07 Jul 20

JEV: 'Berlin is going to be the most difficult test of our careers'

DS Techeetah hit the race track last week ahead of the return of the nine-day six-race 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship showdown in Berlin on August 5, with plenty of preparation required ahead of “the most difficult challenge of our careers”, according to the team’s double champion Jean-Eric Vergne.

Good to be back

The team headed to Dreux, close to Paris and its Satory base, to shake down its new powertrain set to race next season and brush off the cobwebs.

“It has never felt better,” said Vergne. “This is the longest period I have ever gone without driving. Even the break from one season to another is not as long as this one because as I also race in the World Endurance Championship.

“It is tough for a racing driver not to drive for such a long period of time but once you get back behind the wheel, everything feels very natural. It’s like riding a bicycle; it never gets easier; you just go faster.

“It was great to see the team and they’ve been hard at work to try and improve upon a few problems that we encountered at the beginning of the season. I’m confident we’ll have a very strong car in Berlin with all the tools to fight.

“The test went very well and we are all very satisfied with the development program. I’m a racing driver and getting back behind the wheel was extremely exciting and satisfying.”

DS Techeetah and Jean-Eric Vergne back on track

Life in lockdown

When the team realised the length of the break they’d be facing amid the coronavirus pandemic, it sat down with its drivers and staff to discern an approach, with Vergne also taking time to step back and reflect.

“We have spent a lot of time in video conferences and analysing the five races that we have completed so far – working on fixing each problem encountered,” said Vergne. “We never stop innovating really, and it comes from engineer and from me and Antonio.

“It is actually fantastic working with our engineers because they have this ability to come up with insane ideas, where of most can be developed and applied. It’s a creative process that has logic applied and it is great fun to work this way.

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“We used to fly every two weeks jumping from hotel rooms to circuits to airports and so on so for the first time in 10 years that I have had the opportunity to take a step back and take some time for myself.

“I took this time to rest and reflect upon what I achieved in the past and what was yet to be achieved. I had the chance to be in the countryside for two months spending quality time with close friends and maintaining a healthy routine between work, daily physical training, good food and esports.

“Once the travel restrictions eased, I have trained on my go-kart track near Paris and I am currently undertaking a special physical training course to be fully prepared for the restart of Season 6 in Berlin. My motivation is greater than ever.”

No room for error

With the unprecedented challenge of six races in just nine days facing the teams and drivers in Berlin on August 5, Vergne earmarks unity as a crucial component for success with little room for error, or time to breath between races. One small mistake could scupper the whole run-in.

“The number of team members allowed on site has been significantly reduced so we must be as united as possible to avoid making mistakes and be as productive as possible with the new set up,” continued Vergne.

“The communication between my engineers, my mechanics and me will be crucial here as the key to success here is productivity. If we fail to communicate and work together, we will not perform. 

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“I have been with DS Techeetah since the birth of the team in Season 3 and one of our biggest strengths is that we are one big family. 

“As long as we can keep that going, our preparations shouldn’t be affected, and we shouldn’t need to do any adaptations. We continue as normal and that is what makes us strong, our solid foundations. 

“We will need to be even more vigilant than before as contact in Formula E happens often due to the narrow tracks we race on. Breaking some smaller parts during a normal race weekend can be damaging, but it is rarely a showstopper as we can swap the parts. 

“But in Berlin, if you have damage ever race, it will be tough for the team to repair that in time for the next one, or you could simply run out of spare parts if you have a really bad race a couple of races in a row.

“Our ability to adapt quickly to the new layouts for Rounds 8/9 and 10/11 will be crucial. We are not going back to DS Techeetah headquarters and work with the simulator like we normally do. Most of the work will happen between FP1 and FP2 to find the best setting possible and secure a strong position in qualifying." 

Race-by-race

Vergne’s title defence has been troubled so far. JEV feels his share of bad luck is spent and that early season technical and braking issues have been addressed ahead of Berlin. His aim? Take things race-by-race – his usual policy. Any other mindset becomes distracting.

“We need to improve in qualifying,” said the 30-year-old. “I found it difficult to brake with this car in the first half of the season and I’ve had issues with the braking since we installed our new system at the start of the year. Hopefully that will now be resolved for Berlin.

"We’ve been strong in races but very unfortunate. I believe luck turns and I think I’ve had my share of the bad luck now and it’s going to be time for focus without problems.

"It’s going to be the most difficult thing we’ll face in our careers as drivers, mechanics and engineers. The guy that comes out the strongest of these six races as a whole will be the guy that wins the title."

 

"Dealing with the pressure is key and I have learned over the years to manage this better. But there is no such thing as perfection, so I always keep on working hard on all aspects. Performance and mental strength don’t just sit with you forever once attained; it needs to keep maintained.

"It’s going to be the most difficult thing we’ll face in our careers as drivers, mechanics and engineers. The guy that comes out the strongest of these six races as a whole will be the guy that wins the title.

"If you focus too much on the championship it can put you on the wrong foot, so I will do the same as the last two seasons – race-by-race and make it count at the end of the year."

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