In the latest of our series of driver interviews from Formula E testing at Donington Park earlier this month, Laura Prior caught up with Jean-Eric Vergne, for a short and snappy chat, before his need for lunch took him away from us! A much happier man than last season, it seemed, hear what the Frenchman had to say about his new team – Techeetah, and discuss frankly his disillusionment with the FanBoost process.
EVP: So, back on the road again. Jean-Eric, what have you been up to since London? Have you managed to have a break?
“I had a good break, yes.”
EVP: It’s always difficult to read into car performance at Donington, but how does the car feel, now you’ve had a chance behind the wheel?
“At least it feels really good. It feels like a proper, nice car, and I enjoy driving it.”
EVP: How does the Techeetah compare to the DS Virgin? Last season, although there were some highs, it seemed to be a struggle for you. Are you noticing any differences immediately?
[smiles] “I feel like I can drive a car again!”
EVP: What about your thoughts on the new front wing? Do you feel there’s any aerodynamic benefit, or do you think it’s purely an aesthetic decision?
“I don’t think so. I think it looks really nice. It’s nice to have some changes on the car, and it looks pretty cool, I think.”
EVP: Despite some bad luck last season, it was great to see you on the podium in Paris. Was that the highlight of last season for you?
“Yes, I think it was. It was nice to be on the Formula E podium in my home race.”
EVP: Looking forward to this year, the calendar has changed significantly. Montreal, a New York City finale, back to Monaco, Marrakesh. Any race you’re particularly looking forward to?
“I think all of them! You know, the first one will be nice, in Hong Kong, and Paris – those will be both our home races as a team, you know, French and Chinese, so those two will be very important. But then we’ve got some amazing venues; I can’t wait to be racing in New York, Montreal. I love all those new cities, and I would say it’s all pretty good!”
EVP: There’s lot of debate about FanBoost, and I wanted to ask your thoughts. Is it a gimmick, is is important? With accusations of unfairness in the voting process, do you think Formula E would do better to get rid of it altogether?
“I think it’s a really good thing. I appreciate fans can get involved. I think it’s important to keep them involved in some way, and FanBoost is a great idea, I love the idea. Then there are some cheats. There are some drivers that have barely any followers, barely any fans, and all of a sudden they are twenty percent ahead of [Nelson] Piquet, or drivers like this who have hundreds and hundreds of followers, and fans who can vote. So yeah, it’s very suspicious. If things could be a little bit more open, and we could see where the votes come from, and the validity of the people voting – not just computers being always [demonstrates repetitive button pressing], I think this would be a lot better. At the end of the year last year, I didn’t even feel like asking my fans to vote for me, because…”
EVP: It’s a shame, as we don’t want you to feel like you can’t push for votes!
“Yes, and I always got in trouble with my team, saying ‘you need to ask your fans!’ but I don’t want to ask my fans if I don’t believe in the system. I mean, I believe the system is brilliant, but the way it has been done, too much cheating has been going on, and I don’t feel like being part of that, which is a shame. So I hope they can find a different system which will block the cheating.”
EVP: Finally, with Techeetah being somewhat of an unknown quantity, what are your goals for this season? Are you prepared for a season of a team establishing its place on the grid, or are you aiming high?