DILBAGH GILL: LEADERSHIP THROUGH PASSION
Formula E has a rich diversity of characters as team principals all the way up and down the pitlane.
There are the well-known ex-racers such as Allan McNish (Audi) and Susie Wolff (Venturi); the corporate company men such James Barclay (Jaguar), Tommaso Volpe at Nissan and Ian James with Mercedes-Benz EQ; then there’s the committee of four approach from Porsche, the out and out engineering lead of NIO333 with Christian Silk, BMW’s Roger Griffiths and Envision Virgin with Sylvain Filippi.
A more classic owner/team principal approach from Jay Penske’s Dragon and Mark Preston’s DS Techeetah also adds variety to leadership personalities.
Then there is our own Dilbagh Gill, who stands alone as a management presence with a unique mix of business experience and competitive desire which, unlike all of the above, came to Formula E with little practical or prior motorsport experience.
He did so by astuteness and a respectful learning ethic to this new craft, and he did it diligently, especially during the formative season of 2014/15 when a partnership with Carlin Motorsport informed the direction which the team would take.
“It was an interesting season and I spent a lot of it learning, this is true,” says Gill today.
“We were established in super quick time and Mahindra Racing announced itself positively, but it also provided challenges at the time, so I had to understand what kind of leadership we needed and how that could integrate into the team’s future,” said Gill.
Gill’s time in a variety of senior management positions with Tech Mahindra from 2006-2014, one of which included an award-winning role in running the entire IT solution for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, stood him in good stead.
For Mahindra Racing’s second season there was a shift in focus and a new partnership with Adrian Campos’ eponymous QEV Tech engineering team.
Additionally, Nick Heidfeld was signed from Venturi and the former multiple podium-visiting F1 driver brought an immeasurable amount of experience and clear technical thinking to the team.
Heidfeld has an enormous amount of respect for Gill and retains a role in a development capacity to this day.
“I’ve had the most trustworthy relationship ever with Dilbagh in my whole career in motorsport,” Nick says. “There is huge trust between us which is nice. This shows why I am still linked to this team even though I don’t drive for them anymore.
“I think there is a risk that people sometimes underestimate Dilbagh because in the beginning he had no racing experience really and also he likes to watch and look, not to do a lot of blah-blah-blah.”
“He is clever and analyses things. He started this from zero and then developed it into something outstanding and I like to think that I helped a little in this process.”
With victories, podiums and success on the track, often the focus has also been on Dilbagh’s now famous presence in the back of the garage as he lives and breathes every moment of a race day.
Whether it be the concentrated expressions as he looks at the timing screens or the tapping of his heart as races or qualifying sessions reach a crescendo, Gill is a favourite of commentary duo Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti on the TV coverage.
“You see, I like to display emotions sometimes, the single reason being I really care about the team and the people in it,” says Gill.