Q&A with Sascha Ricanek, MANAGING Director OF RACE ENGINEERING at ZF

Ahead of the start of the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season, we caught up with Sascha Ricanek, newly appointed Managing Director of Race Engineering at our Official Powertrain Partner, ZF for his thoughts on Formula E, the partnership with Mahindra Racing and the ever-changing landscape of the automotive industry.

Q. You joined ZF Race Engineering in November 2020 – what does your new role as Managing Director of this division entail?

ZF Race Engineering is a global business accelerator for the ZF Group. We are showcasing the ZF capabilities via worldwide motorsports activities to our customers. As an incubator we are piloting new ideas and testing them together with existing, as well as new customers, on the racetrack. Finally, we are serving hypercar OEMs as well as new automotive customers with our special series products out of the ZF product range. I enjoy being an independent manager in a leading automotive supplier who can directly influence and contribute to the next generation of mobility. The variety of our portfolio, the speed we deliver in motorsports and the diversity of our people make this job unique and enjoyable! 

Q. In a previous role, we understand that you have spent time in India amongst other locations around the world. How was this experience and do you think there is anything you learned that could benefit your current involvement in the ZF partnership with Mahindra Racing in particular?

My family and I love India! You rarely find a country which provides such a variety of people, landscape, climate, language and different cultures. Living in India, especially in Chennai, is an adventure and provides continual new experiences every day. We spent five years onsite where I was heading product development. Thanks to this, I have a broad understanding of the capability, and working culture in India. For our collaboration with Mahindra Racing, this reduces boundaries and increases the trust in our partnership and its success.

Q. You also have experience working in other major motorsport series – how do you think Formula E compares, and what excites you about the all-electric championship?

The DNA of Formula E is going far beyond pure motorsports. It´s the message to the world that we need to take care of our environment, irrespective whether it’s motorsport or not. Hence the reliability and sustainability Formula E as a race series is asking for is ahead of every other race series as of today. To serve this mindset with the newest technologies and processes, you need to be a masterful partner. We are proud and glad to be one of them.

Q. The upcoming season will see the ZF-developed powertrain integrated into our M7Electro – what have you seen of the project so far and how is the collaboration between ZF and Mahindra Racing working?

The powertrain we are providing for season 7 is newly developed and covers all our lessons learned, as well as newest available technologies from ZF. At the same time, we enhanced our collaboration with Mahindra Racing and aligned together ways of sharing information, which has enabled us to increase the performance and efficiency. This trust in ZF as well as the open-minded team spirit on both sides is for me unique, outstanding and the key to success.

Q. What are some of the unique challenges that Formula E poses when developing a powertrain? 

Electrification is the new state-of-the-art technology for all mobility solutions across the globe. Hence the war for talent is on, the run on resources and the right partners as suppliers. At the same time, we are asking for the best of the best engineers to deliver the highest performance is a unique challenge – it is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Q. How has the Covid-19 pandemic over the last months impacted the project?

Not much, since we dedicated all our resources without restriction to the project and we were able to travel to all races and tests as we got special permissions being an accredited sports event partner. The Formula E project is one of the most important prestige projects in ZF. 

Q. Like Mahindra, ZF are passionate about electrification – how do you see the involvement in Formula E driving e-mobility innovation and what could we achieve with our shared ‘Race to Road’ philosophy?

Formula E is the booster to enable road projects by looking into and using newest technologies. The speed at which we develop new season powertrains year by year is incredible. At ZF Race Engineering we are using this speed and knowhow for various road projects already. 

Q. Formula E has recently announced the latest update on this season’s race calendar – are there any races you are particularly looking forward to?

The variety of winners and the unpredictable nature of the races makes every race unique. Hence, I´m looking forward to all races and I’ll try to attend as many as possible. And I know our CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider is looking forward to attending a race, too. 

Q. And finally… do you have any predictions for the season? 

Hopefully, Mahindra Racing with all their strong partners, excellent drivers and the best powertrain will beat the competition more often than their competitors would like!