Mahindra Racing’s latest recruit Alex Lynn talks about his Formula E comeback, the upcoming races in Berlin, the use of simulation tools to help prepare for the races ahead.
As Motorsport fans look forward to the 2019-20 Formula E season resuming next week (Wednesday, 5 August), they will be greeted with at least five mid-season changes to team-driver pairings. Indian-owned Mahindra Racing will be one such team after their regular driver Pascal Wehrlein announced during the long mid-season pause that he would no longer continue to race with the team. Promptly, Mahindra Racing decided to hire the services of British racer Alex Lynn for the remaining six rounds of the season.
Lynn, who has raced in Formula E with Virgin Racing and Jaguar Racing, stunned the paddock after claiming pole position in his debut race for Virgin Racing in the 2017 New York ePrix. That Lynn was substituting for the team’s regular driver made his performance even more special.
Mahindra Racing’s Team Principal Dilbagh Gill praised Lynn’s talent and explained the team’s decision to hire his services, saying, “It’s a no-brainer for us. Alex has been really strong in Formula E. I will never forget that first race of his – coming in as a substitute and putting it on pole. You don’t forget moments like that.”
Lynn expressed his delight to have joined the Mahindra Racing team, exclaiming, “It feels amazing to be back racing in Formula E but also joining Mahindra Racing. I’ve spent a few years competing against them, so now it’s time to see what it’s like with them.”
After an illustrious career in GP3 and GP2, Lynn made his Formula E debut in 2016-17. His career in Formula E has seen him score one pole position over 21 races scoring 30 career points. However, the one missing element has been stability.
Lynn raced two rounds for Virgin Racing in their first year together followed by a full season with the team in 2017-18. In the following season (2018-19), he replaced Nelson Piquet Jr at Jaguar Racing in mid-season but was left without a drive for the current season. In this interview, Firstpost and Pits To Podium caught up with Lynn to discuss his career prospects in Formula E and Mahindra Racing, the upcoming races and the challenges they pose to the team and driver alike. And of course, if he would be in the running when Aston Martin, the other car manufacturer Lynn races for, makes its entry in Formula 1 in 2021.
— Mahindra Racing (@MahindraRacing) July 31, 2020
How did your Formula E comeback with Mahindra Racing come about?
Everything happened quite quick within the lockdown period here in the UK. It started with Pascal (Wehrlein) leaving the team and they were looking for a new driver. Very quickly I was on the phone with Dilbagh trying to push my CV under his nose.
You’ve had a mid-season test with the team. How do you feel about joining Mahindra Racing?
There’s a buzz, really. As a team, it feels like a very special atmosphere. It feels friendly, almost like family. At the end of the day, the size of the team is big. They are a serious player in Formula E and they’re here to get results. I think it’s a real positive and a plus point that it can make you feel so welcome whilst being a powerhouse team.
Are you able to shed more light on the work undertaken during your test with the team?
I think we’ve done a lot of good work. I believe we have made progress as a team—from when I started to where we are now, we have made quite a few gains. But we’d be foolish to think that every other team hasn’t been working as hard. We need to assume that everyone’s been putting in the same amount of work. In that aspect, we stay humble and see what happens. But I’m proud of the work from the whole team. I’m proud to be a part of this team.
Any specific goals for your second comeback in Formula E?
My goal is that this is going to be my last comeback! I think the objective is clear. We want to turn up in Berlin and put on a good show there. What that is, we’re not sure yet. But we want to be fighting for big points. We want to stick the car upfront in qualifying and the races. That’s really the aim for the next six races. It’s gonna come very fast and we need to be ready for that.
Six races in nine days, three different layouts— What are some of the challenges that Berlin will throw up?
The main thing is to prepare for three tracks all in one preparation period— instead of the usual one, and that’s very difficult. Obviously, doing six races on three different layouts on what was already a technical course within a short space of time— I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what it’s going to be like. We can only say that we’ve been preparing as hard as possible. We will try everything when we get there to put the best results on the track. Honestly, it’s a bit of an unknown for everyone.
How would a team-driver approach such a compressed schedule in terms of preparations?
It will be about who’s done their homework and who’s got their preparation correct for energy management mainly, for each different layout. Formula E is a series where preparation is critical— because everything happens in one day, as we already know. During the day, you don’t have a lot of time to do a lot of analysis because each session is coming thick and fast so you don’t have a lot of time to really review. It means that your preparation needs to be perfect and you execute on race day. And trying to execute six times in a space of 10 days is a big ask. It’s a lot of brain power needed!
Are you able to explain the use of simulation tools to help with race preparations?
The team has a lot of simulation software at their disposal and it’s heavily used in all forms of racing these days, most noticeably in Formula E. In terms of back at base, there’s a lot of people working in the factory (over the nine days) and we will be trying as much as we can to focus. But yes, simulation tools are widely used for setup direction— although I hope we don’t have much setup changes and that we get a good baseline and work from there. But certainly, it’s not just people at the circuit but people back in the factory helping out and this is critical these days.
Mahindra Racing’s key targets for the remaining six races?
We need to be targeting strong points, being at the front in qualifying, racing well and hard. But predicting results in Formula E is like winning the lottery! It’s just so difficult. We do know that it’s going to be hard but I am very confident of where we are and the work we’ve been doing. I’m quietly confident that it’s going to be good actually. We’ve got hard work to do, I won’t stop saying that. But I feel good and the team is in a good place.
Given the unpredictable nature of racing in Formula E where the pecking order changes ever so often, how do you prepare for it as a driver?
You don’t naturally prepare any differently to any other racing series. But you know the likelihood is that it’s gonna be mixed up and a bit crazy. It’s extremely exciting but also stressful because as a racing driver, you want to control as many elements as you can. But in this discipline of racing, it’s almost impossible to control everything one would like!
For drivers, how safe is Formula E as a career option?
At the end of the day, motor racing is a luxury for all of us and certainly for big car brands. From that side, I understand when it doesn’t become relevant for a manufacturer to participate in a certain championship. But I think at the end of the day, Formula E is extremely relevant. Big kudos to Formula E on how they are presenting their product in being so desirable for these manufacturers— it’s putting out the right message. It’s fun, it’s fresh, it’s new – all these associations make Formula E the hottest championship in the world right now and that’s why I’m proud to be a part of it.
Any message for the legion of Mahindra Racing fans all over the world?
I hope you can get behind us again. I promise that we are going to push as hard as we physically can and it won’t be for the lack of trying. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with this team and I can put my hand on my heart and say that these guys and girls do not stop working. We are there till late at night and the crack at dawn to bring more performance to the team and hopefully we can do you proud.
Finally, you are a factory driver for Aston Martin in the GTE class. With Aston Martin joining Formula 1 in 2021, do you think you could have a shot with the team?
No, I think that’s totally separate— GTE class for Aston Martin and Formula 1. My main focus is Formula E.
Soumil Arora is a Motorsport Commentator for the iRacing eSports Network, host of the web series – The Driving Force and co-founder of Pits To Podium. He is also the Formula E expert on Inside Track, Sony ESPN’s pre-race show.