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
The key factors behind Porsche's strong start to Formula E's new era Plus

The key factors behind Porsche's strong start to Formula E's new era

A low-key Valencia test left some quarters of Porsche's Formula E squad worried, but a 100% winning start for the German manufacturer's powertrain in 2022-23 underlines its early race day advantage. Porsche's key figures explain the strong start in Gen3, and why the work is only just beginning

Formula E
Feb 1, 2023
How Wehrlein's Diriyah double reveals Formula E's form book shake-up Plus

How Wehrlein's Diriyah double reveals Formula E's form book shake-up

After Porsche-powered drivers locked out the top two positions to open Formula E's new Gen3 era in Mexico, the order was reversed in Diriyah. Ex-Formula 1 driver Pascal Wehrlein's factory car headed Jake Dennis's customer Andretti machine in both races under the Riyadh lights in a display that leaves little doubt as to which package currently has the edge

Formula E
Jan 30, 2023
The first impressions of Formula E's brave new era Plus

The first impressions of Formula E's brave new era

OPINION: Formula E kicked off its Gen3 era at Mexico City with keen anticipation - and anxiety - surrounding its new, more powerful cars. Here's how the new machinery got on in its first race, and what could be open to improvement later down the line

Formula E
Jan 17, 2023
How Dennis dominated Formula E's new generation opener Plus

How Dennis dominated Formula E's new generation opener

Formula E’s Gen3 era kicked off with more unpredictability as Andretti’s Jake Dennis recovered from poor pre-season testing to dominate in Mexico. Here's how it played out and what the opener hints at what is to come in the new generation of the electric series

Formula E
Jan 16, 2023
Is this a Formula E 'nearly man's' best chance yet at title glory? Plus

Is this a Formula E 'nearly man's' best chance yet at title glory?

With braking issues scuppering his championship hopes at a crucial moment in the 2021-22 Formula E season, Mitch Evans is more determined than ever heading into this year. He explains how he plans to make it third time lucky after two title near-misses

Formula E
Jan 12, 2023
Can McLaren make a success of its foray into Formula E? Plus

Can McLaren make a success of its foray into Formula E?

McLaren kept a two-time title-winning Formula E team alive after purchasing the Mercedes entry. But with new drivers and a switch to customer status, can it continue to succeed in its new orange era?

Formula E
Jan 11, 2023
10 things we learned from Valencia Formula E testing Plus

10 things we learned from Valencia Formula E testing

The prologue to the 2022/2023 Formula E season has concluded as the series gets set for the new Gen3 era. After almost four days of testing in Valencia this week, Autosport takes a look at the 10 major talking points that will dominate the build-up to the new campaign getting underway in January.

Formula E
Dec 17, 2022
How Jaguar got its teeth into Formula E's Gen3 development race Plus

How Jaguar got its teeth into Formula E's Gen3 development race

With Mercedes gone and DS moving teams, Jaguar has a big opportunity at the start of Formula E's Gen3 era. The technical challenges in understanding the new car have been vast, with senior figures James Barclay and Phil Charles outlining to Autosport the pitfalls along the way

Formula E
Dec 1, 2022