Why Mahindra Formula E team makes sense for ex-F1 driver Massa

At Formula E's most recent round in Rome, former Sauber, Ferrari and Williams Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa paid the championship a visit

Why Mahindra Formula E team makes sense for ex-F1 driver Massa

The 11-time grand prix winner hinted that he would "perhaps" be racing in FE next season before touring the team garages and the grid ahead of the race, which was won by Virgin Racing's Sam Bird.

Massa stated his desire to move to FE before his F1 retirement was announced last year, but later explained he would only make the switch when felt he could be competitive.

Part of his thinking was that he needed to "find the right car and the right team" before committing to FE - and there is one squad that fits his aims perfectly: Mahindra.

Of the nine manufacturer teams (plus current customer outfit Techeetah, which is expected to switch to DS power next season, and 2018/19 expected customer squad Virgin) that took part in the recent Gen2 car closed group tests, Audi, Nissan and BMW have their own factory drivers to call on - plus experienced incumbent FE racers.

Venturi and NIO, in its current guise, are yet to win a race and Penske (Dragon) has not taken a FE triumph since season two.

Massa had tested for Jaguar, but it already has a proven FE race winner in inaugural champion Nelson Piquet Jr - plus Mitch Evans, who has shown stunning pace this year and is currently leading the team's podium charge.

Nick Heidfeld does not have a contract at Mahindra beyond the end of this campaign and the squad, which formally opened a new workshop in Banbury ahead of this weekend's Paris E-Prix, has won two races in the 2017/18 championship via Felix Rosenqvist.

In Rosenqvist, arguably FE's fastest driver based on current form, Massa would have an exceptional benchmark to measure himself against. He would also join a team that has had just three regular drivers since the end of the opening season, which suggests he would be given time to settle in and get up to speed.

Until it was overhauled by Virgin in Rome, Mahindra was FE's top manufacturer squad in the teams' championship, and it has scored three wins and six poles in the last one-and-a-half seasons.

But while Mahindra makes sense on paper, its team boss Dilbagh Gill - understandably - insists any talk of Massa joining his team is premature.

"We haven't considered drivers yet - our focus is still on what we have," he tells Autosport.

"[But] I am reasonably confident our seat is one of the wanted seats, so we should be able to get a good driver when are ready to look for a driver, if we need to look for a driver.

"At this moment in time we haven't made any decisions yet. Our focus is honestly for season four."

Find out how you can follow the 2018 Paris E-Prix here

Porsche and Mercedes, which powered Massa's Williams in the final 77 races of his F1 career, are joining FE for the 2019/20 season. But each has a host of factory drivers to call upon, especially after the conclusion of the former's LMP1 programme. Mercedes also has DTM racers that will be eying an FE switch when it leaves the touring car series at the end of this year.

Mahindra - with or without Massa - is not being intimidated but FE's major OEM influx.

"We're looking forward to it," says Gill.

"I don't want to use the word 'underdog' in any way - we've been here, by the time we get to season five, for four years [and] there's a certain amount of experience that you pick up.

"I think we have a product that is going to be pretty strong - so from that perspective I really feel that [we'd] love to have a go at anyone who comes into this championship.

"I never think that we're behind - I don't think we are, I think we are at the same level as everybody."

Gill explains that the Banbury base is the latest step in Mahindra's "catch up" programme to expand its FE facilities as it works on its M5 Electro season five car.

"We're slowly starting to step up and our investment is largely going to be around software and simulation," he says.

"I don't think we're really going to be investing a lot in hardware, in terms of rigs and dynos and stuff like that. We will be looking at external companies to help us on that.

"Between here and Barcelona [where its race team in based] now we have two sims and can have a little bit more work going on - on the energy side."

Mahindra may not have the motorsport lineage of some of its manufacturer rivals but, as the FE silly season gets underway, its commitment and speed would make it the perfect home for Massa.

shares
comments
Sebastien Buemi: Renault has found Rome Formula E energy problem

Previous article

Sebastien Buemi: Renault has found Rome Formula E energy problem

Next article

Ferrari F1 junior Guan Yu Zhou gets Techeetah Formula E role

Ferrari F1 junior Guan Yu Zhou gets Techeetah Formula E role
Load comments
The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21 Plus

The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21

OPINION: The 2021 Formula E campaign was one without a narrative for much of the season, with no single car or driver able to break away from the pack. That makes choosing a top 10 especially difficult, particularly as the qualifying format meant some worthy performers were unable to enjoy their day in the sun

How Mercedes and De Vries achieved Formula E glory the hard way Plus

How Mercedes and De Vries achieved Formula E glory the hard way

When Nyck de Vries dominated the first race of what would be the most controversial and unpredictable Formula E season to date, it looked as though Mercedes was in for a cakewalk. But as the campaign wore on, the path to a title double became increasingly rocky. Neither driver or team would be assured of the crown until the closing stages of the very final race on a weekend of struggle in Berlin

Formula E
Sep 17, 2021
The Formula E 'loan' deal that will keep its original missionary winning Plus

The Formula E 'loan' deal that will keep its original missionary winning

OPINION: The departure of Audi from Formula E meant its long-time driver Lucas di Grassi would need to find a new berth to stay on the grid. His deal at Venturi Racing will ensure the championship's first-ever race winner will remain competitive into the final year of the current Gen2 ruleset - although it may not be a long-term fit

Formula E
Sep 15, 2021
The problems laid bare by Mercedes' impending Formula E departure Plus

The problems laid bare by Mercedes' impending Formula E departure

Mercedes' planned withdrawal from Formula E at the end of the 2022 season will contribute to the big hole left by fellow automotive manufacturers Audi and BMW on their departures. Although the team may stick around under a different guise, the exit of the now-reigning teams' champion underlines FE's current issues...

Formula E
Aug 18, 2021
The F1 dilemma facing Mercedes' new world champion Plus

The F1 dilemma facing Mercedes' new world champion

After clinching the Formula E title at the Berlin finale, Nyck de Vries is a driver in demand. Although Mercedes would love to keep a reigning champion at the team, the allure of a Williams F1 drive may be too much for de Vries to ignore should a potential deal come to pass

Formula E
Aug 17, 2021
How de Vries claimed Formula E title glory as Mercedes exit bombshell looms Plus

How de Vries claimed Formula E title glory as Mercedes exit bombshell looms

As Formula E lined up to complete its seventh season at Berlin's Tempelhof Airport, all eyes were on who would be its first official FIA world champion. Despite Nyck de Vries' title lead heading into the weekend looking all but secure, the Dutchman held on - and enjoyed a good dollop of fortune - to secure a championship double for Mercedes

Formula E
Aug 16, 2021
Why a brutal title defence can still yield another Formula E crown Plus

Why a brutal title defence can still yield another Formula E crown

It hasn't been properly reflected by the points table, but Antonio Felix da Costa has been nigh-on flawless in his Formula E title defence in 2021. Returning to the scene of his Berlin dominance in 2020, he has the chance to set the record straight and claim a remarkable against-the-odds second title

Formula E
Aug 12, 2021
Why Audi was right and wrong in Formula E's loophole row Plus

Why Audi was right and wrong in Formula E's loophole row

OPINION: With Audi's Formula E exit imminent, it had nothing to lose in London by attempting to vault Lucas di Grassi into the lead by pitting him under the safety car. Scorn directed at the team for putting glory before ethics should instead be pointed at a rulebook that allowed such a move in the first place

Formula E
Jul 27, 2021