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Formula E Valencia Pre-Season Testing

How Mahindra rose from the ashes after Formula E’s Valencia battery fire

The battery fire at Formula E’s pre-season testing in Valencia this week has wreaked havoc on proceedings, with a day-and-a-half of running lost from the original schedule.

Edoardo Mortara, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

Nobody was seriously injured in the incident on Tuesday afternoon, with only one person taken to hospital as a precaution, but the infrastructure damage has been high, notably in the garage of WAE (formerly known as Williams Advanced Engineering) where the incident occurred.

But while the flames were confined to the WAE garage following the battery explosion, collateral damage had been caused in the adjacent Mahindra garage as emergency crews tackled the blaze. The damage essentially destroyed the team’s IT systems which were located on that side of the garage, while both cars were in the firing line and threw any further potential running in doubt.

“The side of Edo [Mortara] was quite okay. You had dust, so it was a bit black and everything but nothing dramatic,” team boss Frederic Bertrand exclusively told Autosport.

“But to clean you need to wait until you know what you can do, is it safe. But on the side of Nyck [de Vries] you had the heat, for example the tyres were so hot [they] probably melted a little bit.

“The water they sent or what they used to do the job went everywhere, so the car was quite flooded and then on top of that the dust. It’s everywhere and we need to dismantle the car fully and make sure that everything is cleaned again because the risk you have is maybe it looks okay and then after 20km it’s dead.”

Bertrand admits that once it became clear that de Vries’s car was out of action, thoughts turned to whether it was possible, and worth the effort, to prepare Mortara’s car for any potentially running – which at that stage remained unknown.

Nyck de Vries, Mahindra Racing

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Nyck de Vries, Mahindra Racing

The investigation into the cause of the battery fire by the FIA and WAE bought Mahindra vital time, though, with a decision not coming through until Thursday afternoon that running could resume.

Such was the task that Mahindra faced that Bertrand admits it was not until Thursday morning that it was “100%” clear that the team would be able to run one car following the efforts over the last 36 hours.

He adds: “I’m super proud, no one has said ‘okay we will not manage’ because it was really bad surprise after bad surprise.”

During that intervening time, Mahindra was required to relocate to another garage while also make the best of a bad situation, which included buying new laptops and monitors while the rest of the Formula E paddock offered what support it could in terms of resources and manpower.

“I think we had support from all the other teams, that was really impressive to see the wish of helping us,” says Bertrand. “Supplying us with IT stuff, some guys also, for example for the IT, our previous guy is now with Andretti [Global] so they said okay, you want him to support you because he knows your system, so it helped a lot.

“These are all those small things which all together meant that we are there today [Thursday] because the time you need to spend normally on the rebuild is something long.”

Edoardo Mortara, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

Edoardo Mortara, Mahindra Racing, Mahindra M9Electro

Given the rush to prepare the car and with the seat and pedals already set-up for Mortara, the Swiss-Italian was given the task of running on Thursday afternoon, finishing the session third overall and just over a tenth off the best time. Something which would have seemed unimaginable less than two days earlier.

De Vries, who got his first taste of Mahindra’s Gen3 machine on Tuesday morning, will spend Friday’s 10-hour running in the car, while the team will be “compensated” for its lack of running with a second car via a private test between now and the season-opener in Mexico City.

Bertrand admits that even with the additional track time his team remains on the backfoot, with running in Valencia still far from optimal given what has happened.

But there was never any thought in the Frenchman’s mind about calling for the test to be cancelled, especially in the wake of support offered to him by rival teams.

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“We can’t be the one saying I don’t want that to happen because it’s unfair for us,” he says. “But in the same way that everybody helped us I don’t want to be the one spoiling everyone or creating difficulties, as long as everybody agreed that we could be compensated.

“It will never be as good as being with everyone, it will never be as efficient, it will never give us the same type of information. But okay, that’s part of the game, we will lose a little bit.”

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