Ahead of Season 5, Nick Heidfeld has stepped as Mahindra Racing's Test and Reserve Driver as well as fulfilling an advisory role. Editor Andrea Perilli caught up with the German to discuss his new position within the team, as well as reviewing Formula E's importance in the racing world.
Anyone who is familiar with the racing world knows the name Nick Heidfeld very well, and those who have been closely following Formula E know the importance this driver has had in the series since it kicked off in September 2014.
The German, who spent the last three seasons at Mahindra Racing as their driver, now steps as the team’s official Test and Reserve Driver, as well as having an advisory role. “I feel very connected and close to the team – it’s the best relationship I’ve ever had with a race team”, he expresses.
Heidfeld explains that this new role “is not because I’m resigning as a race driver, but because it gives me an opportunity to move my career in a different direction.
“My primary job is to help develop the car, much like I did in Season 2 when I joined as a race driver, but it’s taking it a step further with the new Generation 2 car. I’ve been busy with the team here, there and everywhere, speaking with Dilbagh Gill, the engineers and attending tests”.
He acknowledges that his new position is something he had been previously eyeing and falls within his interests. “This is something I feel I’m good at and it’s also a passion of mine which was very important in my decision to accept the new role.
“I’m also working with Automobil Pininfarina to help develop a hypercar and these two things will complement each other but also take up most of my time”, he adds.
During the four seasons he spent in the fully-electric championship, he had highs and lows like any other driver. Among the ups of his Formula E career, he scored several podiums in Season 3, which catapulted Mahindra Racing to the Top 3 in the Teams’ Championship.
“For me there’s not one really one moment as there were so many memorable things over the four seasons, but one that springs to mind - certainly it’s not my favourite one! - is the huge crash I had in Season 1”, he says about one of the series’ most memorable crashes.
“What I enjoyed a lot over the four seasons was seeing the closeness of the teams working together to make Formula E work well and, in a similar way, it was fantastic being part of Mahindra and seeing the team develop, get better and achieve our goals. Year-on-year we improved our position and that’s what was the most fun for me”.
The job done by Heidfeld and fellow Formula E drivers in a relatively short period of four years, started to change people’s perception of electric racing and electric mobility. “When I joined Formula E in the first season there was a lot of talk about the idea of showing the public that electric cars are not boring.
“I think we’ve now flown past this point and people now see Formula E as exciting and they know electric cars can be quick and beautiful. Formula E has helped with that and has shown that it also provides very exciting racing”.
Names like Mahindra itself, BMW, Audi, Nissan, and among many others can be found on the grid, remarking the significance electric mobility is getting worldwide and raising concern about climate change on people.
“The perception of the series, not only about e-mobility has also changed a lot, and it’s all these areas that make Formula E more respected in the motorsport world from teams, engineers and drivers, who all want to be involved”.
In December 15th, Formula E’s fifth season will start, in Ad Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The new season, which will feature the use of just one car –the Gen2, will mark another milestone for the four-year old series.
“In the first couple of races it will be interesting to see how it works with the hyperloop where we will not have proper pitstops anymore, but will use an extra loop during the race. It’s going to be very interesting from a team’s perspective in terms of strategy and for the series as a whole over the next couple of years”.
The Moenchengladbach-native looks excited ahead of the new season, which opens another chapter in the series’ history. But he also knows the prestige is getting, with big marques flocking to Formula E.
“It’s going to be exciting to see how it progresses, especially with more manufacturers joining. We probably now have the highest number and best manufacturers in Formula E. The automotive industry is going towards an electric direction and in the even longer term it’s going to be interesting to see if Formula E overtakes Formula One”.
Having spent 12 years racing in Formula 1, Heidfeld is obviously familiar with F1’s importance in the racing world, but he is aware of the current growth Formula E is having, and what this could mean to the future of motorsports.
“That’s obviously a question that has been asked over and over again. In the beginning I thought no way, but now more and more I think it’s possible with the way the industry is going”.
A new venture starts for Nick Heidfeld in Season 5, and he is eager to start it with all the professionalism and enthusiasm that characterises him.