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 Mahindra Racing’s Nick Heidfeld for a chat about his season two highlights, his ligament injury, and his restaurant recommendations for Berlin!
EVP: So, Nick, we’re back in Donington, and well on the road to season three. Tell us, what have you been up to since London?
“Not much of a break, to be honest. I’ve been busy at home with various things. There has been some testing with Mahindra, in Formula E, and now, as you say, looking forward to season three. I was sure that the team did a very good job in planning the season three car, and also in putting it on the road, and looking at the car it looks like they’ve done a very good job! But the big question is always ‘what do the others do?’ So, as confident as I am that we did a good job, this was and still is the big question. Today, we have the first bit of the picture, with all the other cars around, but you still never know if they are showing everything, but, let’s hope after these three days we get a clearer picture.”
EVP: You’ve neatly led into my next question, which was how difficult it is to read into car performance at Donington, but how does the car feel? Now you’ve had a chance behind the wheel?
“Lap times look better than what it feels like in the car. I’m not so happy with the balance, it’s not easy to drive. We’re having a programme where we’re looking at some systems and doing a little bit of set-up work, but not fully focussing on lap time. So, I would say so far, so good.”
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?
“We’re still investigating that. There’s very surely not a big difference in it…”
EVP: A lot of drivers are saying different things, so I’m interested in everyone’s thoughts!
“The visibility is a bit different, but for me it’s not a problem at all. We don’t think that’s a bit thing. So what do all the others say?”
EVP: I knew you’d ask! A few drivers have said minimal difference, a little more downforce. I probably shouldn’t tell you other team’s secrets!
“Well I’ll just read your interviews! [laughs] And I do think it looks cool.”
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?
“The first fully electric was probably the Formula E car. I think all the others I drove were a hybrid, I assume.”
EVP: Not a fully electric one, before Formula E?
“I don’t think so. At least nothing that sticks in my mind! You can say that’s either a good or bad sign. It was nothing like, ‘damn, this is so slow’, or ‘wow, this is so fantastic!’
EVP: Looking at last season, despite your injury, it feels like there were some really positive and promising races for Mahindra. What were the highlights of last season for you? Beijing has to be up there?
“Yeah, Beijing is up there in terms of result. Coming into the new season, with a new team, and being on super pole, and on the podium straight away was fantastic. But, to be honest, I was especially happy for Dilbagh [Gill – Mahindra Team Principal] because he was so happy afterwards, while I actually wasn’t, because we could have been second, if we would have done a perfect race! But these things happen – you can never guarantee a perfect weekend. And as you mentioned, my hand, that was for me the big thing of the season, getting back as quick as I could. And I think the team, it was not always so easy to see in terms of result, did a good development on many different parts, and as I said, for next season have done some very strong work.”
EVP: Mentioning your ligament injury, is that completely healed now, and have you got full range of movement back?
“I think there is still a small bit to come, but in motorsport the big steps are easy and the small steps can take longer. But I am very happy with how it has healed, because it’s a lot better than the therapist or the doctor had assumed. It will probably never be as good as before in terms of flexibility. In terms of strength, I think I will be able to get there.”
EVP: Looking forward to this year, the calendar has changed significantly. Some exciting new cities on the calendar; Monaco, New York, Marrakesh. Any race you’re particularly looking forward to?
“I like the fact that we are changing circuits, as it’s always exciting to go somewhere new. Also, in terms of the cities you mentioned that we go to, they are fantastic. But as a racing driver, I find that the best circuit in the world starts to get boring if you go there all the time. So, it’s great.”
EVP: EV Performance are hoping to attend the Berlin ePrix, so to break up the car questions for a moment, I know you’re a foodie and enjoy your restaurants! Can you give us a recommendation of something to eat that we shouldn’t leave Berlin without trying?
“That’s a very good question! Unfortunately, I’ve not been to Berlin that much, and on the Formula E weekends, I didn’t have that much time, and this year I was a bit sick, so I didn’t go to a special restaurant. But before we go there, you can ask me again, and I will come up with something!”
EVP: FanBoost causes a lot of debate, and I wanted to ask your thoughts. Many struggle to take Formula E seriously, with FanBoost having the potential to alter a race result, but others see it as great for fan involvement. Do you think Formula E would do better to get rid of it altogether?
“I think to base your thoughts about Formula E being serious or not just on FanBoost would be wrong. If people think they would not watch it for that, then I would propose they have a look on the TV and watch it once. I know many other people thought about Formula E in a negative way, and then since they watched it, they all like it. I don’t like FanBoost because I think it’s not fair. I like the fact that Formula E tries to involve the fans, but I think it’s too much of a show aspect, and I think the sport for me should be fair, and it’s not fair.”
EVP: Finally, what are your goals for this season? What do you think is achievable for the team as it stands?