Venturi’s pace has been meteoric on occasion so far this season.
Had it not been for some misfortune and one very public mistake at the opening weekend in Hong Kong, when Edoardo Mortara lost a sure-fire win in the closing stages, the Monegasque team could be considerably higher than its current fifth in the standings.
The whole team deserves credit for being the surprise package of the fourth season so far. Anyone who accurately forecast its performance leap between seasons is either an impressive mystic or a fantasist.
Self-congratulation isn’t something that Venturi waste time on, though, and especially in the case of its team and logistic manager, Delphine Biscaye. You get the feeling that a no-nonsense and straight-forward approach is very much her raison d’etre.
Making the most of her aptitude of understanding all things technical, Biscaye studied initially at the French Institute of Advanced Mechanics [IFMA] in Clermont-Ferrand where she gained a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She later “topped this up” with another course in Sociology at the University of Strasbourg while already working full-time with Venturi.
Whilst at IFMA, now a decade ago, Biscaye took a placement with Venturi and followed this with another secondment at Williams F1.
“I stayed on as a contractor at Williams, but when my contract was ending I had to look for another job and so I came back to Venturi who immediately made me feel welcome all over again,” says Biscaye.
Working on prototype projects, Biscaye soon moved on to the Venturi land speed record project before work commenced on the prototype for the Antarctica program. This was centered around the first EV to operate in such extreme conditions as the Antarctic in order to give scientists access to research zones that are off limits to combustion vehicles.
“My role on the land speed record venture was much more Project Management, whereas I was still more on the engineering side during the Antarctica work,” she explains.
“We then started in Formula E, which was the ideal opportunity for me to come back to motorsports in electric terms.”
Having worked on the KERS development at Williams, Biscaye was an ideal choice for Venturi – you might say plug-in and play!
“It was perfect,” she says. “From the start we knew what was possible, that you could go very fast; we knew that you could have the same performance and reliability as any other car, so why not do electric racing. It was just a natural progression for us and we never looked back.”
Venturi’s visionary leader Gildo Pastor had long since prided his company on electric engineering. The Fétish supercar was the world’s first sports car powered solely by electricity, and so Formula E was one very attractive switch that Pastor had to flick.
“It [Formula E] seemed such a natural progression and we felt it would be a success. In fact the question was why did we not do it before? I mean electric racing was not a surprise for us, it was the logical next step for EVs to go racing,” asserts Biscaye.
Venturi has a unique position in Formula E, as although it is a proud and bonafide manufacturer in its own right, it is very much a David to the Goliaths of the series in comparison to larger marques such as Audi and Renault.
“For sure it is difficult for us sometimes as we see the championship evolving and the different teams growing up and they have more resources than us in human resources and finance,” says Biscaye.
“However, we are trying to build strong partnerships to help reinforce our team. We started last year with ZF (Group) who are a strong technical partner. They developed the gearbox this year and for next season they will be working on the whole powertrain.”
“We also started a partnership with HWA. They have a lot of knowledge of going motor racing and undoubtedly, we benefit from their knowledge and experience. We hope that our experience in electrical combined with their experience in motorsport will help us to grow.
Biscaye has used not only her technical experience but also her sociological studies to understand the championship on a personal level. For her, the human element, especially via that of the most important component – the driver – is one which she appreciates and takes interest in.
“It is difficult, as we are asking these guys [the drivers] not only to drive, but to think about energy and the battery management, so it is really specific,” she explains.
“You train them on the simulator with a real focus on the energy management. The drivers have to be able to do this by themselves as in the car as there is no telemetry plus most of the time you lose the radio!
“Both Maro [Engel] and Edoardo [Mortara] are very clever and it is good to have clever drivers for sure. You can see they are very hard-workers too and they always ask for more information, to understand everything. You can see them talking to the systems people, the race engineers, the mechanics to ask the best way forward.”
Talk about the team dynamic with Biscaye, and you are under no illusion that she holds dear a combined and cohesive work-ethic. In fact, it is crucial to her.
“Yes, I am the team manager, but I am with the mechanics and the engineers also. We are just one team and we are very close in age as well, we are like a family, we get on very well,” she explains.
“Even though we don’t live in the same place and some of them we only see here [at races] we are very close and have a great team atmosphere.”
Biscaye’s role at Venturi has evolved since the start of Formula E in 2014. Season Two saw her confined to the office back in Monaco.
For the 2016/17 season though she was back at the track in her then new role as Team and Logistic Manager.
“I won’t lie, it was great to be back where the action was, but it was a completely new challenge,” she says.
“My aim coming in was that I wanted to improve the team spirit and create one unified team, so I have worked a lot on communication and management.”
Venturi conduct regular appraisals and one of these came after the Valencia test when reliability issues relating to gearbox components severely compromised their test. In other teams altercations would fly. At Venturi there seemed to be none of that.
“We had a bad time in Valencia yes, but we stayed positive and we came through. You have to believe in yourself but also believe in those around you,” she says.
So far in Season Four, it is safe to say that this belief has paid dividends for Formula E’s most emerging teams and one of its confident driving forces.