Mercedes team principal Ian James ready for different challenge of Formula E

by Nathan Hine
Mercedes-Benz testing

As the race debut for Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team draws nearer, Team Principal Ian James expects a challenging season following a difficult pre-season test at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia for the German giant.

Testing began in challenging circumstances with technical setbacks for both Nyck De Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne, with the final day of the test being the most productive for the Silver Arrows.

But speaking after the test, James is satisfied that the team can be in good shape before the 2019 Ad Diriyah ePrix and said: “We are currently having to cope with a steep learning curve. But I am satisfied with how we have organised our approach to Formula E.”

When asked about the role of HWA RaceLab last season, he said: “Of course, it helps that HWA RACELAB already had their own involvement in season five. But I would say that the benefit is more on the operational side.

This is actually quite important, because Formula E functions differently from other racing series, especially compared to what we’re familiar with in Formula 1 and the DTM. The one-day format plays a major role here.

Formula E is quite unique: it’s not the sort of series where you turn up as a newcomer and run away with the championship.

The previous season has given us some useful insight into Formula E, but if you’re starting as the works team of a manufacturer, there are some significant differences that we have not encountered in the past year. “

Now as Mercedes head into their first full season as a works manufacturer, the German giant will have to contend with all the challenges that competing in the all-electric single-seater racing series involves.

James highlights the role of software as playing a key role in Mercedes fortunes in Formula E as compared to Formula 1 and DTM where they have had huge success, FE revolves around electric software with no internal combustion engines in any form. But with the experience from HWA RaceLab from last year, they are still hopeful for a solid season.

Not only have they transferred information from HWA, but they have retained Vandoorne as a full-time race driver, with Gary Paffett staying on as a Sporting and Technical adviser within the outfit.

James is confident of the impact Paffett will make to the team and said: “It’s good that we have Gary on the team. He has had one year of experience in Formula E and takes up an intermediary role between the drivers and the engineers.

In that regard, he is fulfilling an important control function. This position is new to him, but we chose Gary because of his great experience as a racer and because of his record of success. His character fits in well with our approach of getting things moving at the right speed.”

With weeks to go before race one at Ad Diriyah hoves into view, Mercedes-Benz will be working flat-out to make sure that they are best-prepared for what is likely to be a challenging season for the German giants.

The Silver Arrows may have just clinched their sixth consecutive Formula 1 constructors title, but after a hard pre-season testing in Valencia, be left in no doubts that this will be their hardest challenge yet.

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