In this exclusive interview, Nissan’s Sacha Fenestraz reflects on his first year in Formula E.
Sacha, the season has just finished, how do you reflect on your first season in Formula E?
It’s been a busy after-season. London wasn’t what I was hoping for. I was hoping for a better result, but a little mistake on my side didn’t really help that. But overall, I’m quite happy for this season. I wasn’t expecting two poles and fourth twice so early in in my Formula E career, especially when you see the level of drivers that that we’ve got in the Championship. I surprised myself a little bit sometimes, but it was it was a great season and now I’m really looking forward to the next one.
What does the process of preparing for next season look like?
It’s a lot of analysing of what really happened throughout the season because we had many races back-to-back where you don’t really have time to just settle down and really analyse what happened here, what happened there. Now it’s time to do those things. It’s a lot of study in a way; it’s all about trying to erase mistakes next year. I’m still learning a lot, like all the energy management side of things et cetera, so it’s a lot of work just analysing what happened and learn from those mistakes and bring on the second one.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve had to learn this year?
A lot of the energy management side of things, of course. It’s something that is still extremely new for me. It’s something that I need to get better at. That’s definitely my weakest point at the moment, so I would say that’s the biggest lesson that I’ve had this season. Also, racing in such a high professional level. I’ve learned a lot and it’s a bit of a different racing style to what I was used to. There’s been a lot of learning with the how to properly drive the car. It’s not straightforward at all, and it’s very, very difficult.
How challenging is Formula E as a driver?
Firstly, for people who doesn’t really know Formula E, we race in city tracks at over 200mph. Where the margin for error is very, very slim. This is with a car that is very tricky to drive. Then on the energy management side, you start the race with not enough energy and you need to recover a lot of energy to reach the end. Of course, the car helps you, tells you where to lift sometimes, maybe even where to brake, but the car is not perfect. Sometimes things will change throughout the race. You have over 300 options to change on the steering wheel, so every lap we’re constantly changing things, talking with the engineer. It’s extremely, extremely busy in the car and in the race. It’s not just driving around and that’s it. You have a lot of things to take on when you’re going to overtake. You just need to be very clever and be 99% sure that you’re going to make the move, because if not, you’re just wasting energy. It’s a lot of strategy for the drivers to manage that.
How would you describe the feeling of being behind the wheel of a Formula E car?
I love it. I’ve always really, really loved street circuit racing, it’s such an adrenaline rush and requires so much finesse in a way that you cannot allow yourself to make any mistakes. As I said earlier, the margins are very, very slim. There is one racing line and if you go off a little bit, there might be dirt, there might be a lot of sand. It depends on the track, so it’s very cool. It’s a lot of adrenaline, a lot of pressure. Also, of course, you’re racing in such a high level Championship with, I would say, the best drivers in the world, along with Formula One. I’m enjoying it a lot.
What have been some of your favourite locations and circuits from the past season?
I would say Cape Town, I had the pole there, but not just because of the pole. The racetrack was really, really cool. One of the nicest racetracks of this season; the location by the sea was really nice. Then, of course, Monaco is the typical one. I’ve raised there in the past but it’s so cool to be able to be racing all around the world. Next year we go to Tokyo, our [Nissan’s] first home race. We’re expanding every year and I’m really looking forward to next year and what’s going to happen in ten years’ time in this Championship. It will be crazy where we’re going to go, I think.
Have you noticed a growth in popularity in Formula E?
Yes, definitely, and especially when I started working as a reserve driver, I could see how it was progressing. If you think of where it started with two cars in one race, jumping from a car to another one because the battery was reaching the end and now we are with one car, a lot more power, a lot lighter, longer races etc. The progression is massive. The Championship is still growing, we still see high quality drivers. think it’s going to keep on evolving.
What is your relationship with your teammate, Norman Nato, like?
It was really cool. I honestly enjoyed working with him a lot. It was a great season. We had a lot of fun on and off the track. When we were on track, many times we had to switch position and it was never a problem. He’s been a great teammate. I’ve learned a lot with him, especially when I had the chance to start in the front row a few times this season and he was helping me with just what to expect, to just be careful with this and that and, even apart from those things, the energy management, which is my weakness, it’s been very helpful to just be able to analyse myself with him. He’s been doing a great job, especially at the end of the of the season with Rome and London.
What are your goals for next season?
I don’t know where we’re going to be compared to the rest of course; it’s difficult to compare right now but I think, for me, achieving some podiums, that would be an amazing target if I can achieve it. I would be extremely happy. In terms of Championship results, if I can finish in the top six, that’s a good target right now. This year was a bit difficult, of course, as the first season we were quite far back and have been quite unlucky also. But I think top six, top five in the Championship, that would be quite a cool achievement, but hopefully it’s better than that.