"Around 20 per cent" says Luca Di Grassi on Mahindra Racing's probability of a podium at the 2023 Hyderabad E-Prix
The first-ever Formula E race in India will be held this weekend in the form of the 2023 Formula E-Prix in Hyderabad, and ahead of the race we had a conversation with the racing drivers from Mahindra Racing – Oliver Rowland and Lucas Di Grassi, and Jehan Daruvala who has taken on the role of a reserve driver for Mahindra Racing. We also asked them about what they though would be Mahindra Racing's performance for the E-Prix, and this is what they had to say.
"(Podium) Not likely, but possible"
When asked about the probablity of a podium this weekend, Luca Di Grassi from Mahindra Racing said that, "I would say for both of us (Luca and Oliver) combined, something around 20%. So not likely, but possible. But that's a realistic number. We cannot just pretend, say, 100%. It's not likely because if you put in a normal condition at the moment, it's very hard to beat Porsche and they have four (cars). So we need a little bit of a different scenario, or if they qualify really bad, or we qualify really well, or we find something that setup that we are not expecting. But at the moment, on average, from what we've seen in the first races, it's going to be hard, but we're going to fight for it. It's possible." Team mate Oliver Rowland adds to that by saying, “A very good qualifying result is quite likely.”
Race strategy for the 2023 Hyderabad E-Prix
Describing the race strategy for the weekend, Lucas mentions it is a complex game as the new Formula Gen 3 car is 40 per cent efficient in terms of energy recuperation during the full race – with 93 per cent of the energy being recovered during braking to a stop alone. He goes on to explain that the way you break into the corner makes a big difference on how much energy goes back into the battery, which consequently helps you accelerate more and hence the cars incentivise you to overuse the energy and drive as fast as possible, using the least amount of energy. “I say it sometimes it's like playing chess at 200 kmph… it is very tricky by yourself. And when you have other drivers around you, it's even more complicated because you don't want to lose a position, but you need to stay behind because of the slipstream, because you have less air resistance, so you save a little bit more energy.”
First impressions of the Hyderabad street circuit
Oliver Rowland described the street circuit by saying “It's quite flowing and it's quite fast.” He went on to add that the track width could be an issue, but is pleased with the outcome of the track. “The surface is obviously going to be very hot, so tires, they’re going to be very important,” says Rowland. According to the drivers, the Hyderabad E-Prix might be one of the hottest races they’ve taken part in this season, alongside Jakarata. “I think this track has similar characteristics to Mexico, if you want to compare,” says Mahindra Racing driver Lucas di Grassi.
Thoughts on the Formula E Gen 3 cars
When asked about the performance gains of the Gen 3 cars over the Gen 2 cars, Lucas described the number of changes now made to the cars. This included the presence two motors, one at the front and rear, in the Gen 3 cars as opposed to the earlier single motor, and the powertrain in the front results in more physical effort to steer. “The car is much faster on the straight, much more efficient, but slower in the corners,” says Lucas. He also points out that this is down to the Hankook tyres which last longer than before but use consequently harder compounds, which results in slower cornering speeds. “I think here it will be a similar lap time Maybe a second slower in qualifying, but quicker in the race. It's more or less there. But the car on the straight is 30, 40, 50kmph faster. It's much faster,” says Lucas.
Jehan’s new role with Mahindra Racing
In addition to his Formula 2 season, Jehan Daruvala, arguably one of India’s best single-seat racing drivers, has taken on a reserve role with Mahindra Racing this year. Jehan will be spending time in the simulator, helping develop and fine tune the Gen 3 Formula E car for Mahindra Racing, and he says that “If I'm not on track, I'm at the simulator. So for example, for Cape Town, I'm not going to be there on the weekend, but I'll be in Banbury…That's my main role this year, to be behind the scenes.” Jehan goes on to add that Formula E is completely different to what he has been racing in for the past seven or eight years, but his team mates consider his inputs as a driver invaluable. “For us, it's very valuable to have him as well because we also have the view from a driver also watching the session. When we're in the car, we only see what we see. In the last few races, it's been really valuable to have him ‘see’ as a driver. The engineers are one thing, they're on their computer and they don't always see things that he (Jehan) sees,” says Oliver Rowland. Jehan adds, “Like I've said before, I obviously want to be in a race seat, so I'll be working towards that in the near future.”