I spoke to Mahindra Racing’s Frederic Bertrand in Berlin to understand how he plans to get Mahindra Racing back to its championship-challenging ways and more.
Mahindra Racing, one of the founding teams of the all-electric Formula E championship, find themselves in a situation they’ve never been in. In the Teams’ Championship, the Indian-owned racing team is 10th out of 11 teams. After finishing third in the 2016-17 Formula E Championship, the team’s form and results have seen a steady decline as the seasons progressed.
Given the nature of the series, the team has scored an odd podium here and there, but in general, they’ve not shown the front-running pace they did in the early years of Formula E. Expectedly, there was a management shake-up in November last year. Frederic Bertand was appointed as the Team Principal of Mahindra Racing and has been tasked with recovering the team’s fortunes.
This interview was filed in two parts. In the first part, Bertrand spoke about Jehan Daruvala’s future with Mahindra Racing & the team’s driver pool. In the second part, Bertrand explained how he is working to bring Mahindra Racing back to their winning ways. This interview is from my conversations with him during the Berlin ePrix weekend in April 2023.
2022-23 Formula Season (Also: Season 9)
After scoring a podium in the opening round in Mexico, the team has scored only twice in a possible twenty opportunities – in Hyderabad and Berlin (Race 1). While the gap to NIO in 9th place is just one point, Nissan (in 8th) is 25 points ahead; as we build up to the Portland ePrix this weekend.
“Season 9 is a development season for us. We were late on the hardware – so we were running after time. Running after time doesn’t compensate for time,” said a philosophical Bertrand.
He explained further, “We had a very good start to the season in Mexico (scoring a podium with Lucas di Grassi). It was more about being ready while others weren’t, and that helped us.”
“The unique situation of Formula E is that no team is weak. Realistically, I would prefer that we don’t finish under 7th place. If we manage 6th place, even better,” said Bertrand in Berlin.
Since our chat, the team has only slipped further in the Teams’ Championship. While accepting that the team’s current package can’t compete with the best in the series, Bertrand said, “We will be limited by our hardware, but from an execution point of view, we shouldn’t have excuses. Currently, we’re at 60% efficiency, and our goal is to raise our efficiency to 100% at the start of next season.”
The Challenge of Formula E
“The way Formula E is structured is a challenge once the car is homologated. Our car was homologated in Oct-Nov of 2022. We need to live with this car for the next two seasons (9 & 10),” said Bertrand.
“After homologation, there is nothing major we change apart from changes in software or testing to understand our package better. Our hardware is fixed – and that’s something we have to accept,” explained Bertrand while accepting that the team needed to focus on extracting the best from their current package.
“We aren’t yet in the area to fight for championships, but we have immense development potential,” said a positive Bertrand. He went on to explain the changes he is making within Mahindra Racing for the coming seasons.
The Future, The Culture
“When I arrived at a team where the mojo was missing – the spirit of winning. It wasn’t about not winning but more about not trusting that we could win. The team has a high level of commitment and knowledge but slowly slipped into accepting that participating was enough,” he explained.
Elaborating further, Bertrand said, “For me, it’s important to bring about this change – that participating is far from being enough. We need to compete for podiums and wins.”
“We will need time to adapt our current structure, hire new people to additional competencies, create new processes and so on. We will develop the car that will race in Season 11 & 12. That car has to compete with the top teams,” said Bertrand while emphasising on the team’s immediate focus.
“On a race by race basis, I am focusing on gathering momentum, changing everyone’s mindset & reinvigorating the mojo. This is not our way down, we’re trying to consolidate our current position – P14 to P10 (in race finishes). This is not where we want to be, but given our package, this is where we should consistently be and then sometimes pull out a P8 or P6, if it comes to us.”
“I want people to work with Mahindra Racing with the idea that s/he is a part of a program that’s targeting strong seasons in 11 & 12. I want positive and solution-oriented team members,” expressed Bertrand while further affirming, “The one thing we do want is to be 100% for the beginning of Season 10.”
“With increased efficiency & a top car, we should be able to compete regularly in the points or even podiums come the seasons in the future. In front of us, we have twenty four months to show that we can be different – and that’s almost three seasons in this time span,” signed off Bertrand.
This interview first appeared on autoX.