Well, this is the first time I’ve been able to tell you I’m writing a blog with the Manhattan skyline in the background. But don’t worry - I’ve not been given a role in the next series of ‘Friends’, I’m here to make my Formula E debut!
We travelled out to New York on Monday. It’s not only beneficial to get used to the time difference, but there have been a lot of PR and Formula E activities to do. This series is very good at that type of thing. For those who don’t know, ‘E’ stands for electric and it’s the fastest-growing formula in the world, with lots of manufacturer involvement. All the races take place on street tracks in city centres, and to make my debut at the first Formula E event to take place in New York is a real honour.
I’m really excited about it. Since I signed my deal with DS Virgin Racing I knew there was a good chance that I would race in New York, because it clashes with the Nurburgring round of the World Endurance Championship, and DS Virgin’s regular driver Jose Maria Lopez has prior commitments with Toyota to do that. Jose Maria also had to miss the shakedown at the Mexico City race because of his Toyota programme, and I drove the car in that. Since then, I did a three-day test at Calafat in Spain last week alongside my team-mate Sam Bird. Calafat is one of the tightest and twistiest of tracks, so it was good to test there because it’s more representative than most circuits of a Formula E layout.
So, I’m really excited. We’ve put a lot of effort in over the past few weeks and I’m as prepared as I possibly can be. It was great to get the laps in at Calafat, and I’ve done enough time in the simulator for it all to feel quite normal. It’s not a lot different to a conventional racing car: they’ve all got four wheels and a steering wheel; it’s just that in the Formula E, instead of a combustion engine, you’ve got an electric motor propelling you along.
The energy management on the battery is something you hear a lot about in Formula E, but I’ve practised it almost to death now so I feel up to speed! Another thing is that the battery technology hasn’t quite arrived yet where you can do the whole race in one car, so we have the mid-race car changes. I did a lot of practice on that in Mexico so I feel ready – we haven’t left much to chance, and now it’s all about replicating it when it matters.
I’ve known my team-mate Sam ever since 2010 when he was racing in GP2, and he was moonlighting by doing a bit of driver coaching for Fortec Motorsport when I raced for them in Formula Renault. He’s always been really good to work with and we’re both like-minded, very similar people. DS Virgin is a British team as well so culturally it’s a very easy situation for me to slip into. Now the excitement comes from working with them in a real racing environment.
The other thing is that we get a rare Formula E double-header, with one race on Saturday and one on Sunday. That’s great for me, because it’s two opportunities to get a good result. Even though racing in New York means I have to miss the Nurburgring WEC round with G-Drive Racing, because my deal with DS Virgin was signed first so took priority, I’m happy to be here. Formula E is a fantastic championship and one in which I’d like to race full-time in the future, as is WEC, so getting experience in both is very important.
For now, though, it’s all about New York. The track has three hairpins, two chicanes, and is a quintessential Formula E track. But in the background you can see the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan, and that makes it very cool!
Oh, and of course I should mention that you can actually help me do well! Every race, three drivers are given Fanboost from an online vote to increase their power and make an overtaking manoeuvre. So please vote for me here: fanboost.fiaformulae.com