• "You can always find ways to improve."

Stoffel, you took the most pole positions last season. How difficult is it to string everything together perfect- ly over a single lap?

"It’s not easy, for sure! First of all, Formula E qualifying consists of just one lap, which puts a lot of additional pressure on drivers to perform, to deliver, because you only have one shot at it. But still, it’s something I really love. I enjoy the pressure, the adrenalin you get from it. Putting the lap together is crucial, because you are of- ten forced to go very slowly on the outlaps, so you don’t get a feel for the grip that might be available in the first corner. As often as not, the way you approach Turn 1 is a kind of a complete guess in terms of where to brake, how much grip there is and how much speed you can carry through into the corner. Once you have some kind of reference point, then the rest of the lap becomes almost a little easier but it’s still very much a high pres- sure environment."  

stoffel vandoorne in his mercedes-eq silver arrrow 02 in the track in valencia

There will be a new qualifying format this season with lots of head-to-head battles. Will that increase the mental pressure on drivers? Are you looking forward to this extra challenge?

"I am definitely looking forward to it! I’m not really sure whether the head-to-head duels will change much really, because I don’t really think it will be much on our minds when in the car. We will be focussing mainly on getting the best out of the car – that’s going to be key. We obvi- ously have the group sessions first, during which the ap- proach will have to be a little bit different, as we’ll need to post several flying laps, which will, hopefully, level out the field a bit before the head-to-head duels. It should be interesting, and I think that the format will be enjoy- able, especially if you make it through to the final round and can then go head-to-head for pole position." 

stoffeln vandoorne sitting in his mercedes-eq silver arrow 02

Energy management in Formula E is another major challenge. How much more demanding will driving be for you with the introduction of the new rules with more power and possible extension to race times?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure whether it will make a huge difference to the racing. Extending the race time is certainly more logical and easier to understand for spectators than decreasing the amount of energy avail- able. When we spend time behind the safety car, then the race will last longer ultimately. I think that spectators find that easier to understand. If the race is stopped, then we end up racing for longer – that’s more sensible compared to what we had last year. I think the extra power we are going to have next season is going to make it a little bit trickier, especially in terms of energy and tyre management. It’s going to be harder for us to man- age the rear tyres, so we’ll probably have to go a little bit easier on them and the same applies to energy, as we’re going to be losing a little bit more. As a result, I think we’ll have to be even more precise with our driving over the entire race. 

stoffel vandoorne sitting in the box and laughing while looking at his phone

You are going into your third season with the team. How much does having this continuity help you and your engineers when working together?

Continuity in Formula E is always an excellent thing, I think, because the margins between drivers and teams are very small, so establishing a good relationship with your crew is very important. You have to really under- stand each other, what you need from the car, what you require to improve the car and be able to perform. All these things are very helpful. I will have to face a little bit of an extra challenge this year, as I’ll be working with a new race engineer. We’ll have to get used to one an- other first and be on the same wavelength. He’ll have to learn to interpret my comments about the car, my way of describing it – and vice versa. But he’s got a lot of experience from working previously in Formula E and I’m sure that we’ll soon get up to speed. I’m looking forward to seeing how we get along together. 

stoffel vandoorne talking to his race engineer

How do you manage to keep finding fresh stimuli so that you can continue to improve even after years of working together?

You can always find ways to improve. The regulations remain pretty constant but we’re always looking for new things to improve as a team no matter whether that comes from driver feedback or from the team.

We often discuss new ideas together, asking ourselves whether they make sense or wheth- er we’re wasting too much time with them. Will they improve our lap times? Yes or no? Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. We want to see these new ideas bring our lap times down, and that’s paramount. We’ve got an- other additional challenge to face as a team with the move to Brackley, so there’s going to be a lot of changes with a new simulator, for example, and a lot of jobs that need doing before the start of the season. We’ve got a lot to accomplish over the winter, perhaps even more than in the past. Let’s wait and see how next season shapes up! 

stoffl vandoorne walking on stage during the team presentation 2021

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