BMW’s Alexander Sims may be new to the Formula E paddock but he has already earned a name in the racing world and stands as a proud EV advocate. Editor Andrea Perilli catches up with the Brit to find out more about his career ahead of his Formula E debut.
The announcement of Sims as one of BMW’s drivers ahead of their first season as a full-time manufacturer in the fully-electric championship, marks the Brit’s comeback to single-seaters after some years of successes in the field of sportscar racing.
As many fellow drivers, Sims’ first steps into the racing world began with karting, later moving up to junior formulas, such as Formula Renault 2.0, Formula 3 Euro Series, and GP3 Series.
“I actually fell into racing by chance”, comments the 30-year-old. “My dad thought it would be a bit of fun and something we could do together. From this it snowballed into something more serious and now I’m lucky enough to say that it’s become my career”.
Sims is aware of the efforts made –not only by drivers, but also the people supporting them, in order to advance further into their careers. He acknowledges his personal experience on this matter.
“I received a huge amount of support from my dad and all the family – from a time, effort and financial perspective – to move me up the motorsport ladder in the early days and their support has been unwavering since”, and adds that “It’s something I’m extremely grateful for”.
The success obtained on his time at Formula Renault 2.0, where he finished in P2 in 2008, led him to win the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year.
“This had a really positive effect. Following this recognition from such a prestigious award, I knew that if I worked hard enough, constantly sought to improve myself, then I could be good enough to be a professional driver”.
But his successful junior career did not just get him trophies and recognition. It also gave him some important learnings. “In motorsport you have to be very self-aware; you need to constantly look inwards for ways to improve and do a better job”, he says.
“Too many people look at the equipment they’re using and the people around them when it’s all going wrong. However, I think that you need to look at yourself for 80 per cent of the performance. In most cases, that gets you pretty far up the grid with an average performing car. To do this though, you do need to self-believe”.
His jump to sportscar racing took place in 2012, initially as a McLaren factory driver, and making the switch two years later to giant German manufacturer BMW. With the Munich-based brand, Sims successfully contested in top-class GT championships and races.
“Winning the Spa 24 Hours in 2016 was an amazing feat. It doesn’t come much bigger in terms of GT racing so that was great for me personally”, he expresses.
Before making his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut this year, Sims spent 2017 racing across the pond at the IMSA WeatherTeach SportsCar Championship, an experience he is really positive about. “I was massively impressed with how fun it was to race in America. Their philosophy of how the rules should work enable the racing to be close and exciting and the tracks that they race on are amazing as well”.
Now Sims makes the switch to Formula E, the ground-breaking championship that grows bigger every season. “It’s a forward-thinking championship that’s in an exciting place and is keen to keep breaking new ground in terms of electric mobility and also from a competition perspective”.
Although the Brit will make his race debut in the fully-electric championship this season, he has previously tested the Gen 1 cars in the Valencia pre-season testing last year. Ahead of BMW’s 2018-19 campaign, he will team up with Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa.
“The level of competition really excites me, as there are both top manufacturers and top drivers fighting it out”, he highlights about the series. “Ultimately, it’s a series that combines my passions for electric vehicles and racing”.
He may be new to the Formula E world, but he is definitely not a stranger to the world of EVs. In fact, Sims is an advocate of electric and sustainable vehicles, and drives one himself. Now, he will get the chance to race one.
“I first became interested in EVs in around 2011 and bought my first electric car a year later in February 2012. Initially, the environmental impact was what got me first interested, but then I learned about the wider benefits and features of EVs and I realised the other payoffs of going electric”.
We found out more about Sims’ passion for EVs and the routine he normally has with his own car. “I charge my car at home overnight so don’t need to go to a petrol station. It’s surprising how many miles you can conveniently do during a day, even with just ‘slow charging’ at home. I’ve also found that my costs are reduced to about 25 per cent that of an equivalent combustion engine model.
“Not having to visit petrol stations and the fact that most EVs have a one-pedal driving ability means that I find the driving experience a lot less stressful. I also find the quietness of an EV helps create a less stressful environment. However, the cars are still fun to drive! As a BMW ambassador, I’m lucky enough to drive a BMW i3s and it’s hugely fun to drive”.
He is not only aware of the benefits that owning an EV has, but also how beneficial they can be for the environment. “Although it’s not a physical attribute of the vehicle, the increasing presence and discussion of EVs has promoted sustainable thinking. More and more people are starting to think about resources, renewable energy and decarbonisation, which I see as a huge benefit”.
As we approach the start of a new Formula E season, which opens a new chapter in the history of the series, Sims gets ready to make his debut on a series that, in his own words “this series puts all of that [his interests] out there on the race track”.
Photos courtesy of Melissa Wicks.