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Formula E

Formula E’s new team bosses face very different situations

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E team principals are an eclectic mix. A former PR man, ex-marketing chiefs and a decorated engineer are among their number.

Now added to that list is a former-F1 test driver and an ex-senior FIA manager who himself was influential in Formula E’s birth and development.

Those two new team principals, James Rossiter (Maserati) and Frederic Bertrand (Mahindra) respectively, are set to have very different first seasons in their job.

For Rossiter, accepting the role with Maserati MSG would not have taken too long at all.

Maserati Formula E

A prestigious and renowned manufacturer allied with an established team based within walking distance of his home in Monaco will have been an almost ideal job description.

The fact the team was coming off the back of its most successful ever season (as Venturi) added extra lustre for the former DS Techeetah reserve driver and sporting manager.

Maserati MSG’s Valencia test wasn’t quite seamless but in the context of most of its competitors it was strong in both pace and reliability. The team has very robust continuity with both its head of engineering Jeremy Colancon and the two engineers Cyril Blais (working with Maximilian Guenther) and Alex Dardelet (working with Edoardo Mortara) staying put.

Rossiter therefore walks into an opportunity that is there for the taking in 2023. It’s never easy at this level of motorsport but he has enough experience to know that the team is in a pretty good place right now.

In Guenther it has a driver hungry and motivated to banish a lean year with a troubled Nissan, while Mortara already put to bed his erratic New York and London weekends last July with a crushing win at the Seoul finale.

Maximilian Guenther Edoardo Mortara Maserati Formula E

The only fly in the ointment could be friction between the MSG and Maserati elements as they go through some inevitable growing pains as their relationship melds. While this is natural, the emphasis should be on the Maserati side of things to realise it shouldn’t disturb too much of a good thing going on, especially as a new rule-set dawns.

On the outside things seem to be tickety-boo but the gelling process will still be crystallising on the inside.

Rossiter, who has observed experienced team managers and principals such as Nigel Beresford and Mark Preston closely, is very clear on where the team are presently at. But he’s naturally playing it down, saying that the team needs to stay “very humble and very hungry”.

“Different surfaces, different temperatures there, so I think here we’ve seen very cold track temperatures and maybe some people are struggling to get their tyres in the window,” he told The Race of the state of play at the Valencia test.

“There’s so much for everyone to learn with every element of this car, I think there’s such a steep learning curve going on it’s going to be an interesting first few races.”

For Bertrand the task this season will be tougher.

Frederic Bertrand Mahindra Formula E

He inherits a Mahindra team that is facing challenges within. But he’s confident that the competences it already has will see it through to an improvement on 2022 – when it scored just one podium position, Oliver Rowland’s brilliant second in Seoul.

It is also a team that needs some extra resources. But Bertrand knows that, within the financial regulations that he assisted in making reality at the FIA, there is only so much he can bring onboard to Mahindra in the short-term.

In his first month in his new role, Bertrand will be ensuring that any pegs that have been knocked out of holes will be returned quickly.

“Right now, the goal is to bring everyone back to his own scope of activity, focus again on what they have to deliver, and get the right people in place if they have to avoid that people are compensating,” Bertrand told The Race.

He’s elected to move from France to Banbury more or less full-time, believing it essential to be onsite with Mahindra when not at races.

Frederic Bertrand Mahindra Formula E Sam Smith The Race

“Even if you are not expecting me in the UK I will live in the UK,” he adds.

“To be honest, I was not expecting to be moving there so easily but I think it makes 100% sense and it’s necessary.

“Let’s see what the next feelings will be but the first one is of excitement about the challenge but reassured everything is there to do well.

“Let’s put everything in the best place in the best order to make sure these things happen.”

So, what will Rossiter and Bertrand take away from their first season as fully fledged team principals?

The present narrative dictates that Rossiter will take home more shiny trophies. Yet should Bertrand make a major difference to Mahindra then satisfaction-wise perhaps he can be the equal of his fellow newbie.

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