Ahead of the first European race of the season in Paris we catch up with Nelson Piquet jr and Oliver Turvey after a slightly disappointing race in Long Beach.
What were your thoughts when you first heard about Formula E?
When I heard about Formula E I thought it was a really interesting concept and the technology involved is the future. I knew I wanted to be involved and it’s been great learning more about electric technology. There is a lot of development that needs to happen, but for sure it is the future. We see more and more electric vehicles in development and it’s an important area that all the car manufacturers are looking into. I think we will see more and more people turning to electric vehicles as the technology develops and improves.
Besides technology, which other differences could you mention regarding to the F1?
Piquet Jr: The Formula E car handles much like other open wheel racing cars, including Formula 1, and I have many years of experience driving that kind of vehicle. Where it is different is the way as a team we have to learn to use the energy. Essentially the car is powered by a huge battery and so a key strategy for us in the races is how we manage the energy levels. That’s been a very interesting learning curve for us. One other big difference are the noise levels, these cars are very quiet compared to normal racing cars. That doesn’t affect us as drivers too much and I think at first the motorsport fans were a little unsure, but already everyone has adapted to this and accepted it. If the racing is good, fans will watch.
Being so central and overlooked by the Eiffel Tower, the Paris ePrix location epitomises the ethos of Formula E’s city racing. Are you looking forward to the event?
Piquet Jr: I think it’s incredible that we will be racing in the centre of Paris by the Eiffel Tower. Formula E has achieved some really incredible race locations already and this new race in Paris is going to be really special I’m sure. This event will do exactly what Formula E is all about; bringing exciting racing to one of the most famous cities in the world, and bringing the action to the people. The fact that tickets sold out really quickly shows that the city has the appetite for great race action and I can’t wait to see all the fans there.
It’s a completely new circuit for the series so data will be extremely limited: how are you preparing for the race?
Piquet Jr: Whether it’s a new track or a track we’ve raced on before, we always go before the race to the team’s simulator in Germany where we have the chance to do some preparation work and ‘run’ on the circuit. I’ll be going to the simulator next week to do this for the Paris ePrix. Then when we get to the circuit we do a track walk with our engineers once the track is fully set up so we can look at things like the corners, the track as a whole and the surface. We start to practice on Saturday morning and have two practice sessions– that will be our first chance to drive on the track in the car before qualifying and the race in the afternoon.
Have you spent much time in the city previously? If so, do you have a favourite bar or location to visit and/or relax?
Piquet Jr: I originally grew up in the South of France so I speak French and Paris is a beautiful city that I’ve visited many times over my life. I actually visited this week in my role as a Visa Europe Driver Ambassador as we gear up for the ePrix. We got to try out this cool system called Mind Race. We played on a Scalextric race track, controlling the cars with our minds, connected to a device. Technology is incredible! This kind of event also shows how much Formula E and its partners are linked to innovation and technology. It’s constantly progressing and changing.
Do you think it helps Formula E to have the names Piquet, Senna and Prost involved?
Piquet Jr: I think for Formula E it’s a good thing as people are interested to see what we do. I remember when I started in GP2 it was me, Mathias Lauda [Niki Lauda’s son] and Nico Rosberg [Keke Rosberg’s son] and everyone was very interested to see what the sons of F1 World Champions would do. It gives an interesting story to the championship I think, but it’s not something that as drivers we think about – we’re our own people and fighting for our own results!
Next, we head to Paris for the first European Formula E race this season. What aspect of the event are you most looking forward to?
Turvey: The next Formula E race in Paris is one of the races I have been looking forward to the most, as it is a new circuit and venue for this season in one of the most iconic city’s in the world!
What or who do you think will be your biggest challenge to overcome?
Turvey: The biggest challenge will be learning the track quicker than the competition, not only the layout but how the tarmac affects the car and tyres as well the bumps and kerbs that are always a factor on street circuits.
Throughout the season you’ve had to make the most of Free Practice for circuit acclimatisation – have you developed any specific tactics or preparations to make this time really count?
Turvey: As all the Formula E circuits have been new to me this year, I have had to learn tracks quickly which is one of my strengths. I have spent time before each race studying the layout as well as spending time with my engineers on the NEXTEV TCR simulator to prepare for each circuit. After that, it is just a case of making the most of the time and laps in Free Practice with the run plan.
There are fantastic landmarks and world-famous views surrounding the circuit, but to which areas of the track should spectators be looking? What sections do you think will be particularly difficult for drivers or will make for good race viewing?
Turvey: Paris is one of the greatest cities of the world with some iconic landmarks so there will be many great views. I think the trickiest part of the track looks to be sector 1 between Turn 2 and Turn 5, but the best race viewing will be at the end of the two long straights into Turn 1 and Turn 8 as these look to be the best overtaking opportunities.
We’re rapidly heading towards your home race of London, but is there another European City that you’d love to see on next year’s Formula E calendar?
Turvey: I made my Formula E debut in London last year so I am looking forward to returning to race in the city I now live in. There are many great European cities, it would be great to have a race in Barcelona or Rome!
We’ve seen the new driverless Roborace concept that Formula E plans to introduce next season, what are your thoughts on this? Formula E has already made waves in motorsport with electric racing – do you think this could be the next ‘big thing’?
Turvey: With my engineering background, I think the Roborace concept is an interesting addition to Formula E. I think driverless cars, like electric cars, are important for the future of transport and a competitive race series will allow this technology to be developed faster. I think it will compliment electric development in Formula E very well but I don’t think it will be bigger, as fans come to see racing and competition between drivers, and the human element in any sport is important.