2022 Rome E-Prix Preview: Chatting with Stoffel Vandoorne and Alexander Sims
The 2022 Formula E season has been one with such variety and competition that even after three races, there is still no clear favourite for the title. As the paddock heads to Rome this weekend for Round 4 and 5 with the double-header Rome E-Prix, we talked to Mercedes EQ Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Mahindra Racing driver Alexander Sims, about what we can expect from the Rome E-Prix, how they are preparing and what the future looks like.
On returning to racing after a long break
It's been quite a long time since we last raced. You know, two months ago. So, I'm just really excited now to be back here in Rome and to finally kick off the season. We know we have a good car. We managed to win both championships last year and and this is definitely the target again this year
On the Rome Street Circuit
It's definitely one of the longest circuits that we are going to, but it's one that I enjoy a lot, you know? Because it really takes a lot of commitment to have a perfect lap around this circuit. There's a lot of corners, a lot of very tricky challenging places on this track but I really enjoy them a lot. So yeah, it's an exciting track to drive on and I hope we can continue racing here for a number of years.
On the duel qualifying format
It's been pretty good. It definitely equals out a little bit more to the performance between the teams and it's not as random anymore as it used to be last season with the four groups. Now being at least in the top five of the championships, you're not that disadvantaged anymore by being in the first group because we get two runs on new tires and and generally, if you make it into the top four of your group, it's because you made it there on merit and on pure pace.
On his relationship with teammate Nyck De Vries
Nyck and myself, we get on really well. We're speaking the same language, so it kind of makes it a little bit easier to get along. But we know each other from the junior series before as well. We've had a very good working relationship and been able to push the team forward quite a lot in the last couple of years. And I think it's important for me to be open-minded to have a good working relationship and to help bring the team forward. Obviously, once we get on track, we want to beat each other and we want to be the best, but I guess that is normal.
On the announcement of Formula E Coming to Hyderabad
I think it's great. First of all, to see the intention of the countries and formally to expand the calendar and in different and new countries to go racing. And from a driver perspective, I'm always happy to have new venues, new circuits on the calendar.
Preferring an aggressive or conservative driving style
Well, I don't think I need to be less aggressive because I think last year a lot of stuff that happened was out of my control and I couldn't really change much about it. So, I'm trying to keep the same approach by, you know, finding the right level of aggressiveness. I mean there’s definitely too much and too little. For me it’s always a very fine line in terms of how aggressive you are. I know we have a competitive car and when we have the car to be up there, we should be able to score the maximum available points. So it's still a long season. We’ve just got to avoid the DNFs.
Should Formula E move to proper race tracks
I feel Formula E is still meant to be to be raced on street circuits. And to be honest, I think this is what makes the championship very exciting. Very, very challenging. You know, we race on some fantastic circuits across the year. I'm very happy to race on those street circuits and, you know, maybe some are a bit better than others and some provide better racing than others. But I still feel like the DNA of this championship is to race on the street circuits.
On his own future now that Mercedes is leaving Formula E
I pretty much have an idea. I'll be in Formula E. That is, that is where I want to be and I think where my future is. Obviously I started this project with Mercedes four years ago, as HWA first and I was obviously planning to have a very long future in Formula E with them, only for them to now leave at the end of the season. So, I have to evaluate some different options. But yeah, I'm confident that something will be sorted out soon for gen three, but it's still a long season ahead now, and I really want to finish the chapter with Mercedes on the very high before moving on.
On the season so far after three races
It's not been a very ideal start to the season but yeah, as is the case in Formula E with the type of racing that we have one small mistake at the wrong time, can have a huge effect on the the end result and in both races where we've not finished, it's purely been down to my mistake in the car and the performance of our garage has not been reflected in the result. It was and still is very disappointing. We've put in a huge amount of effort and to have two mistakes at the wrong time, affects the race so badly. It's not what any of us want, but I can't change it and I know myself that they were human errors that happen sometimes. And the only thing we can do really is continue the progress that I think we've made since the start of the season and carry on trying.
On changes within Mahindra
The team's gone through a huge change in terms of bringing the personnel involved in running the team, in-house into our base in Banbury, which has meant a huge change of personnel and we can get hopefully to a stage, where we have this sort of core group of people settled and and going to remain for some time. But yeah, it's a dynamic evolving process. And although the name on the car Mahindra is consistent, it's obviously dependent on all the people behind working cohesively together and bringing all of our learnings together to get the end results. I think we're in a better place, I think the team is working incredibly hard to get the package to be as competitive as possible.
On the long gap between races in Formula E
It is what it is. I've been able to have a bit of time with my family, done some GT racing. So I've kept busy doing other things, obviously lots of work and simulator and we just get on with it. I've been in this sort of situation before, in my career, you have moments where things go well, and things don't go so well. I'm very hopeful that my mistakes in the wrong place are behind me because inevitably every single driver will be making mistakes throughout the weekend but if you just make them in the wrong place then suddenly you're in the wall because that's the nature of these circuits and they have dark consequences. But yeah, I'm really hopeful that we can get a clean weekend and I've got a positive mindset.
On the duel qualifying format
I mean, just the qualifying format has changed. The feeling from my side is that it feels a bit of a ‘softer’ session in that there's slightly less pressure to put everything into that one lap because we normally have the chance to do at least two push laps in qualifying. Now it's only probably six push laps in total so not much. The duel stages are exciting, I think to watch and I'm hopeful that we can recognise that and try and progress so that we start the race up a bit higher.
On where Mahindra is in the pecking order
It's a good question. Very difficult to say, for every weekend because, you know, the track characteristics are quite different and depending on the ambient temperature, the track surface, the amount of bumps and how twisty the corners are, it can change quite quickly. I would say that at the moment, we seem to be around mid-grid but as I said, can change from one weekend to the next. I try not to sort of expect anything in particular.
On working with Mahindra
It's a brilliant group of people. I'm enjoying working with a huge amount. At the end of the day the car itself has a standard chassis, it’s a standard steering wheel. And so from a driver's perspective, when I'm racing the car, it feels like a Formula E car and then we work to optimise the specific items like motor inverter and gearbox. And so that process of developing software and how we as the driver interact with the car is really the main focus and so from that point of view, I think the relationship is pretty good. Working with the engineers, I think we make good progress. Lots of days spent in the simulator together. So yeah, I enjoy that a lot.
You can follow the Rome E-Prix this weekend on Disney+ Hotstar. Here’s the schedule:
14:00 - 15:45 IST Saturday, 9 April
18:00 - 20:00 IST Saturday, 9 April
14:00 - 15:45 IST Sunday, 10 April
18:30 - 19:30 IST Sunday, 10 April