EXCLUSIVE: It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon – Frederic Bertrand, CEO & Team Principal, Mahindra Racing

During the exclusive interview, Mr Frederic spoke on numerous topics, including ambitions for season 10, Kush's addition to Mahindra Racing and more.

Mahindra Racing is preparing for vital amendments ahead of the tenth season of Formula E, the most significant of which is the signing of two prominent drivers, Nyck De Vries and Edoardo Mortara, to multi-year contracts.

Kush Maini, an Indian racer, was also signed by the team to serve as its new reserve driver. Being one of the original teams in the sport and the only Indian team competing in Formula E, Mahindra Racing holds great significance. After encountering difficulties in the previous season, Mahindra Racing hopes to revive its championship aspirations with the addition of new players.

Kush Maini and Frederic Bertrand

Including Maini in the Indian team will boost Formula E in India, which has advanced remarkably through the Fédération Internationale de l’ Automobile (FIA) single-seater pathway over the last seven years. In the future, he might even get to drive the team’s M10Electro race car. For now, his duties will involve supporting the team at select E-Prix events and simulator runs.

SportsMint Media received a distinct opportunity to have an exclusive interaction with Mr Frederic BertrandMahindra Racing’s CEO & Team Principal.

During the exclusive interview, Mr Frederic spoke on numerous topics, including ambitions for season 10, Kush’s addition to Mahindra Racing and more.

1. How will the team try to develop the manufacturing side for the next season?  

When I joined the team, let’s say the balance was much more on the racing team and not enough on the development. We have a system in Formula E where what we have planned in the past two seasons will be followed for the upcoming two editions. So, in terms of planning, what we developed in the two previous years, we will go by the same methods in the next two years; it’s a cycle of approximately four years. What happened in the past, from what I could analyse, we did not have enough people. Due to a lack of manpower, you will lose time in terms of development, which then creates gaps.

We have been struggling with the hardware, in the beginning, you think it has been developed, but while testing you understand the real situation. And when the new edition starts, more or less you test during the season. So that’s what’s happened last season. We were more into testing than racing. We had to correct it now; we need to hire more people and rebalance. The efforts surrounding the race team must remain because you need to have a balanced system where you have a very strong structure for racing but also a very strong manufacturer side. 

2. After going through an ordinary season, what was the conversation between Mahindra Racing, the investors, and the sponsors?

I don’t want to say people liked it, but they understood, and they are hooked on the idea that it’s a long-term plan, it will not happen overnight. We are fighting and racing against structures, which have 100 years of motorsport. These other teams have won all the championships you can imagine in the world and Mahindra Racing started 10 years ago. Till now, we have done a lot but we are yet to catch up with the other teams. What we are trying to do now is to accelerate to close the gap. After the end of season nine, the first thing we tried to do was to convince the disappointed ones and to let them know that this is part of the journey.

People get more excited by the idea that we have started a journey towards growth. If we were getting a few good and bad results without ambition that would have been a problem. We even have to convince the drivers because you have to sell them a project and the same with our partners. Along with this, you still need to explain it to everyone, even the company, because we are spending a lot of money. That money could be spent somewhere else. So if you want to make sure that the return on investment is sufficient for everyone, you need to develop confidence in the fact that we are moving in the right way. For sure, the impact will happen, and we will be able to win but until then, we need to manage expectations and get support for the idea that we are putting in our efforts.

3. As we are heading towards the 10th season, what will be the plans in approaching the brands to get them on board as sponsors? 

The milestone season for us is season 11, as that will be the first one where we’ll have new hardware. Season 10 is still the season of creating the foundation. We have new drivers coming with strong backgrounds. It is a great opportunity for Nyck De Vries and Edoardo Mortara along with Kush as well because he’s coming with a super strong performance in F2. There’s trust among the team that we are on the right way. What is also interesting is that people are understanding this process slowly and getting as excited as us.

If everything falls in the right place, then we might start ending up in the top five more regularly and that will be a game changer but until then, we have to go smartly. And what I particularly like and one of the reasons I also joined Mahindra is because it’s a wider project than just motorsport. It is a full country opening to a new business area and it is huge. 

4. Can Kush’s addition to Mahindra Racing gather more eyeballs from a young audience? 

There are different ideas, the most prominent is that he has been good in the last few seasons. I also like to ask the reserve drivers to come to the races, feel how the team is working, work with the experienced drivers, read the data, and look at how they work, and how they progress. 

Additionally, Kush is fast, he’s looking to learn and be better. He got the idea straightaway why he is in the team. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and this is also what Anand Mahindra tells me all the time. Kush also understood it from the beginning, he is not coming as a star but as a hard worker. He is going to work on the simulator and will learn a lot about the simulator race-wise, management and experience. 

5. Do you think that the addition of Kush Maini to Mahinda Racing, an Indian team, could also attract sponsorship opportunities from local brands?

We would like to have a few of the local sponsors but it’s difficult to convince people in today’s time as the results are not necessarily what the people would like to see. I understand that there is a little bit of pride behind the fact that people want to be associated with a winning project for sure, on top of winning for India. But right now, we are not winning enough, and then people familiar with us might question their stay with the team.

But definitely, we are looking around as long as the people understand what we are doing. If the firms might get in thinking next year, we will be on the podium, then it’s inappropriate because we won’t be on the podium next year. We are very humble and we know where we can go. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t push the boundaries to make sure that we progress; no, we will do that. But we want to do it in an organised, humble way and step by step with something for the long term.

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