back of and over the top of us. In fact, I’ve got the rear wing endplate from that car signed by Nigel and Fernando up on the wall of my office!

 

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Post udostępniony przez Louise Goodman (@lougoodmanmedia)

 

AF: More recently you’ve been presenting British Touring Cars. Jade Edwards has recently announced she’s doing a full season for 2021, making her the first woman to do so since 2007. What do you think that means for representation of women in motorsports?
LG:
I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Jade is there on merit. She made her debut in a one-off event last year, as did Jess Hawkins. Jade [has] managed to pull it together, and it’s a difficult job for any driver, male or female, to get together the budget, particularly in the times that we’re living through, to put together a full season of car racing, let alone racing at the premier category in the UK.

So I think all credit to Jade, and she is there on merit. She’s a good driver. I think it’s brilliant on a personal level for Jade because she’s a top girl, she’s worked really hard, she’s great fun, she’s a great personality, and she’ll be a great person to have in the BTCC paddock.

But I think more importantly, the visibility that it gives – it’s that old phrase – you need to see it to be it. Having a girl racing competitively on the touring car grid, you’ll have little girls watching at home thinking ‘okay, girls can be racing drivers as well’, and I think very often that makes a big difference.

Jade got into racing because she’d grown up around paddocks because her father and her grandfather raced. There are quite a few girls who have got involved in racing because there was a family connection. I now run my own media training company, and I work with quite a lot of young drivers, and very often I’ll say to them ‘how did you get involved in the sport?’, and if they didn’t have a family connection they’ll say ‘I went to a friend’s birthday party when I was eight years old and we went karting’. How many people take their eight-year-old girls karting? It just doesn’t happen the same [way], so I think maybe as a result of Jade being in the BTCC, maybe more people will say ‘do you want to go karting?’ to their eight-year-old girls. Maybe eight-year-old girls would say ‘I quite fancy having a go at that, can I go karting?’

AF: You’re also a supporter of the Girls on Track initiative, and you’ve run several webinars and workshops during the pandemic, sharing your knowledge and experience. Why is that important to you and what do you think that’s achieved to get girls more involved?
LG:
The FIA Girls on Track started out as Suzie Wolff’s Dare to be Different initiative, and the primary function was working with youngsters and schools to give some insight to the parents, the teachers, and the young girls themselves, of all these different areas that you could work in in motorsport: be it medical, be it media, be it working on the cars, be it the physical education side of things. That was the basis of [how] it began, and then a community that ran alongside it to broaden it out to a wider audience. I think it’s really important to get the word out there – to girls, families, parents, teachers – of the availability and the range of work opportunities in motorsport.

It’s about sharing people’s experiences. I get people contacting me about how they would become a journalist in Formula 1, so I can share my experiences and give them some advice. It’s a mixture of those two things. It’s about awareness of opportunities and girls sharing experiences and giving back to other youngsters who are hoping to do it.

I am aware that I was very lucky to have been given opportunities. I wasn’t aware until relatively recently that [when I] turned up as part of ITV’s coverage – people noticed that, and quite a few girls have subsequently said to me ‘it was when I saw you doing that, I thought, oh wow, maybe I could work in Formula 1; maybe I could work in motorsport’. So that to me has been a very personal experience of the benefits of sharing your experiences with other people; with other girls – I’m very happy to share my experiences with boys as well, don’t get me wrong! – but with something like Girls on Track, what we’re trying to do is balance things out a bit, to get more girls involved in the sport.

I think it’s hugely beneficial. Everybody, no matter what business you’re in, you’re always going to benefit from having a mentor; you’re always going to benefit from having people who have gone before you sharing their experiences, and I think that’s a really crucial, important thing to be doing.

AF: You’ve also had some experience yourself as a driver, so you’ve had a taste of both sides of the motorsport world. What advice would you give to any girls wanting to break into the world of motorsport, whether as a driver, or in media or engineering?
LG: On the driving side, just do it, because it’s bloody brilliant fun! The younger you start the better it’s going to be. Who knows, I could have been a Formula 1 driver if I’d started when I was eight, but I didn’t get into a car behind the wheel until I was well into my twenties, and that came about [from] having a bit more profile from being on TV. I absolutely loved it, it’s brilliant fun.

Formula 1 and motorsport has given me an amazing – not just career – but life experiences as well: I’ve travelled, I’ve seen the great wall of China, I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been so lucky to get those experiences, and that’s come about off the back of my working life. And that’s a working life that’s been hugely gratifying as well.

I think you’ve got to like the sport to start off with, because it’s not a job when you work in motorsport, it’s a way of life. Races are at the weekends; you’re giving up a lot of your own time, so you’ve got to be passionate about it. Having said that, you can’t just be a fan, you’re there to work. It’s a working environment, so you’ve got to do your bit and work hard, and it’s a competitive environment so you’ve actually got to work bloody hard if you want to succeed in it. But I guess that’s the same with [any] profession: the harder you work, the more you apply yourself, the more chance you’re going to have of having success.

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Louise Goodman (part 1)

Louise Goodman has had a long career in motorsport, from starting out as a Press Officer at Jordan Grand Prix to becoming a familiar face to Formula 1 fans in the UK as a pitlane reporter for ITV. She now presents ITV’s BTCC coverage and has her own media training company – Goodman Media.

In our interview, Louise shares her insights into how the sport has changed over the years and discusses some of her more unique experiences, including becoming the first wo man to take part in a Formula 1 pit stop and being a passenger in a crash between Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell!

Alison Finlay: You’ve had a long career in motorsports – generally regarded as a very male-dominated environment – what would you rank as some of your greatest achievements?
Louise Goodman: I think having a long career in motorsport is probably up there on the list! I was lucky to fall into the sport. It wasn’t as if I set out to work in motorsport, or in broadcasting, which is what I’ve ended up doing. It’s a competitive business, and to have carried on working in it in various different guises; various different roles, I think it’s something to be… well, I applaud it anyway, even if nobody else does! It makes me happy, put it that way.

 

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AF: What are some of your thoughts on how things have changed over the years in terms of participation of women and involvement of women in the sport?
LG:
When I first walked into a Formula 1 paddock, back in the very late 1980s, you could probably count on not more than two hands the amount of women that were actually working in the paddock. It does have to be said that the number of people working in the paddock full stop was a lot smaller. Nowadays the teams have massive great big motorhomes that probably take 20-30 people to set them up. Back when I first started, it was two people, very often a husband-and-wife team, who drove the motorhome from A to B, set it all up, did the cooking and did a bit of everything.

When I first started out in Formula 1, some of the teams didn’t have a press officer. There was no facility for looking after the media, and a lot less media as well. And in marketing, there would be maybe two people in the commercial department, and that would be it. So marketing, media, those are areas where we’ve traditionally seen more women. I think more recently what’s been really good is the increase in numbers of women working on the technical side as well.

I think there is still work to be done to open people’s eyes to the fact that there are so many roles in the various different areas that motorsport encompasses, obviously the engineering side being one of those key areas. [Teams are] competitive across every level: they want the best engineers; they want the best candidates. They don’t really care whether they’re male or female, but the pool from which they are drawing has a lot more men in it, so inevitably, there’s going to be a lot more men coming through.

It has to start at the bottom. It starts in school, it starts in education, with encouraging a broader spectrum of people from different genders and different ethnicities to go into the subjects that will ultimately lead towards people having careers in motorsport.

AF: You were the first woman to take part in an F1 pitstop. Can you talk about how that came about and what that experience was like for you?
LG:
When I was part of the ITV Formula 1 presentation team, we were always looking for different ideas for different features. I was standing in the pit lane at one of the Grands Prix watching – I think it was Honda at the time. They were doing their pitstop practice and Alastair Gibson, their chief mechanic said ‘you should have a go at this!’ and that sowed the seed for the idea.

I trained with the team. I had to take part, understandably, in a lot of pit stop practice to make sure that I was up to the job. The plan was that we would film two pieces that would go out as part of our coverage at the British Grand Prix. The week before the Grand Prix, I took a phone call from Gil de Ferran, who was the sporting director of the team at the time, who said ‘I’m really sorry Louise, but we’ve had a meeting and you’re not going to be able to do the pit stop’, which I was immensely frustrated about. So [we] were left with a hole in our feature material for the British Grand Prix.

I put in a phone call to Andy Stevenson who was at Midland at the time. We had known each other for a long time I said ‘I’ve got this problem, I’ve trained to do this’ and he said ‘fine, no problem’. And I said ‘well, do you need to check?’ and he said ‘no, there’s no point telling the engineers about it, is there? they always get too uptight about this kind of thing’. I obviously then had to go and do some pit stop practice with their team, which scared the bejesus out of me, because I then discovered my job was rear left wheel off, and there was a very particular movement that you had to do on the Honda car and it was slightly different on the Midland.

I was incredibly nervous about it.. I really was going to have to muck it up in a monumental style if I was going to have an impact on their pitstop. But my heart was still in my mouth when it happened, and I felt like I’d just won the Grand Prix when it all went successfully!

Ironically, Jenson Button’s car with the Honda team never made it to his first pit stop, so had I stuck with the original team, it would never have happened! So it was big thanks to Andy, who I discovered afterwards had literally told his engineers ten minutes before the start of the race that I was going to be on the crew doing the pit stops.

Read 2nd part here:bit.ly/3c9pN41

A Tale of Two Halves: The Diriyah ePrix in Full

Season 7 of Formula E officially kicked off this weekend for the season’s first night race in history. Set in the sprawling desert of Ad Diriyah, the historical old city under carbon-friendly lights, the double header was certainly a tale of two halves with Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries heading to Rome as the championship leader, but by no means are Mercedes running away with their first potential title in the electric series.

De Vries had shown a strong start to the weekend in topping both practice sessions and took a dominant pole in qualifying, by six tenths of a second from his nearest rival, Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein. Rene Rast was able to line up in P3 in his first full season in Formula E, whilst Edo Mortara was able to put the Mercedes powertrain to good use and claim P4 in the Venturi. Alex Lynn and Mitch Evans rounded out the top six, the pair promoted to the final two slots of superpole by a bizarre timing incident in the initial qualifying stages in which Sergio Sette Camara crashed at the end of qualifying. Nick Cassidy, Tom Blomqvist and Nico Muller’s laps were deleted by the stewards and they were not permitted to run again. The qualifying format again mixed up the grid with the reigning champions Techeetah and Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne starting near the back having had to go out in the dreaded group one.

Credit: Formula E

De Vries continued his dominance in the first race, pulling away almost immediately from a struggling Wehrlein at the start, and from there, he never looked back. The Dutchman controlled the race perfectly, dictating the pace even throughout two safety car periods. Behind him, Wehrlein and Rast fought for track position, but the pair never threatened De Vries’ building lead. Despite Mercedes’ dominance, the driver of the day was surely Mortara. Starting fourth, he pulled a stunning manouvre on Evans and Wehrlein – passing them both on the straight by darting past the Jaguar and squeezing himself into the gap left by Wehrlein. The Porsche faded in the latter stages of the race, with Evans able to claim P3 from Wehrlein. On the other side of Jaguar’s garage, Sam Bird’s first outing did not go to plan. The Brit was looking strong, battling for P6 with Alex Lynn when the two collided, bringing out the first safety car of the season. A second safety car followed to recover Max Gunther’s stricken car, allowing the battle for P2 to be ignited in the dying stages of the race, Mortara using his attack mode to sweep into the second podium position. But it was de Vries who claimed his first win for Mercedes, and all eyes were firmly fixed on the second race to see if the German team would continue their winning streak.

Credit: Formula E

If Race 1 was heaven for Mercedes, then Race 2 was almost certainly hell. A horrendous crash in the sole free practise session for race hero Mortara saw the Venturi driver taken to hospital for additional checks and all Mercedes-powered cars were banned from taking part in the qualifying session. It was later discovered that this was the result of a software issue leading to brake failure. With Mercedes and Venturi out, qualifying became a mixed grid. Evans and Rast failed to set a time in the opening group as they didn’t reach the start-finish line in time, leaving them at the back of the pack. But it was another Dutchman – Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns who stormed the field by half a second, joined in superpole by ex-teammate Sam Bird, the Dragon cars of Nico Muller and Sergio Sette Camara, and the Nio 333 cars of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Turvey. Ultimately, Frijns took the first pole of his Formula E career ahead of Camara who took an impressive front row in the Dragon and Sam Bird slotting into P3. Turvey and Blomqvist filled P4 and P5, with Muller taking the final spot in the top six after a scrappy run. It was an excellent boost to Dragon and Nio to have both cars inside the top six after their previous struggles over the past few seasons. 

With the likes of Mercedes and Audi starting further back, the second race was expected to provide fireworks and it certainly did. Frijns pulled away at the front, taking Sam Bird with him as Camara suffered an initial poor start – and the pair began their duel in the desert with Frijns leading the way. However, the Dutchman began to struggle with energy consumption and fell behind Bird on lap 21. However,  the ex teammates were not the only ones caught in a duel. The tension that had simmered between current reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa and former two time champion Jean-Eric Vergne was reignited as the pair began their rapid ascent through the pack in the opening stages of the race. However, after their initial harmony when arming themselves with attack mode, the pair came together at turn 23, narrowly avoiding an incident. Vergne never got to challenge Frijns for P2 after the race was red-flagged after a long safety car period with four minutes remaining on the clock.

Credit: Formula E

Mahindra’s Alex Lynn was involved in a massive incident with Mitch Evans in the latter stages in which his car became airbourne at one stage. Lynn was taken to the hospital and thankfully, has now been released. Due to the severity of the incident, the stewards deemed the order the cars were in behind the safety car the valid result – with Bird taking his first win for Jaguar, Frijns collecting his first podium of the season, and Vergne rounding out the top three. However, the Techeetah man’s podium was taken away a few hours after the race when he was served a penalty for not taking his second attack mode during the race. Rast and Blomqvist too were penalised for failing to use their attack modes, whilst Nick Cassidy who had finished an impressive P5 was handed a time penalty for speeding infringements.

Riyadh’s first night race served up some interesting fireworks, and it’s almost certain that the action will continue in Rome in six weeks’ time. 




 



 

Why McLaren entering Formula E is no surprise

image courtesy of Formula E

Today, it was announced that McLaren will branch out of their already extensive motorsport catalogue, with the news that they have secured the option to enter the 2022-2023 Formula E season ahead of the launch of the Gen3 electric car. Although it’s uncertain yet as to what role they will take in participating, whether as a full manufacturer outfit or otherwise, the signs are clear that they intend to make a move into the rapidly growing electric series.

“We’ve been closely observing Formula E for some time and monitoring the series’ progress and future direction,” Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown said in a press release issued by Formula E earlier today. “The opportunity to take an option on an entry, together with the completion of the McLaren Applied supplier contract with the FIA at the end of Gen 2 gives us the necessary time to decide if Formula E is right for McLaren as a future competition platform,”

McLaren is no stranger to Formula E, having been a part of the spec car back in the series’ infancy. The first version of the electric car contained an electric motor, transmission and electronics all created by the Woking-based manufacturer. Despite the fact that there is more creative freedom within Formula E in terms of the powertrain and gearbox in latter seasons, McLaren Applied Technology has supplied all the batteries that power the cars since 2018 – allowing them for the first time to complete the entire race distance without the need for pit stops or car changes. With the contract expiring at the end of the 2021/2022 season, it comes as little surprise that McLaren would choose to branch out into one of the fastest growing series in motorsport, particularly as they have been at the heart of the action since the very beginning.

Their pledge to take an option with Formula E has particular significance, BMW and Audi have chosen to bow out of the series and McLaren may have sensed an opportunity to further their own prospects. With an already well established role within the NASCAR and IndyCar market in the United States, McLaren may have seen Formula E’s potential of bringing electric sustainability and racing to the heart of cities, particularly within places such as Jakarta and Seoul, lucrative markets which McLaren could potentially tap into. Mercedes and Audi have used their participation in Formula E with great effect, using it to promote their electric road cars and McLaren may well do the same – especially as they plan to launch their first hybrid road car in 2021, with the hopes of developing a roadworthy EV by 2025. McLaren as a motorsport constructor are now flourishing under Brown’s rule – a more relaxed approach than that of his predecessor Ron Dennis, and after several years of disappointment, are beginning to reap the benefits. It remains to be seen if McLaren will join Formula E in any capacity but the signs of them wanting to branch out beyond F1 are there.

Super Max! : Guenther wins in Berlin to move him back into championship contention

We’re at the halfway point in the Formula E’s super season finale in Berlin, and although the championship fight seems to have fallen by the wayside with Antonio Da Costa still holding an impressive lead, race three certainly was filled with fireworks. However, as the cars took to the original circuit layout, qualifying was not dominated by Da Costa but his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne. He’s been somewhat of the supporter to Da Costa’s heroics this season but he certainly showed otherwise by taking pole position by half a second from BMW’s Max Guenther who put in an impressive lap to line up second on the grid.

Mahindra seemed to be a team reborn as the Indian-based manufacturer managed to get both cars into Superpole, however, Jerome D’Ambrosio struggled with his overall pace to start P3, whilst Alex Lynn managed a scrappy lap to snatch P5. Stoffel Vandoorne continued his impeccable qualifying form, but his Mercedes struggled with grip in the hot conditions, leaving the Belgian P4 whilst Robin Frijns rounded out the top six, helped by the momentum of almost scoring a podium position in the last race.

Credit: Formula E

Vergne lead from the start, whilst Guenther became embroiled in a battle with the two Mahindras for the podium positions and he was passed by D’Ambrosio into turn one. However, Guenther soon reclaimed second place back from the Mahindra and began to cut into Vergne’s two second buffer.

Vandoorne was another big loser in the opening stages, dropping behind Lynn and Frijns but after the first round of attack mode was deployed, the Mercedes man managed to get back into P4 before his race ended prematurely due to a puncture. Compatriots Luca Di Grassi and Felipe Massa came together in the latter stages of the race, with Di Grassi trying to squeeze the Venturi into the hairpin at turn 1 but the move backfired and the former champion was left out of the points. Massa picked up a late penalty for the incident dropping him too out of the points.

Frijns continued his momentum by making quick work of Lynn before taking P3 from D’Ambrosio before the safety car was brought out for an incident in the mid pack which left Sergio Sette Camara and Neel Jani stranded in the middle of the track and the safety car deployed.

Credit: Formula E

As racing resumed, Guenther closed the gap on Vergne but when the second round of attack modes were deployed, Vergne managed to stay ahead of the chasing BMW but not for long as Guenther managed to get the Techeetah into turn seven with five minutes remaining.

Vergne lost momentum after the move, and struggling with energy management, he was forced to yield P2 to Frijns who began to chase the race leader Guenther in the dying stages of the race but it was too little, too late.

Guenther picked up his second win of the season to move to second in the championship standings ahead of Frijns and Vergne, whilst Da Costa had to settle for P4 with a stunning drive up through the order to add another glut of points to his own championship tally.

One Hand on the Title? Da Costa impresses with another masterclass in Berlin

Is there any stopping Antonio Felix da Costa on his charge to his first Formula E title? After the first two races in Berlin, it’s beginning to certainly look that way.  There was a sense of deja vu in Formula E’s second race of the season finale as da Costa continued his assault on the title with a stunning performance to put himself squarely in title contention.

The Techeetah man dominated qualifying again, pipping Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi to the pole position by three tenths. It was another masterclass from the Portuguese driver to hand himself another three points and secure his second pole position in two races. A surprise addition to superpole was Alex Lynn. Returning for the third time to the electric series into the seat vacated by Pascal Wehrlein, Lynn scored bragging rights over teammate Jerome D’Ambrosio and again highlighted the exceptional pace of the Mahindra over one lap. De Vries again featured in superpole but was only able to manage P4 after struggling with oversteer on his flying lap. However, it was a better day for Audi power with both Robin Frijns and Lucas di Grassi managing to slide into superpole, but ultimately, both drivers had scrappy laps and had to settle for P5 and P6 respectively.

Credit: Formula E

Da Costa led the race from pole and again looked unbothered by his competitors, with only a slight wobble when he took his first attack mode,  just managing to stay clear of Buemi in P2. He held off the Nissan man to take his third win of the season and extend his advantage on his title rivals, opening up the gap to a massive 41 points. On the other side of the garage, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne struggled again with Max Gunther and Sam Bird both managing to jump him at the start. After scoring no points in the first round of the first race, he eventually had to settle for P10 after struggling with tyre degradation in the latter stages of the race, allowing both Edo Mortara and ex-teammate Andre Lotterer to get the jump on him.

Robin Frijns had a reversal in fortune as the Envision Virgin Racing driver managed to send it up the inside of Alex Lynn to snatch P4 in the opening stages of the race, before pouncing on de Vries for the final podium position a few laps later. However, his hopes of a podium were dashed by Lucas di Grassi who pounced during the first round of attack mode, taking advantage of Nyck de Vries’ stricken Mercedes who came to a halt, bringing out the full course yellow.

Frijns began to fight back in the dying stages of the race, but it was to no avail and the former champion held out for the final podium position. Vandoorne was also brought into the podium fight as he executed a stunning move, sweeping past both Oliver Rowland and Sam Bird. However, despite using his fanboost, he was not able to get past Frijns and di Grassi to record his first podium finish of the season, leaving Buemi and di Grassi to reap the benefits.

DAC is back! Da Costa reigns supreme for first race of FE finale

Driving a Techeetah, winner of Formula E’s constructors championship last year, Antonio Felix da Costa was always expected to achieve great things at the Chinese-based team. The Portuguese driver has had somewhat of an interesting journey in Formula E, starting out from the doldrums of Aguri, a team that couldn’t keep up with the financial demands of the electric series and folded in the second season. Da Costa settled at Amlin Andretti, but it wasn’t until the fifth season when BMW entered the fray full-time that the team began to really challenge for race wins. It wasn’t a shock last year when Da Costa was announced to be filling the seat alongside double world champion Jean-Eric Vergne. His previous season with BMW i Andretti had been one of his strongest showings and he had claimed victory in the first race at Riyadh before trailing off towards the latter end of the season. Da Costa entered this season, hungry and eager to prove himself – and he has so far. Before the covid-20 pandemic put the season on pause, Da Costa had taken his first win with the team in Marrakesh and had two second place finishes in Santiago and Mexico.

Credit: Formula E

It was critical that he kept the momentum going and pressure on his other title rivals after a lengthy break as Formula E returned to Berlin for a blockbuster six race season finale to be held over the next nine days. The Techeetah man did his job by taking a dominant pole position, beating out his teammate and defending champion Jean-Eric Vergne by a margin of three tenths. Andre Lotterer put in a decent first two sectors to slot into P3, whilst Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi too held promise but fell just short in the final sector, having to settle for P4. Nyck de Vries had to settle for P5 after a costly mistake in sector 2, a disappointing result for the Dutchman who had been the quickest in the final practise session and Jerome D’Ambrosio was finally able to lift his struggling Mahindra into P6.

Da Costa held his position at the start of the race, whilst Lotterer made a poor start and was immediately pressured by Buemi. The Nissan man was forced to yield, but after a few laps, the train of cars behind Lotterer became difficult to ignore as the two Techeetahs of Da Costa and Vergne began to build a gap. However, it was soon wiped away as Robin Frijns was punted into the wall by Max Gunther, bringing out the safety car to erase the time the two Techeetahs had carved out.

Credit: Formula E

As the race restarted, Da Costa got away with no problems as Sam Bird managed to pounce on D’Ambrosio for P6 and began to pressurise fifth placed de Vries as Lotterer began to mount a challenge on his ex-teammate Vergne for P2. His hard work was undone as he missed the attack mode marker and fell victim to de Vries, before snatching the final podium position back a few laps later by pressurising the Dutchman into a mistake. Massa was the second casualty of the race, the Brazilian locked up on the approach to turn one, stranding for Venturi at the corner and bringing out a full course yellow as the time ticked down. The racing soon got underway once again and Da Costa just held onto the lead when deploying his final attack mode to stay ahead of teammate Vergne, as Lotterer and Bird battled for the final podium position, it was a fight that would continue into the latter stages. Vergne soon began to drop down the order in the final stages of the race, presumably struggling with energy consumption issues before any hope of points was wiped out as Audi’s Lucas di Grassi hit him on the penultimate lap, sending the reigning champion back to the garage to lick his wounds.

Da Costa cemented his status as championship leader and looked relatively unbothered for the majority of the race, despite a nervy last half lap where he looked in danger of running out of energy, claiming his second win of the season, ahead of Andre Lotterer and Sam Bird who finally got his championship hopes back on track. However, despite this seemingly easy win, Berlin threw some sparks out in the form of the building pressure between Da Costa and teammate Vergne, the Frenchman not impressed by what he felt was overconsumption of energy needed to make sure he kept up with his teammate. Only time will tell in the next nine days as Formula E will return tomorrow.

 

 

Formula E history made as Gunther snatches win in Santiago

Last year, Max Günther’s days in Formula E looked numbered. Despite an impressive start with Dragon, the German looked set to lose his seat to ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr. Indeed, he was forced to sit out three rounds before he was reinstated in Rome, repaying the team’s trust one race later by finishing in an impressive P5. When BMW lost António Félix da Costa to current champions Techeetah, Günther’s ability to fill the gap left by the Portuguese driver was questioned. But Günther silenced the critics with a hard-fought win in Santiago last weekend, taking his first career win and becoming the youngest driver ever to win a race in the series. In doing so, he solidified BMW’s stronghold at the top of the constructor’s championship.

Mitch Evans started the race in the top spot, claiming his and Jaguar’s second pole position, beating out Günther by a mere two tenths of a second. Pascal Wehrlein posted a half decent laptime to start in P3, with Felipe Massa matching the Mahindra’s time to the exact second. The biggest surprise was that of Oliver Turvey who managed to make his first superpole appearance in over a year, slotting his NIO into a respectable P5, whilst Sébastien Buemi failed to hook it up and had to settle for a disappointing P6. Mercedes again looked strong in qualifying with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries both slotting into the top ten whilst Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara used the Mercedes powertrain to great effect and merely missed out in a spot in the superpole shootout. The Swiss driver managed to pull out a superb time after an amazing recovery to avoid Robin Frijns who lost control of his Virgin on the approach to turn one. Other casualties included Jérôme d’Ambrosio who suffered powertrain failure, leaving him to nurse his Mahindra to the finish line whilst Oliver Rowland, who was fastest in practise, made contact with the wall at turn 5, ruling him out of contention.

Credit: Formula E

Evans maintained his lead at the start of the race, as Wehrlein took advantage of Günther’s scrappy start to snatch away P2, whilst further down the field, championship leader Alexander Sims began his climb up the order, by forcing his way past the Porsches of André Lotterer and Neel Jani. However, the BMW picked up damage during the confusion and came to a stop on the track. It was to be a disappointing end to the weekend for Sims, after such a successful start to the opening campaign in Riyadh. Sam Bird also suffered more bad luck as he was spun around after an incident between Oliver Rowland and Daniel Abt into turn 11, dropping out of points contention and down to a lowly 19th place. Rowland was the next casualty as he lost part of his front wing, forcing him into the pits as Mortara passed Turvey and upped the pressure on the leading pair of Günther and Evans.

Santiago soon turned into the battle of the teammates as Felipe Massa joined his teammate at the front battle, and soon sparks were flying as the pair jostled for the top spot. Massa was forced to yield at turn 7 after being forced wide, opening the door for Techeetah pair Da Costa and reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne to slip through. With just over twenty minutes left on the clock, Günther used his last few remaining seconds of attack mode to snatch the lead away from Evans. Vergne disposed of Wehrlein to secure P3 before disaster struck as the Techeetah’s front left tyre began to rub against the bodywork. Vergne tried to hold off his advancing teammate, but was forced to give up the position and pull into the pits, another unfortunate end to a poor opening campaign.

Credit: Formula E

Da Costa on the other hand, began to chase down the leaders. He managed to pass Evans with just over five minutes remaining, before he hunted down Günther. As the two cars approached turn 10, Da Costa forced the German wide, passing the BMW on the inside with more force than was necessary. As the time ticked down, with both drivers struggling with battery temperature, Günther sensed an opportunity and in the dying moments of the race, retook the lead into turn 9 and ultimately, the victory – his first career win and BMW’s second win of the campaign. He was joined by Da Costa in his first podium appearance for reigning champions Techeetah and poleman Evans, who was forced to settle for P3.

Formula E will return in Mexico City on 15th February.

Ad Diriyah ePrix: The tale of two different races

Season 6 of Formula E kicked off again this weekend and the double header certainly did not disappoint, treating fans to two action-packed races in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s capital. Ultimately, it would be BMW’s Alexander Sims who walked away from the weekend as the championship leader. The British driver snatched his second pole away in the opening race ahead of tough competition from Mercedes duo Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne, with a time of 1.14.563, allowing him to claim the crucial three points as de Vries’s final sector fell just short and he fell to P3 as his teammate Vandoorne snatched away a front row position. Venturi’s Mortara solidified Mercedes’ strong start to their debut season as he bagged P4 for the customer team ahead of Sam Bird and Jerome D’Ambrosio who both made costly mistakes on their flying laps.

Sims made a clean getaway from the chasing Mercedes at the start of race one and held the lead, whilst further down the field, Bird became locked in a battle with Mortara and D’Ambrosio as the trio fought to chase down the two Mercedes ahead. Bird finally managed to slip past de Vries with fifteen minutes left on the clock and that set the wheels in motion. As Vandoorne was trying to protect his position from a chasing Bird, he managed to take the lead from Sims who dropped back to P3. Bird continued to pressure Vandoorne who was yet to use his attack mode and took the lead with ten minutes remaining. The Envision Virgin driver was pressured a little later in the dying moments of the race by a safety car brought out by Daniel Abt’s accident but he held firm to scoop his ninth win of his Formula E career, with Lotterer and Vandoorne rounding off the podium and taking Porsche’s and Mercedes’ first podiums respectively as poleman Sims slipped to eighth.

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Sims however, was determined to not make the same mistakes again, and took pole position once more in the second qualifying session, taking the record of most consecutive poles – three – along the way. The BMW driver fought off stiff competition from Buemi and di Grassi to take the three points for the second time that weekend as D’Ambrosio tapped the wall on his fast lap and Da Costa struggled in the early stages compromising his lap. It was not the start that DS Techeetah wanted, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne having a weekend to forget as he was forced out of race one and into the pits, and was hit with a grid penalty prior to the second race, leaving him at the back of the pack.

Sims again had a strong start holding off previous champions Buemi and di Grassi for the lead as Da Costa sensed the opportunity to snatch P3 away from di Grassi, eager to hand Techeetah their first win of the season. However, as he chased down Buemi, he made contact with the Nissan driver, forcing spinning off the track for which he picked up a drive through penalty. Bird also made gains as he and Evans began a duel that would last until a slight contact sent the Envision Virgin driver into the wall and out of the race, leaving Evans also with a time penalty for causing the collision. Virgin’s luck did not improve when Robin Frijns sent his car into the wall, leaving the championship contenders with no points in the second race, a marked disappointment from the first.

As one of two safety cars was sent out in order for Frijns’ car to be recovered, on the restart, Max Gunther slipped past di Grassi and into P3, a manouvre that cost him dearly as despite claiming P2, the position was stripped away a few hours after the race and the German was served with a time penalty. Da Costa peeled into the pits to serve his penalty as his former team seemed set for a 1-2 finish. Di Grassi passed Vandoorne for the final podium position in the closing stages of the race, but it was to no avail as Sims clinched his first ever Formula E win. After penalties were applied, Di Grassi was promoted to P2 and Vandoorne joining him in P3 for his second podium finish of the season. However, his teammate de Vries was handed a time penalty for overtaking during the safety car, an unfortunate end to a stunning drive up into the points whilst NIO’s Oliver Turvey had his points cruelly snatched away and was disqualified from the race due to energy overconsumption.

Formula E will return in Santiago on January 18th.

Legendary Races Week: 2014 Beijing ePrix 2014

The proposal for a city-based electric car championship was initially conceived by Jean Todt, and presented before politicians Alejandro Agag, the eventual CEO of the sport, and Antonio Tajani in Paris on the 3rd March 2011. However, it would be over another three years before the series would actually come into fruition. The first Formula E race was held on 13th September 2014 in Beijing, the capital city of China. Twenty cars, all of the same specification lined up on the grid, all run by different teams, with some household names such as Renault and Audi amongst the mix. Many of the drivers involved too were familiar to people in motorsport – with the likes of Sebastien Buemi, Jaimi Alguersuari and Nick Heidfeld all participating in the inaugural race.

Nico Prost of Renault e.dams snatched pole position, ahead of the Audi Sport Abt cars of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, taking three valuable points for the coveted position. It was a sign of things to come – of the dominance that Renault would hold over the championship for the next three years, and the fierce rivalry between themselves and the Audi Sport Abt team. Prost held off pressure from the two chasing Abt cars at the start to keep hold of his lead, whilst Nick Heidfeld managed to get an excellent start off the line, picking off Franck Montagny and Karun Chandhok to place himself directly behind the leading trio. Contact on the opening lap lead to a broken suspension for Bruno Senna who found himself out of contention whilst Jarno Trulli was forced to stop after battery issues. The technical problems faced by the drivers and their teams were to be expected in a newly-fangled championship in which much of the technology had not been subjected to true racing conditions.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Senna’s stricken car brought out the safety car on the second lap, where it remained for three laps before racing resumed. Montagny was immediately aggressive on the restart, forcing his way through on Alguersuari in the exit of turn 19 for P6. The Spaniard also fell victim to teammate Sam Bird, who monopolised on the opportunity to snatch away P7. Montagny continued to push as he disposed of Chandhok in the final corner on lap 10 before moving onto Heidfeld as the race approached half distance. However, Heidfeld held firm as the two cars entered the pitlane to jump into their second cars. The car-swap pitstop is another indicator of how far the battery technology Formula E has come within the last few years, with the Gen 2 cars lasting a maximum of 45 minutes without the need for a second car.

As the pitstops were completed, Prost continued to lead as Heidfeld got the jump on the two Audi Abt cars ahead of him slotting himself into P2, with Montagny beating Abt into P4. Heidfeld began to be pressured by Di Grassi almost immediately, allowing Prost to pull a gap of around 3.5 seconds, extending to just under 4 seconds on lap 16. However, within the next three laps, Heidfeld began to gain vital ground on the race leader, slashing Prost’s advantage to just under a second. The German continued to apply pressure on Prost until the final lap. Heidfeld swung to the right as they approached the final corner at turn 20, only for Prost to turn into the Venturi at the last moment, sending Heidfeld careering off the track and into the barriers. Prost sheepishly pulled over, allowing di Grassi to take the lead of the race and win the first ever Formula E race. It was almost apt in a way – di Grassi was sought out by Agag to become the official test driver for the first Formula E car and was heavily involved in aspects of its development. He was joined on the podium by Montagny and  Bird after Abt was penalised for exceeding the maximum amount of permitted energy, demoting him from the final podium position.

Credit: LAT/Formula E

However, as Heidfeld crawled out from underneath his stricken car, he probably never thought that he could have been the one to make history, his mind no doubt was clouded with anger towards Prost for ending his race. Looking back on the race now, and the strong position that Formula E finds itself in, with arguably the largest number of manufacturers in any single-seater motorsport series and the highest pedigree of drivers now pushing for careers within the championship, it showcases how far the series has come in a few short years – both in terms of technical development and public opinion.

Formula E is becoming a well-known brand, a far cry from the days where it was written off as a graveyard series for ex-F1 drivers – it now flourishes, bringing the concept of sustainable energy into the heart of cities with competition for seats in the series fierce and manufacturing giants such as Mercedes, Porsche and Audi actively creating programmes to race in the series. But every legend has to start somewhere – and for Formula E, it was in Beijing, where twenty cars lined up on the grid, not knowing that in a few short years, they would help to forge the beginnings of a new championship that grows from strength to strength. It is for this reason, that the Beijing ePrix will be remembered as a legendary race and for sparking the beginning of a new, exciting motorsport series that would continue to divide opinion.