“I never come to a race weekend thinking I’m going to win. You may see me as super confident but the truth is, inside of me, I’m never completely confident. There are always ups and downs.”
Jean-Eric Vergne is a double title-winner in Formula E with DS Techeetah. His exterior is that of a sportsman possessing supreme and utter confidence in his own ability, with an uncompromising competitiveness that has steered him on to multiple championships, eight race wins and 21 podiums in 61 races in the series.
Throughout Formula E’s feature-length documentary “And We Go Green”, however, directors Fisher Stevens and Malcolm Venville uncover a different JEV – one that the public has yet to see, and a completely contrasting portrayal of a personality playfully nicknamed “a f****** nightmare” by Mahindra Racing’s CEO and team principal Dilbagh Gill.
'RACING IS MY LIFE'
“In the movie, I think you learn that racing is my life,” starts Vergne. “When I don’t win, I become very irritable. I really do everything I can in my power to push my team to win because that’s all that matters. People only remember the winners.
“I never come to a race weekend thinking I’m going to win, which can be a bit of an issue for me. You may see me as super confident but the truth is inside of me, I’m never completely confident. There are always ups and downs which are tough.
“Even when I was leading the championship in Season 4, in the film, I knew it was going to be very tough. I had low expectations. Everybody had low expectations of me, which makes it easier to perform.
“The pressure is completely different after that, as a reigning champion, with everybody waiting for you to make a wrong step. It’s more difficult, for sure.
“People start questioning you as soon as you make a mistake. Have you lost your abilities, your confidence or your motivation? These accusations can come from anybody, not only journalists, and it can be really tough.
“Looking back at myself, I think I’ve changed a lot in two years. I wasn’t going to hide from the cameras in the film or change who I was. I could trust the guys would be honest in what they showed and that encouraged me to be open.”
Stevens and Venville’s approach to filming encouraged the stoic Frenchman to open up, with Vergne frankly charting his journey from kart track as a kid into the pioneering electric street-racing series, via the fulfilment of a life-long dream and the tragic loss of one of his childhood friends that shook motorsport to its core.
“The whole filming process was a highlight,” said Vergne. “Fisher Stevens became a real friend of mine. We often speak on the phone about any subject, not only ‘And We Go Green’.
“The crew joining me in Paris ahead of the E-Prix was great. They followed me there and celebrated my birthday and really went deep into my life.
“For more than a week they became my family. They even woke me up before the race! I left a key for Fisher and he was there filming when my alarm went off at 6:30!
“We got really close, Malcolm, Fisher and I. That was the key to the film’s success, for me. They extracted the more intimate details from all of the drivers.
“Going to Cannes with Leo DiCaprio on the red carpet was also a highlight. You never thought as a kid who wanted to be a racing driver you’d end up there!”
'I know everyone's weaknesses'
"I know everyone's weaknesses,” says Vergne in the picture. “More importantly than that though, if you want to beat them, not only in one race but across a whole season, you have to know their strengths."
“The latter’s probably the more important knowledge to have – to know where your competitors are going to be really strong and tough to beat,” he adds.
“It’s important that you know where they’re going to perform and where they’ll be at their best if you want to win not only a race but a championship.
“It’s also valuable to know when they may have problems. To make a break in the championship and take advantage of those mistakes and weaknesses is very important.”
Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, Audi Sport ABT Shaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi and TAG Heuer Porsche’s Andre Lotterer– then Vergne’s team-mate – all feature in the documentary, and JEV is quick to offer his profile on each of his rivals.
“Sam Bird’s strength is that he believes he has nothing to lose. He believes in himself and knows his value and the film says it very well – he is the underdog but he has every right to be one of the best on the grid. He has talent and everything else required – that’s obvious.
“That strength might also be his weakness but I wouldn’t call it a weakness, as such. The fact he believes he is the underdog that has never won a championship might make history repeat itself.
“At the end it has slipped away from him in the past. He had a strong third season but maybe he thought he couldn’t do it despite having everything required to be a champion.
“Andre (Lotterer) is always an enemy in the race. He always finishes races but sometimes the racing can be a little bit dirty from him. You can see by the look of his nosecone!”
“He has the speed, the work ethic – everything – so maybe that underdog moniker is his weakness. I consider him to be one of the top three best drivers in Formula E and picking real fault is difficult – I can’t point one out.
“Lucas (Di Grassi) has been there from the beginning and has a huge amount of experience. He can be very quick on any given lap and you can be sure if he has the right car underneath him, he will score points. He never makes mistakes.
“Andre (Lotterer) is one of the drivers with the most motor races under his belt. He hasn’t done Formula 1, but that doesn’t matter. The catalogue of experience and trophies he has in endurance racing and in Japan is longer than my arm.
“His weakness used to be his inexperience with Formula E but now, he has that. I can see how quick he can be over one lap and in races.
“He is always an enemy in the race. He always finishes races but sometimes the racing can be a little bit dirty from him. You can see by the look of his nosecone! I don’t think he’s done any race in the last few years where he didn’t crush it!
“You have to be careful and watch your back, without stressing about it too much that it puts you off. It’s definitely just a question of time before he wins his first race.”