Dilbagh Gill has been at the helm of the Mahindra Racing Formula E Team since it’s inception. In its second season, Mahindra Racing goes into battle as one of a select few manufacturers that is developing its own all-electric powertrain. We caught up with Dilbagh before the team departs for Beijing.
You’ve been very busy since the inaugural season concluded in London. What has changed in the team since then?
The summer was a very busy time for us as we have been developing and testing our brand new car, the M2Electro. We have invested in resources, equipment and technology to prepare this Mahindra spec car, which we believe is capable of competing at the front of the grid with the other OEM’s in the championship.The majority of testing was about maximizing reliability but we have a performance programme for the season ahead that I believe will show the M2Electro to be highly competitive. We have also invested in people, refining the team infrastructure to be sustainable for a prosperous futurein the Formula E Championship. If the first season was about getting the team up and running, preparation for season two has been about perfecting how we operate. I am delighted to welcome Campos as service providers to the team. We have worked very closely together over the last three months and I feel we have built a team that is ready to push much further than last season.
There is also a change to driver line-up with Nick Heidfeld joining the team alongside Bruno Senna. What has Nick’s signing meant to Mahindra Racing?
I am thrilled that Nick has joined the Mahindra family. I have made no secret of my aim for Mahindra to race at the front of the pack this season and to put Mahindra technology on the top step of the podium. From our very first discussions, Nick’s ambitions were aligned with ours and this has given us an extra incentive to push hard over the summer. Nick and Bruno both want to win and we want to give them the car for the job. Both drivers have contributed to an impressive lap tally already and I feel that they will push each other and keep each other honest. We have one of the most experienced driver line-ups and I know they will step up and lead the team.
Formula E is now an open championship. How will racing be different this season?
The added variable of individual powertrains in the championship means that the racing will be slightly different. It is too early to know what the difference in performance will be between the manufacturers in race trim, as most teams focused on reliability and efficiency in pre-season testing. The fundamental difference in the race itself is the power increase to 170kW. We expect to see a greater variety of strategy from different teams which should be very exciting for fans. Based on what we have learned in testing and our simulation studies, we are very confident in where we are with the M2Electro. There is going to be a lot more performance coming out of our cars.
What are your memories of the Beijing ePrix in 2014?
I think of last year’s race as one of the proudest moments of my career to date. We had tested at Donington of course and run some simulation races but as we all lined up on the grid, none of us really knew who would find their stride and who would suffer on the narrow, bumpy, temporary street circuit. We had worked hard to build the best team, equipped with as much knowledge as possible but there were still many unknowns and so much potential for error under race conditions. We had mixed fortunes in the race itself. Bruno set the lap record out there but unfortunately he didn’t finish the race, while Karun drove a fantastic race to finish in 5th place. We left Beijing with a lot of satisfaction and I personally have a lot of fond memories of that day. The atmosphere at the track and how Formula E was accepted was spectacular. We were all there to share in the inception of something very special and for that reason Beijing will always have a special place in my heart.
How have the sim sessions and preparation gone for Beijing?
This was the first sim session so there is a lot of data we need to validate in Beijing. In terms of preparation and the data points which we had, we are a lot more prepared for Beijing this year. We know a lot more and the amount of data collected this year through our 15 days of approved testing and 6 days of pre-season testing, gave us a lot more insight on the car, so that will really help us. We also have two very experienced simulation engineers working with us and they have been cracking on with this work non-stop since the end of testing.
How are you feeling ahead of the Beijing race?
I’m cautiously optimistic. I believe we made the right decisions both in terms of developing the M2Electro and the way we have prepared for the season. The team has really come together well and both Nick and Bruno have found their stride in the new car. There will always be some unknowns but I’m excited about the new experience of racing at 170kW, which will require teams to put much more emphasis on strategy, so the races will become more of a thinking-person’s game, rather than just a flat out race. I’m looking forward to unpacking the cars in Beijing and getting the season started!