After nine years at the helm of Mahindra Racing, CEO and Team Principal Dilbagh Gill will be parting ways with the Formula E team, Autocar India understands. The news comes just as the new Gen3 rules will hit the reset button for Formula E teams next year.
- Gill to end 16-year association with Mahindra Group
- Spent nine years as Mahindra Racing’s CEO and Team Principal
Dilbagh Gill’s road to Formula E
Mahindra Racing has competed in every single Formula E season since the championship’s inception in 2014. In 2013, Gill was brought on board to build and manage Mahindra’s first foray into international single-seater racing. But this wasn’t his first stint with the company; in fact, his departure will bring an end to a 16-year association with the Mahindra Group.
He had earlier served as Tech Mahindra’s Vice President for Sports Practice and Advisory Relations in the USA for eight years. In that duration, he mainly worked in the sports business and technology fields. This included the IT operations at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Mahindra Racing’s Formula E journey
Mahindra Racing always stressed on its ‘Race to Road’ programme, with the Mahindra Group keen to treat the championship as a testbed for its road EV technology. The team has also tasted its fair share of success, with five race wins, 23 podiums so far and a highest championship finish of third place (in Season 3).
However, they have struggled in the past few seasons. Season 7 (2021) was a key year of transition for Mahindra Racing, with the M7Electro featuring an all-new powertrain – the first one developed for the team by ZF Friedrichshafen AG. They finished ninth in the championship, but had made significant progress towards the end of the season, with Alex Lynn handing the team a long-awaited victory in the London E-Prix.
But they failed to carry this momentum into Season 8 (2022). They beat Nissan, Nio 333 and Dragon/Penske Autosport to finish eighth in the championship – one place better than last season. But while speaking to Autocar India ahead of the season finale, Gill admitted, “We’ve been involved in too many accidents this year.”
The Seoul E-Prix eventually handed Mahindra Racing its long-awaited first podium of the year, with Oliver Rowland converting his pole position into second place. But it hasn’t been a particularly strong season for the Indian squad.
“We brought out the safety car six times in 14 races, which isn’t a good statistic. Some of these accidents have been self-caused, some have been caused just because of the nature of Formula E. But overall, it’s been a year of underperformance from our side; we could’ve done a lot better,” said Gill.
He noted that the new knockout qualifying format in particular caught out Mahindra. With the hardware homologated for Season 8, teams had to continue using their Season 7 cars. “We didn’t get our qualifying right this year. The package is strong. We did a lot of work on race pace development, which was a weakness last year.”
“But with the format change, and the same homologation – because we had some inherent issues in the way we designed the car for last year’s format – when the format went more to a merit-based qualifying session, we started getting caught out on it,” he explained.
Formula E Gen3
2023 ushers in the new Gen3 era, featuring Formula E’s fastest, most powerful and efficient race car yet. The new rules, which have also tempted Maserati and McLaren to join the grid, means the teams essentially start with a clean slate.
The upcoming season will also see one of Gill’s longstanding efforts come to fruition – that of bringing Formula E to India. Hyderabad is all set to host the country’s first-ever E-Prix on February 11, 2023.
Mahindra Racing recently also announced ABT Sportsline as its first customer racing team. The deal will see Mahindra supply its ZF-developed powertrains to ABT, as the team returns to Formula E in 2023 after a year away. Both parties are also collaborating on software and development.
Moreover, former Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi will be driving for Mahindra, replacing Alexander Sims. Di Grassi also has close ties with ABT, having collected 12 of his 13 wins – and his title – with the team when it partnered with Audi.
Considering the wealth of Formula E experience ABT has, it should be a fruitful partnership for both parties. But only time will tell if Mahindra Racing can return to their winning ways.