After Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist were confirmed for another season with the Mahindra team, Formula E editor Sam Smith digs down in to what makes the pairing so effective.
Who has the strongest combined driving team in motorsport? Ricciardo/Verstappen at Red Bull? Lotterer/Jani/Tandy at Porsche? How about Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist at the Mahindra Formula E team?
The quietly confident duo have struck up a potent multi-edged threat to the Renault/Audi/DS hegemony over the last 14 months or so, and there is a case for considering them as one of the strongest overall pairings in racing.
It is often said that the perfect team is one with an experienced, wise and guileful old pro; and a young, rapid firebrand. While some of these boxes are ticked with Heidfeld and Rosenqvist, the stereotypes are more subtle, more refined.
Heidfeld should take a great deal of credit for the way in which the once midfield mired team stepped up to the next level of race-winner and consistent podium finisher.
The ex-Formula 1 driver has long had renowned drive and determination. His constant pushing of the teams he works for is accomplished in a quietly motivating manner. It is one which demands, and then gets respect in return.
These qualities were changing the dynamic of the Mahindra team from an early stage in the second season. It was one which started and ended well, yet for the majority of it, little in the way of hard results were forthcoming.
In the crossover of Seasons Two andThree, the German’s empathetic work with the controlled tires started to play out and pay off. He also developed methods of finding small but significant advantage in vehicle dynamic changes and what became his trademark flying race starts.
Heidfeld is honest too. He readily admitted at the end of Season Three that he had to undertake some re-evaluation after Rosenqvist announced himself with a flurry of mighty performances.
Rosenqvist arrived at Mahindra with a mere handful of private testing days beneath him, but with a reputation as a special talent. He didn’t disappoint.
A right attitude and a pragmatic approach to one of the trickier single-seater disciplines soon paid dividends.
The Swede gelled with Heidfeld immediately. It quickly transpired that Rosenqvist was as apolitical as they come. His descriptions of having “Heidfeld posters on my bedroom wall as a kid” were charming, without being twee or patronizing.
More importantly, Rosenqvist was mightily quick from the get go. As was his contribution to the development of the M3ELECTRO.
“Felix is valuable with tire feedback and preparation, due to spending a lot of time in different championships and cars,” Mahindra’s chief engineer Vinit Patel told e-racing365.
“He knows tires are the key to everything. He is very focussed and also adept at tire warm-up techniques and what needs to happen on which kind of surface with the ambient conditions.”
This was something which paid handsomely at Berlin for Rosenqvist. It was where he took his first victory on a quirky surface which had some of his rivals perplexed.
“Felix and Nick have helped us tune in to the tires a bit quicker than some other teams and driver pairings, and we have benefitted from the fact that even though Felix is at the beginning of his career, he has the experience already,” said Patel.
“Nick brings many years knowledge of different tires, championships and manufacturers, so we are definitely lucky to have this sort of expertise on board to help us in all areas.”
No wonder there was a change to Mahindra team boss Dilbagh Gill’s demeanor throughout Season Three. Gone was the agitated and sometimes perplexed expression.
Positive emotion came to the fore, not least of which was evident at Berlin with an emotional appearance from the team principal on the podium.
Dare anyone whisper it? Could Mahindra be title challengers in Season Four?
For the increasingly confident men from Mahindra at least, dreaming is all of a sudden not so daring.