In the next of our interviews from Formula E’s first pre-season test at Donington Park, earlier this month, Laura Prior caught up with Venturi Racing’s Stephane Sarrazin for a chat about the future of EV’s, learning from a new team-mate, and his hopes for season three of the championship!
EVP: So, Stephane, we’re back on the road again. Tell us, what have you been up to since London? Have you managed to have a break?
“I had a race in WEC, with Toyota. We had the race in Nürburgring. I had holidays. I had a lot of testing with Formula E to prepare for this season, so we did a full session of tests, so it was quite busy. Now, I go to Mexico on Sunday for the WEC again – so very busy all the time with the two programmes!”
EVP: It’s always difficult to read into car performance at Donington, but I know you’ve been involved in the team’s private testing, so how does the car feel?
“We have a good car. We didn’t put everything together this week. We were concentrating on the race, but next week it will be normally good, and I have a good car. Last year, we did a great season to finish P6 in the championship, and battled in the top five many times, especially in qualifying. So it was a great season for us, for Venturi. They never raced before, it was new for Venturi to race, so it was impressive. This year I hope we can do another step, to fight even more at the front.”
EVP: What about your thoughts on the new front wing? Do you feel there’s any aerodynamic value, or benefits, or do you think it’s purely an aesthetic decision?
“It’s purely aesthetic, because we did a back to back [test], and it had the same balance, so it’s really good. For us it was exactly the same balance, but I think the car is better like that – it’s a nice aggressive car, so it’s good.”
EVP: Formula E is crucial is pushing the development of electric road vehicles, and popularising them with the public. Do you remember the first time you drove an electric vehicle, and what your thoughts were?
“Electric car… it was a Toyota hybrid. It was amazing to go in just an electric. It’s impressive, and it’s the future, I’m sure. Everybody will come to electric, and Formula E opens the world’s eyes, that we can race electric in a big city like London, Paris, or Mexico – everywhere we go – it’s good, because the spectator can see the car. It’s a very good, how do you say, visibility- for manufacturers, to show what they can do.”
EVP: Looking to last season, it was a convincing performance from you – podium in Long Beach, and just missing out in Putrajaya and Buenos Aires. What were some of your highlights?
“Long Beach was my best race. Malaysia, I started in the front row, but I had an electrical problem. I started last, I came back to fourth! In Argentina I finished fourth also. But many times I could have been on the podium, and I had some mistakes, but I finished all my races in the points.”
EVP: Looking to this season, the race calendar has changed considerably. Montreal in, NYC finale, back to Monaco again, Marrakesh. Some interesting destinations! Is there any race you’re particularly looking forward to?
“No, I like Paris, for sure. Monaco also, will be good. I like most of the races. But what I like especially is change, to have new tracks, new cities, you have to discover all the time and it’s very challenging for a driver to discover a track, but very exciting!”
EVP: Regarding the new tracks, obviously a lot of criticism about 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, I can understand it, but it’s only the third season of Formula E. Maybe in ten years, we can be more compact like F1. I can understand, but for the third season, I am really impressed by what [Formula E] have done already.”
EVP: Obviously this year you’ll be working with Maro Engel. Have you met before in any other series, and are you looking forward to the challenge of a new team-mate?
“No, I discovered Maro last year at the test one day. He’s a really cool guy, with good experience, so it’s good for us. But it was very good with Mike [Conway], also with Jacques [Villeneuve], with Nick [Heidfeld] also, so I had good team-mates. Now, it’s Maro, and I’m happy, and I hope we can work very well together.”
EVP: “Do you still, as a veteran of motorsport, see it as a challenge when you get a new team-mate? Can you still learn from each other, or do you just focus on yourself?
“No, no, all the time we have something to learn from team-mates. In data, you analyse data, you can see that one corner is quicker, so you try to do the same or better. So if, in one team, you have two very good drivers, it’s very good, it’s very important. I’m used to fighting with very good drivers, in Toyota for example, there are six sharing one car in a test, or two cars in the race, and that’s very good because you are learning a lot all the time, pushing – it’s very good. Like that, you can improve yourself.”
EVP: As a team, how confident can you be of closing the gap to Renault this season, as there are only – realistically – so many developmental gains they can make?
“Exactly. Season two, the biggest manufacturer did a big step. We didn’t. So now we are on target with the weight, with the potential of the gearbox, so we did a big step now, so I can imagine everybody will be closer.”
EVP: Finally, what are your personal goals for this season? More podiums? A win?
“Exactly. More podiums. I hope to win a race, but what I want is to fight at the front all the time, and I want to do strong races, like last year, but more constantly. Last year, it was P4…
EVP: You were P4, P9, P4, P9!
“…exactly! But many times I finished ninth, I was P4, P5, but I had a problem, so…”
EVP: A lot of back luck. We hope it improves for season three!