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The Punta Diaries: A experience of a lifetime

The Punta del Este ePrix was significant for many reasons to Editor Andrea Perilli. Not only it marked Formula E’s comeback to her home soil, but also she got to experience a session from the inside, as she spent FP2 at Mahindra Racing’s garage. Here is the testimony of an unforgettable moment.

For those avid fans of motor racing, the sound of a car going flat out on a straight, or the rush of one of these machines leaving the garage, can give one goosebumps. Being a race car fanatic is not a pre-condition to feel this excitement, but it surely has to be some kind of plus if you happen to be one of those passionate supporters.

Personally, I had experienced these sounds before; and yes, I did get goosebumps. But that was it: standing next to the track, seeing the cars pass by at full speed. As the devout racing fan that I am, I always wanted to see the whole picture, not just the car racing in front of me, but also the whole process that led to that vehicle performing magic on track – because racing is a certain kind of magic for the fans.

This is why, on the morning of the Punta del Este ePrix, I was walking down to the Mahindra Racing garage to witness FP2 from there. The garage is a bit like the nucleus of what we see on track during race day, speaking in biology terms; so what better place to see that whole picture than at the place where everything begins?

The sun was shining bright in the sky, contrary to the forecasted rain. Formula E has been running for four years now and never encountered rain during the race. And it seemed like it would not rain in Punta either.

FP1 had already taken place earlier that morning, and the venue was starting to fill up with people of all ages, who were eager to see the series’ comeback to the Uruguayan beachside resort. On my way to the Indian team’s garage, I saw kids enjoying the eVillage, a big queue at the Gaming Arena, and the VIPs leaving their Pit Walk. Everything was settling in to be a memorable day.

So there I was, standing relatively close to the cars, with just a couple of minutes to go until FP2 started. The atmosphere seemed rather still in that precise moment, despite seeing the rush from the team members to get everything ready for the time cars were allowed to leave the garages.

Then, in all of a sudden, one of the drivers was allowed to leave the garage and head out to the track, and this was when I start feeling the goosebumps. There is a thing about the moment when the car rushes out of the garage which is simply indescribable. I do not know whether it is the desire a racer has to go out on track and do his thing, or just one of those indescribable aspects of racing.

Whichever that is, at the moment you are witnessing it, you feel totally mesmerised by the machine in its natural state.

First it was Felix Rosenqvist, then Nick Heidfeld to leave the garage. A couple of seconds after that, you could hear the cars going flat out on the straight that goes parallel to the pitlane; and the banners flapping after one of these electric vehicles hit top speed.

One of the particularities that Formula E has in comparison to other series is the car swap. This means that drivers have to change cars during the course of the race. During FP2, teams practice this procedure, and while Heidfeld and Rosenqvist were on track, the team started preparing the second car for each of them.

It is in moments like these when you realise that racing is a team sport. Of course, drivers are individuals when they have their visors down and red lights go out but, behind the scenes, unity is the most important aspect of racing.

Mahindra Racing is an Indian team, but you can find a variety of nationalities working within the squad. No matter the language or the culture each person has; it is the teamwork which counts at the end of the day.

Like a chain, tasks go from one person to another, and that is how the session flows. The atmosphere never seems to be quiet: the mechanics working on the cars, the engineers busily doing their job, the communications people letting the public around the globe know what is going on, and a cameraman rushing into the pit to film the expressions Team Principal Dilbagh Gill is famous for.

When I started following racing, I saw everyone involved in the sport as super humans. Extremely lucky people who made no mistakes and had flawless lives. By experiencing things moments like this, you realise the drivers or mechanics or any team members you have in front are as human as you are.

And I find myself mind blown by how everything works, the constant action that happens behind the scenes. Each member contributes their bit and all those bits gathered together get the team running. It seems simple, and theoretically it might be, but theory does not include the efforts, the trials and tribulations that happen over and over again, and finally seeing all the efforts paying off.

The team did not always have success from the get-go. In the first few seasons, they struggled to consistently reach the point-scoring positions; but if there is something that characterises these people, is their ongoing will to not give up.

Their journey is more like a ladder they are slowly climbing. There have been wins, pole positions, podiums, and points; but there have also been retirements and mistakes. It is not about avoiding all the negative aspects, but to learn to make the best out of them in order to improve and keep climbing the ladder.

The session finishes with a result which leaves the team with mixed feelings. Heidfeld is P7 and Rosenqvist P20. But this is Formula E and anything can happen, even in the blink of an eye.

As I make my way back to the media centre, walking down between the back of the garages and the dunes, I have a huge grin on my face and I doubt it will fade for a couple of days. The experience was outstanding, one of these moments that make your life and your career brighter.

I not only lived a session from within, but also had an eye-opening experience of how a group of people make one of the most recognisable Formula E teams a reality.


Top image by FIA Formula E Championship; featured image by Akshay Deodhar.

Andrea Perilli

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