Oliver Rowland feels he's best placed to put everything he's learned in three years in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship to good use at his new team Mahindra Racing - with the Indian outfit's ambition, passion, progress and outright pace prime reasons for his switch ahead of Season 8.
Oliver Rowland's move to Mahindra Racing had been in the works for a while before it was announced this week, with the Brit taking the initiative to secure himself the best possible seat for Season 8. In Mahindra, he feels he's all set with a team that's made big strides in an ever more competitive championship.
"I was pretty keen after the end of Season 6 to get things sorted quickly," said Rowland. "I didn’t want to arrive ahead of Season 7 not knowing what I was doing – you can all of a sudden find yourself without a seat.
"Things didn’t really materialise (at Nissan e.dams) as quickly as they had before – I’m not sure why, it was maybe some sloppiness on their behalf. With that, you start to discuss things with other teams and I got an idea of things that were going on at Mahindra.
"From the first time we discussed things it was clear they had big ambitions and they were aware of the mistakes they’ve made over the last three seasons – where they might have struggled for a little bit of efficiency. There’s been a big step in that department after Seasons 5 and 6.
"You look at is the performance of the car; it’s quite similar to where I was before in terms of pure performance. If you look at the averages of both guys where I was last year and the averages here, it was quite similar. Hopefully, I can bring a little bit more from my side.
"The partnership with ZF is obviously a big positive, too. I know what they can do, how big they are and how much experience they have. The understanding was quite clear from the beginning of where we can be even better and where we can improve.
"We’re going to have some fun but it’s important we’re both working in a good direction for the team and we get everybody singing from the same hymn sheet, pushing forward. Ultimately, it’s key for the team that we both perform well and work together on as many things as we can to drive everybody on.
"It’s going to be interesting working for Dilbagh. I’m looking forward to a bit more chest pumping and seeing a few more people thrown around in the pitlane with his wrestling moves! It’s clear he has a lot of passion for Mahindra, and hopefully we can all share that same passion and bring some good results."
A recent new arrival in the Rowland household, and an eagerness to hit the ground running means there's been little downtime for the Yorkshireman since the final chequered flag fell on Season 7 in Berlin. He sees the opportunity to bring snippets of knowledge gained over his first three years in Formula E to the team, with the ultimate goal of helping him settle, and helping Mahindra to go quicker still.
"There’s not been too much downtime with the baby; it’s a new experience! I’ve been working with the guys since Berlin trying to get as involved as I can as early as possible. I didn’t think there was any point in wasting time so I was ready on the Monday after the last race because everybody else was.
"I didn’t know anybody previously, so it was a bit like the first day at school, learning names and who works in which department. I’m getting to know my closer team of engineers; seeing how they work, as well as them seeing how I work. There are things to try and tweak to suit me in the systems in-car so it’s just about getting all the small things right.
"I’ve been in the sim and out of the car looking through data. We’ve had a lot of meetings about my past experiences and how I’m used to things being – seeing if we can find some small bits of performance."
Though the team as it stands is new to him, Rowland's first taste of electric street racing came back at Punta del Este in 2015, when he sat in for Nick Heidfeld. The German had injured his wrist at the prior Putrajaya race weekend. At short notice, Team Principal Dilbagh Gill had a phone number to hand of someone he thought could help.
"It was a bit of a strange one! I’d just finished my World Series by Renault season," says Rowland. "I was looking forward to a nice Christmas at home and a bit of time off after doing some driver coaching and I’d heard a bit about Dilbagh (Gill) who’d got hold of my number and he gave me a call asking would I like to fill in with Nick (Heidfeld) being injured. It came as a complete surprise and I threw myself in at the deep end after a couple of days on the sim.
"Back in those days we had the car swaps and it was a baptism of fire with Mahindra. I’ve changed a lot since then and things in Formula E have, too. I loved it. I loved the competition, the level of drivers and the pure level of competition.
"There’s not many championships in the world you can go to with such a level playing field between me and 23 of the best drivers in the world. That’s unique and I wanted to do it because ultimately, I want to win."
Rowland spent three seasons at Japanese manufacturer outfit Nissan e.dams following that first experience of Formula E. In that time he feels he's got to grips with the series' fundamentals - efficiency especially - to add to the pace that's seen him become a race winner, and one of the best qualifiers on average.
"I’ve been here three seasons but over that time I think I’ve always had speed and at some points, maybe a bit too much – and I’ve maybe taken a bit too much risk. I had more consistency last season, I’ve won races and I’m up there with the number of pole positions over that time too.
"I’ve learned to race efficiently with more understanding of the series and I’m in a good place in my career, ready to push forward. I’m not expecting too much but we want to be competitive and win races; that has to be the target.
A lack of race pace ultimately meant Season 7 fell a little short for Rowland after the end-of-season momentum that saw him seal a maiden race win in Berlin. That said, if just a single slip or slice of bad luck had been cut out, the Brit could have seen a far more favourable finishing position in the Drivers' standings - such were the fine margins in an ultra-competitive campaign.
He heads to pastures new with happy memories, and gratitude at the faith Nissan e.dams showed in him.
"I’ve learned to race efficiently with more understanding of the series and I’m in a good place in my career, ready to push forward. We want to be competitive and win races; that has to be the target."
"I think on my side, things were good in terms of speed last season. If you look at qualifying I was up there in terms of the best but we didn’t have the race pace we needed. I could still have had a solid championship – many things went wrong – Valencia being one when I was in a podium position – and London in the crash with Stoffel (Vandoorne). If I’d finished that London race second, I’d have come second in the championship.
"I enjoyed my time at Nissan e.dams. They made me very welcome and I’ll look back on my time there fondly. I really appreciate the opportunity they gave me and I’ve still got a lot of friends there – I wish them all the best.
"I’ve always said how appreciative of Seb’s help and support I’ve been, especially in the early days. I learned an awful lot from him and I’ve a lot of admiration and respect for him. I’m looking forward to racing him in different colours next year and we’ll stay friends, I’m sure."
Published on 8th September 2021