In the penultimate of our pre-season Formula E testing interview series, Laura Prior caught up with Battersea victor Nico Prost, earlier this month, and had a quick chat to him about whether Renault e.Dams can remain at the top, with a field of rivals snapping at their heels.
EVP: So, Nico, we’re back on the road again! Tell us, what have you been up to since that amazing weekend in London? Have you managed to have a break?
“We’ve been busy with testing, then I was in Bonneville with Renault this week, so I had a little bit of a holiday, but not too much!”
EVP: It’s always difficult to read into car performance at Donington, but I guess the most important question today is, how does the car feel? Now you’ve had a chance behind the wheel?
“I mean, it feels just like last year. A bit better, but we’ve tried to improve a bit everywhere, so it’s slightly better. But I think the competition is going to be tighter this year, so we don’t know. Yesterday was very good, and we had good form in London, so let’s hope we can keep it like that.”
EVP: What about your thoughts on the new front wing? Do you feel there’s any aerodynamic impact, or do you think it’s purely an aesthetic decision?
“It’s mainly aesthetic. I mean, you have the rear wing is the same, so if you have too much front downforce you can’t balance it, so it’s mainly aesthetic.”
EVP: Formula E is integral in pushing the development of EV’s, and popularising them with the public. Do you remember the first time you drove an electric vehicle, and what your thoughts were?
“I think it was ice racing with electric cars, a long time ago, so I think that was the first time I drove an electric vehicle. So it was quite a cool one!”
EVP: How do you see the growth of Formula E? Do you think it’s a matter of time, as it’s a series in it’s infancy, before it becomes more widely respected as the technology develops. Or do you feel it’s always in danger of being seen as niche racing?
“I don’t know. I think it’s very big in the motorsport world at the moment. From the outside, I don’t know. When you’re inside, it’s very hard to judge, but I think everything is very good, and now we have to hope that people go for it. It’ll take time; everything takes time.”
EVP: It was amazing to be there in London to see you finish the season on such a high. Was that the highlight of last season for you, or do you have any other particularly good memories?
“Yes, that was really… to be honest, it’s been a very a difficult season. A lot of bad luck for the first five races, so to turn it around and finish like this was really nice!”
EVP: Looking forward to this year, the calendar has changed significantly. Montreal in, NYC finale, back to Monaco, Marrakesh. Some great destinations! Any race you’re particularly looking forward to?
“I lived in New York for three years, so New York is very special for me.”
EVP: Regarding the new tracks, obviously a lot of criticism of the championship is that it’s spaced out so widely over the year, and makes it difficult to retain a core audience – do you think the season should be shorter?
“Yes, but Formula E is doing a very good job in making this happen. It’s not easy for them, and they put a very good calendar together. So yes, it would be better if it’s shorter, but what they’re doing is already amazing, so give them time.”
EVP: There’s been a lot of debate about FanBoost, and I wanted to ask your thoughts. Many struggle to take Formula E seriously, but while one camp sees FanBoost as great for involvement, others see it as a gimmick. Do you think Formula E would do better to get rid of it altogether?
“Well, you’ve said in a sentence the two things that… to be honest, the problem is, we all know it’s not fair, and you can cheat. So if you can cheat and it has an impact on the result of the championship, then you should not have it. So as long as they cannot make it fair, we should not have it. The idea is fantastic, and I’m really happy to have the fans involved, but if they cannot have a sporting equity, then no, it should not be there.”
EVP: As a team, how confident can you be of keeping the gap to other teams this season, as there are only – realistically – so many developmental gains you can make. Does that worry you, or do you see it as an exciting challenge?
“The gap last year, some of the races last year made us look absolutely amazing, but we struggled for a lot of the middle of the season. I think we have a very decent package, but let’s not be too optimistic.”
EVP: Finally, what are your goals for this season? Planning to see if you steal that number 1 from your team-mate?
“Obviously that’s the goal, but let’s take one race at a time, and prepare really well and put some strong results all the time, and do the counting at the end of the year.”