'India hosting its 1st ever Formula E race has huge significance for the sport'
India will embark on a new motorsport journey next week, 10 years after the unceremonious exit of Formula 1
India will embark on a new motorsport journey next week, 10 years after the unceremonious exit of Formula 1. Formula E – an all-electric racing series – will descend upon Telangana on February 10-11 for the first ever Indian race – the Hyderabad E-Prix.
Now in its ninth season, Formula E is a traditional single-seater championship that was conceived in 2011 and debuted in 2014 with one major difference – everything from the brakes to the engine is powered by an electric battery and zero fuel.
Rules, regulations, points, drivers, teams – most aspects are designed and styled on Formula 1, which is the pinnacle of motorsport. But the series looks towards a sustainable future while reducing carbon footprint.
Only one driver has seen the sport evolve from the first ever Formula E race – the 2014 Beijing E-Prix – to the Hyderabad E-Prix that will be held on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake on February 11 – Lucas di Grassi.
The Brazilian is the most experienced and also the most successful driver on the Formula E grid with 103 races and 13 victories, also clinching the 2016-17 drivers’ championship. The Hyderabad E-Prix will not just be any other race for the 38-year-old as he will be one of the two drivers for Mahindra Racing – along with Oliver Rowland – the only Indian team on the grid.
"Having countries as big and important as India hosting its first ever Formula E race has huge significance for the sport. It opens up new markets for manufacturers. So, having an Indian race is incredible for the whole series," the former Formula 1 driver said on a video call from the Mahindra Racing base in Banbury.
Teams like Mahindra, Nissan, Porsche, Jaguar, Maserati are currently racing in Formula E with the idea of promoting their electric vehicles in newer markets.
After eight seasons with Audi and Venturi, di Grassi had a brilliant start with Mahindra, taking pole in the Mexico City E-Prix – the first race of the season – on January 14. He eventually finished third but the next two races in Diriyah did not deliver expected results as the former champion finished 13th and 15th. But the 38-year-old hopes to turn things around in Mahindra’s home race that will be held at the 2.8km, 18-turn Hyderabad Street Circuit which will host the fourth of the 16-race calendar.
“My understanding is that it is a very fast track with a lot of overtaking opportunities. It is very technical and will be very difficult which will present the teams with a huge challenge," said di Grassi, who is also known as ‘Mr Formula E’. “You need to be very aggressive as a driver but also very efficient. It is going to be extremely hot which presents a different kind of challenge."
Mahindra also signed up Formula 2 racer Jehan Daruvala as a reserve driver in December 2022. While Daruvala will continue to drive in F2, he will keep learning about Formula E, working on the simulator, helping in car development and race support to the team.
“Jehan is a great kid. He is a talented driver, coming along and developing in Formula E right now. He is learning with every race in the simulator. If he has a future or not in Formula E... time will tell but we definitely need Indian racers as India is a very important market," said di Grassi, who will be flying into India on Wednesday for his third visit to the country.