Formula E will return next month to wrap up its 2019/20 season with a frenzied six-race finale. And Indian squad Mahindra Racing will have a new driver line-up for these final races in Berlin, drafting in 2014 GP2 champion Alex Lynn to replace Pascal Wehrlein and drive alongside Jerome d’Ambrosio.
Lynn boasts a fairly diverse racing portfolio, with prior outings in both, single-seater and sportscar racing. Crucially, he already has a fair amount of experience in Formula E since he’s previously raced for the DS Virgin Racing and Jaguar Racing teams. But joining a team mid-season, especially after an extended break from racing due to the COVID-19 situation, is no easy task.
While speaking to Autocar India, the British racer sheds some light about returning to racing in Formula E after over a year, his expectations from Mahindra Racing’s M6Electro and more:
What was the lockdown like for you; what were you focusing on during the break?
I don’t want to sound like every racing driver, but it really has been about focusing on my training because even in the off-season, we’re going testing or maybe spending a lot of time with the team in the simulator. So, this just gave me a big opportunity to hone in on my training. You don’t tend to get the time to do that at any point in the season really. That was my main focus and I also made a lot of phone calls trying to put a deal together to come back to Formula E.
Have you managed to get some track time in since the restrictions were eased?
I haven’t, personally. I was at the test that the team took part in recently, but I was just there watching. I’ve got a test coming up in a couple of weeks, which I’m really looking forward to.
Congratulations on the Mahindra Racing drive. When and how did you find out that you were in the running for the vacant seat?
Thanks, it feels amazing! I think the driver market became quite fluid during the lockdown period. I’ve spent this season as reserve driver for Jaguar; I came off the back of a strong campaign last year with them and it was disappointing to not be racing. So, I’ve spent all of this season trying to see if there was an opportunity to come back, and I think a few teams during the lockdown started focusing on the next season and trying to see what they could do to just get ahead of the curve. From my side, I was just really happy to start opening conversations with Dilbagh (Gill, Mahindra Racing’s CEO and team principal) once the driver market became a bit more open.
You lost your Jaguar Formula E drive at the end of the last season. Does something like that knock your confidence a bit or does it just motivate you even more to show what you’re capable of?
To be honest, in my last race in New York, I qualified third and was running second until unfortunately the car failed. And then you find yourself not coming back; at that point, yes, I was disappointed. But if anything, I have just come back hungrier and more determined than ever to come back into this championship because I’ve missed it. I’ve missed racing in Formula E, and I think it’s really a cool championship; it’s something that I love being a part of. And that just made me even more hungry to come back.
How hard do you think it’s going to be to join the season mid-way or do you think your previous stints with Virgin and Jaguar racing should make it easier to jump back into the flow of things?
I think it does make it easier. Obviously, this is a situation in the world that everyone wishes we weren’t in. But given the circumstances that everyone hasn’t been racing for a while, that does make it a little bit simpler to jump in because everyone has had a long period off. So, in that sense that could make it slightly simpler as well, although I wish that wasn’t the case.
These final few races will follow a rather unique format, with six races being held across just nine days. What are your expectations from the races in Berlin?
It’s going to be very unique! It’s going to be tough on everyone – not just the drivers, but the crew as well. Formula E days are long and stressful, especially for the guys and girls working in the team. So, from that side, having six races in a short space of time is going to be intense. But for me, I personally believe it’s going to be about building momentum. Obviously, we need to start strong, but we need to start off with a good platform and keep building as the races come along.
All the remaining races will be held at the Tempelhof Airport, but there will be different track configurations. Do you think that’s enough for distinct strategies to come into play and perhaps give different teams a shot at victory?
I think it is because as we’ve seen in Formula E, they like to keep a big element of surprise sometimes, whether that’s not letting us see the tracks until the last minute or changing the amount of attack modes that are available. There’s always a surprise and that usually throws up some varying results. And that’s the unique thing about Formula E, because naturally as a racing team, we like to control all the elements we can, but sometimes that doesn’t make for the best show. And I think Formula E does a great job of keeping the show alive.
It’s been a tough season for Mahindra Racing so far, with reliability problems. But this break has also given the team the chance to iron out any issues. With six races yet on the cards, do you think you have a good enough package with the M6Electro to claw back some valuable points?
I think without a doubt, ‘valuable points’ is going to be the name of the game. Within the short space of time I have spent with the team, I can really say that they are pushing extremely hard for these races, like every team will be. But certainly, within my car crew, we’ve got a very hungry group of individuals that really want to show something in Berlin. I believe the car is fast. From someone who was seeing it from the outside as well, you could see the car is fast, but they haven’t scored the points that they deserve and the car deserves. So, from that side, it’s about putting that on the table and actually bringing those results home. When you look at the level of competition in Formula E, no one is giving out presents and gifts in this championship, so you need to earn it. But we’re ready to take that on.
Will we see this association with Mahindra Racing continue into the next season as well?
I would love it to. But right now the focus is on Berlin and on nailing the best results possible. But absolutely, my intention is to be with Mahindra Racing and build on this fantastic project.
With the COVID-19 situation, Formula E will be enforcing a number of safety protocols. How different is life in the paddock going to be? Do you know what sort of procedures you’ll have to follow?
I’ve heard of information already on how it could be. But from what I’m understanding, everything is still being put together. Obviously, the situation is extremely fluid worldwide. But absolutely, I’m expecting a different environment – a less sociable one. But at the end of the day, if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes to go racing and to keep everyone safe.
Lynn replaces Wehrlein at Mahindra Racing Formula E team
2019/20 Formula E season to wrap up with 6 races over 9 days