Mahindra Racing CEO and Team Principal Frederic Bertrand has revealed why Nyck de Vries and Edoardo Mortara were signed for season 10, over other candidates.
The Banbury-based side are the only Formula E outfit fielding a completely new driver line-up for 2024, after Oliver Rowland left halfway through season nine and Lucas di Grassi departed ahead of pre-season testing to rejoin the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team.
Replacing the duo is De Vries and Mortara, two drivers who are both proven race winners in the all-electric series and are very experienced. Deciding who would race for Mahindra in season 10 wasn’t just about finding quick and experienced drivers though, with Bertrand having devised certain criteria that he wanted candidates to meet.
Despite the Indian manufacturer having endured a massively disappointing start to the Gen3 era, several drivers from multiple categories were interested in racing for Mahindra. With their initial Gen3 package not being the most competitive, the side are very much on a long-term journey to try and return to the front, something Bertrand stresses must be supported by the drivers.
Bertrand wanted two drivers “able to embrace the project” Mahindra have embarked on, which will continue into season 11 and 12, when they’ll use their Gen3.5 powertrain. The outfit are already working towards an improved powertrain for when the hardware homologation ends at the conclusion of season 10, meaning they needed drivers who are prepared to stick around.
This is why De Vries and Mortara have been given multi-year contracts, as it truly allows the team to look at and plan for the future. The Team Principal wanted drivers prepared to work for the team, rather than just for themselves.
He more than gets this in De Vries and Mortara, who have both been part of successful outfits. De Vries was a key member of Mercedes-EQ in season six, seven and eight, with the German manufacturer having won the Constructors’ Championship in their final two campaigns in the series.
Mortara was also a huge part of Venturi’s rise in Formula E, with him having worked tirelessly to make the team a frontrunner. He even secured their first ever victory back in season five at the Hong Kong E-Prix.
Both drivers are more than prepared to persevere through the hard times with Mahindra to get to the good, making Bertrand convinced that they’re the “right people to lead the journey”.
“I wanted people able to embrace the project,” Bertrand exclusively told Motorsport Week. “You don’t necessarily look for drivers coming for themselves only.
“You need team players, you need strong performers, you need people with high-level background, knowing what winning races means, knowing what winning titles mean, knowing what working with a top team means. So these were all the criteria which were very important to me.
“The one which is not on an excel sheet is how you feel with the people, how you feel that it will be the right people to lead the journey and make sure that you will have moments where it’s sometimes difficult, sometimes very good. But you will always find one thing in common is that we have the same goal and we share the same values behind that.
“So that was clearly the important part for me to identify and to find. And it was quite clear with Edo’s background and with Nyck’s background, there was really no question to really ask on this. It was quite obvious.”
Whilst Mahindra did receive plenty of interest in their two vacant seats, Bertrand admits that it was a “quick” decision to sign the season seven World Champion and Mortara. It wasn’t just the decision to sign them which was fast, with both drivers having also understood the “project” in rapid fashion, vital in helping Mahindra “climb the big mountain”.
“So I would say the fit was quick,” added Bertrand. “What was quick, in a way, what was then necessary, is that they also know all about the project and that they understand what we want to do and how we want to do it and where we are and how we are.
“Because for sure I don’t want them to be disappointed or badly surprised when they arrive. They still have surprises, to be honest.
“But the good thing is that they knew about the project, they knew about the challenges, and they come really strong in their mind and in their motivation so that we can go through all the challenges and make sure that we climb the big mountain we have in front of us.”