until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

The anger that could trigger a Formula E breakthrough

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Heat of the moment rants and expletives are commonplace in the torrid thrust of a Formula E race day.

It’s somewhat inevitable when you get high-stakes manufacturer battles in a tight one-day E-Prix format preceded usually by weeks of preparation in factories and simulators.

It’s exactly why when things go wrong, or a driver feels they have not delivered what the collective maximum for themselves and the team ought to be, spikey anger often pours out.

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That was the case for Nick Cassidy in Mexico City last month. And while it was essentially no different from countless other feisty interactions between teams and drivers over the course of a weekend, this one triggered a deep-dive investigation within the team.

In truth, Cassidy’s race appeared somewhat confusing throughout. He openly questioned the timing of his attack mode use as the team opted to take it later than others, and then coming through the pack it quickly became evident that he was a lap adrift of targets for a 40-lap race, which was taken at the whim of Porsche not deviating from its pre-ordained strategy.

When notified of his status, Cassidy initially laughed before saying sardonically: “You are f***ing kidding?”

He finished the conversation with a cutting “there’s got be some serious answers after this one, huh?”

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Of course, Cassidy wasn’t alone in this type of interaction. Across the garage Robin Frijns had a similar, if slightly less florid, jab at the unfolding situation during the race too.

Once the dust had settled it was clear there had been confusion on the Envision pitwall. While Frijns had been able to salvage some points with seventh position, Cassidy pinballed down to 13th, leaving Mexico empty handed after one of his most frustrating races in Formula E to date.

Cassidy explained to The Race how the state of affairs unfolded, caveating his description by saying that “it’s always difficult from radio communication, because essentially, one guy’s talking to me, but my voice is heard by many”.

He’s right with that, and when it is amplified by the editors for the popular post-race radio mash-ups it can often get detached from the context. On the other hand, it gives us, the viewers and listeners, a fascinating insight into how drivers and teams communicate.

It just happened to be that on this occasion the cohesion on Cassidy’s side of the garage at that time and on that day was far from optimal.

“In the problem with Rob [Sattler, his engineer], from a communications point of view, we were all good,” added Cassidy. “It was more actually me speaking to others and asking for a bit of help.

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“It’s probably been a good thing or needed to happen in a way because now we’ve got a few weeks to really fix the little things that were potential issues or can stop us collecting one or two points from the day or optimising a day, in terms of our communications as a group.

“It’s just those little holes that were there that were probably not quite fixed and now we’re able to really improve that communication flow between everyone.”

Cassidy is effusive in his praise for his new engineer Sattler, who enjoyed a strong and mutually respectful relationship with Tom Blomqvist last season at NIO 333. Indeed, Sattler presided over some of the biggest giant-killing performances of last season.

“Honestly, he’s super laid back and has a lot of experience in F1 and winning DTM championships [with Marco Wittmann in 2014 and Gary Paffett in 2018] and it has been really, really cool,” said Cassidy.

“That’s not negative to last year because ‘Laney’ [Stephen Lane] is super talented as well, so I’ve been very fortunate I think last year and this year to have worked with two great guys.”

Now, the technical direction is headed up by Australian Mike Lugg. He is in his second spell at the team after a two-year stint at Red Bull in Formula 1 where he engineered Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon.

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The post-Mexico debriefs had by all accounts an added depth and profundity late last month. Perhaps it is precisely what Envision Racing needs heading to a Rome track where Cassidy’s star first properly shone in Formula E.

That was when he took a sensational pole but had his hard work undone by a mystery glitch that spun it all away halfway around the first lap.

Since then, the gleam on his potential has twinkled occasionally, notably in Puebla, Monaco and New York last summer.

Yet, the increasing feeling in the Formula E paddock is that Cassidy is on the cusp of a major breakthrough. Perhaps this is why he vocalised his disappointment so potently last time around.

A return to Rome though is already instilling confidence for Cassidy after his heroics last April, and he’s hoping the memories of the Mexico weekend will be banished.

“I think it’s frustrating when you go to weekends and you’re not that quick and you end up with a seventh or eighth because you know that it doesn’t quite suit you as a group,” he says.

“But Rome is one of those places where obviously we didn’t get a result [last year], but we were quick, so that makes me excited for the weekend.”

Positive communication from the cockpit and from the pits will go a long way to getting Cassidy’s side of the garage back into the groove after a tricky start to a second season in which he is expected to at least fight for his maiden Formula E victory.

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