“The future of racing is Formula E, it is much more accessible to the public,” says Team Mahindra’s Brazilian driver Bruno Senna. The comment from someone who has experienced the high of the much more powerful Formula One cars leaves one surprised.
Leaving F1 to join a new stream of racing must have taken some conviction for Senna and German Nick Heidfeld. The Team Mahindra drivers were at the Buddh International Circuit to officially unveil their new Formula E cars. “Obviously, (but) I pitch for winning and not simply to make numbers. Until you are in the right car and with the right team, you don’t have a chance in F1,” says Heidfeld.
“But here (Formula E) the competition is as tough as it was in F1. It is challenging because it takes a toll mentally as everything gets over in a day. The qualifying is the most difficult because you have just one flying lap and more mistakes mean you are done. The twisty and tiny street circuits make it difficult and even though the car runs on batteries unlike the powerful F1 cars, it is difficult to drive at speeds like 220 kph. It looks bloody quick from outside and feels even quicker from inside the car,” adds Heidfeld.
Noise is virtually absent in Formula E cars compared to the roar of an F1 car, and Senna says he likes the feel of it. “Driving a silent car is a different experience. I quite liked it; you get so much information without the noise from the engine. On a street circuit you can get a lot of information on the tight streets and all that stuff that is happening. But some cars have a really amazing sound, like the V10 F1 cars, and I miss that,” says Senna.
While getting limited opportunities in F1 was the major reason for the two joining FE, the other was the freedom they would get. “F1 was fantastic but limiting… you couldn’t do many other things. First you are so focused on F1, and secondly teams generally don’t allow you to go somewhere else. Though Nico Hulkenburg did last year (he contested in two rounds of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship and won the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans), but normally it is not possible. After F1, I did sports cars, I raced in Australia and so it was a fantastic opportunity. Now, I am lucky I can combine FE and sports cars. And FE is very much like F1 as you have your own car and you can push it to the limit. Learning to drive with different tyres and engines makes it very interesting,” Heidfeld adds.
Watching these cars run on a regular F1 circuit might not be attractive, but Senna says it is much more interesting and feasible when the race is run on street circuits. “The main difference is we are taking the track to the people and not the other way round as in F1. Also, with electric cars there is a different perspective as you are promoting better living for people and promoting sustainable and cleaner energy. All over the world, governments are being given incentives. We have raced in London where street racing has not been done in many years and we are now thinking of taking it to Switzerland,” explains Senna.