A Fan's Account of Mahindra's Formula E Rollercoaster Ride
Posted on: 04 September, 2017
When Mahindra first announced its participation in Formula E back in 2014, to be honest, I didn’t know what the series was about and wouldn’t have cared to watch it if not for the team. I watched the first race, or ‘E-Prix’ and was surprised at how a non- rumbling car could make its presence felt all over the world. Later I would develop a huge interest for the all-electric sport, all thanks to Mahindra Racing. I still remember the Indian team winning its first podium in season 2.
But nothing was as exciting as Season 3; 25 drivers participated from 10 teams in 40 cars. Felix Rosenqvist joined Mahindra Racing as a rookie to partner with Nick Heidfeld. The Swedish driver proved to be a boon for the Indian outfit as he brought home the first victory in Berlin. Both ‘Quick Nick’ and ‘Fast Felix’ brought home 5 podiums each to make it the team’s best ever season. Here are some of my favourite Mahindra Racing moments from Season 3:
Hong Kong E-Prix (Round 1)
Formula E’s season opener and surely Mahindra wanted to score an early advantage. Felix Rosenqvist impressively qualified 6th as Nick managed 11th spot on the grid.
In the race, Nick Heidfeld charged up his M3Electro, went on the outside and gained an astonishing four positions at the first corner alone. While this was new to Rosenqvist, he tagged his nose to Heidfeld's car to follow him. Rosenqvist later lost his rear grip and ended up hitting the wall, compromising the rear wing.
A perfect car swap allowed Quick Nick to guard P3 until the end of the race whilst Rosenqvist won the fastest lap of the race.
Marrakesh E-Prix (Round 2)
In the second round of the season, Felix showed an enticing pace through the weekend. He finished 7th and 2nd in the practice sessions and 2nd in qualifying before taking pole position in the super pole shootout.
Felix led the race for 27 laps, after which Sam Bird and FanBoost winner, Sébastien Buemi, took advantage of their high energy levels to relegate the Swede to the third podium spot.
Paris E-Prix (Round 6)
Interestingly, none of the drivers made it to super pole but they were still able to bag 27 points over the weekend.
Starting P5 on the grid, Nick quickly relegated Techeetah driver Esteban Gutierrez to take 4th position at the first corner. Felix took 9 laps to overtake Gutierrez by taking the inside line on turn 2, thanks to some late breaking which promoted him to P5. Lap 34 saw Jean-Éric Vergne crash into the tyre wall; this promoted both the M3Electros by a position. Nick finished P3 followed by Felix in P4, the best result, yet, for Mahindra in Formula E.
Berlin E-Prix (Round 7)
Berlin ePrix marked the home ePrix for German driver Nick Heidfeld. The outpouring love from his home fans gave Quick Nick one big reason to fight for a podium.
The day started with both drivers qualifying for Super Pole with Rosenqvist setting the fastest time. In super pole, Rosenqvist missed by a mere 0.083s on pole and qualified 3rd with Heidfeld settling for 4th.
The race start saw Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld make a move on José Maria Lopez before turn 1 and comfortably gaining one spot each. While Heidfeld defended his podium spot meticulously, Rosenqvist went on the outside of Di Grassi at turn 1 starting his lead stint before pitting for car swap on lap 22. He led the race till the end, making it a stunner race weekend bagging 40 points and Mahindra’s first victory in the series!
Emotions overloaded all over the Mahindra garage as Felix won his first ePrix, and Nick bagged a hat-trick podiums. Between all this, was one man who had his dreams come to life; Dilbagh Gill rushed to the podium to meet his drivers. His voice shivered as he spoke to Nicki Shields – the boss couldn't believe what his boys brought home.
It was an intense moment for every passioneer watching in India, and all over the globe. The National Anthem started, we all stood as tears rolled down Dilbagh's cheeks. This moment will always hold a special place in the hearts of Indian fans.
New York E-Prix (Round 10)
First ever race in the streets of New York, and what a place to see electric cars zooming past a harbour with a view of the iconic Statue of Liberty.
Round 10 – Second day of the NYC E-Prix double-header – Rosenqvist and Heidfeld qualified 2nd and 5th respectively. Upon race start, Felix attacked Sam Bird from the inside line he was holding from the grid. Nick on the other hand went on the outside to outpace Renault e.dams’ replacement driver, Pierre Gasly, as he took P4. First lap hassle forced Vergne to pit in order to get rid of the hanging bodywork; this allowed Heidfeld to jump up to 3rd spot.
Lap 11 saw Sam Bird charging up to Rosenqvist getting his position back from the Swedish driver; Heidfeld teased Rosenqvist by attempting to steal his position. Later, the two M3Electros would swap positions on two occasions in the race keeping the order same as earlier, before Pierre Gasly charged at Heidfeld with a failed attempt just ahead of the chequered flag. The passioneers added 33 vital points to the tally heading towards the final weekend in Montreal.
Montreal E-Prix (Round 12)
The final race of the season was just like any other season finale – exciting and full of suspense. The drivers’ championship was on the line, the manufacturers’ championship was to be decided in the final race. It was crucial for Mahindra to score points here in order to defend their 3rd spot in the championship. Likewise it was crucial for Felix Rosenqvist to score points here to finish 3rd in the drivers’ championship. Rosenqvist and Heidfeld gave a perfect start to the team by qualifying 1st and 4th. Starting on pole meant Rosenqvist bagged another 3 points before race start.
Team HeidQvist (Heidfeld + Rosenqvist) defended their positions upon race start going in at turn 1. Heidfeld had pressure building up from arch rival Sam Bird and eventually had to give away his position in order to maintain energy levels. On lap 29, Vergne took full advantage of a higher ‘State of Charge’ than Rosenqvist to go on the inside line taking hold of the position. The drivers would then race to the line bringing 31 points home for the team.
Season 3 was exciting for the Mahindra team as well as the fans from all over the world. Development of the M4Electro started mid-season; the team’s decision to produce the car early has showed results at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Nick Heidfeld’s 48.59s record run at the festival assures a determined and exciting season 4.
Berlin was something special… it will go down as the best moment to ever happen in the history of Indian motorsport.
I am inspired and always will be by the progress that Mahindra has made not only as a brand but as a motorsport team. In the journey to victory they’ve fallen sometimes but at the same time have picked themselves up again, the best example being the New York ePrix. Berlin was something special, the emotions of the team showed what it meant to them to get a victory after three years of hard work. For me, it will go down as the best moment to ever happen in the history of Indian motorsport. After an eventful season I can’t wait for the next one to begin, such a shame that it’s a long time before that!