With the start of the Europe season in Rome, the second half of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship Season 5 gets underway on April 13. After the first six races, António Félix da Costa (POR) leads the driver standings and Alexander Sims (GBR) has shown strong pace in his maiden season. In this double interview, the BMW i Andretti Motorsport drivers talk about the season so far.
António, Alexander, how would you sum up the season so far ahead of the first race in Europe?
António Félix da Costa: With one win, three podiums and first place in the drivers’ standings, we had a really strong first half of the season. Since it became clear that BMW i Motorsport would be entering Formula E as a works team, I worked hard to be ready for Season 5. Now, seeing BMW i Andretti Motorsport as one of the top teams is great validation for me – and great motivation to keep working just as hard.
Alexander Sims: In the races to date, we have consistently shown great potential. We weren’t always able to get the results, for a variety of reasons, which we have analyzed so that we can do better in the second half of the season. The BMW iFE.18’s performance gives us optimism for the coming races.
What have been the highlights so far, and what disappointments have you experienced?
Félix da Costa: My best day of the season was the first one: pole position and the win for the debut in Ad Diriyah were incredible. I was delighted to be able to give the team that success. Unfortunately, the outcome of the race in Marrakech was disappointing, when a perfect day suddenly went completely the other way eight minutes before the end. [The pair collided while running one-two in the race].
Sims: Definitely, the worst moment was the unfortunate end to the race in Marrakech. I haven’t had a clear best moment yet personally this season, but there have been many that have shown me that I can be fast in Formula E. It was fantastic to see António win the opening race in Ad Diriyah. That gave the whole team a major boost.
How did you deal with the incident in Marrakech within the team, and what did you learn from it?
Sims: The first thing that has to be said is that the incident, as disappointing as it was on the track, brought us even closer together as a team. Looking back, many things that went wrong came together in that moment. We spoke about the incident openly and honestly afterwards and have learned our lessons from it.
Félix da Costa: Alexander is right. In retrospect, the day made the team incredibly close. The way we handled the situation proved that we are a family. I’m really proud of that.
How do you feel the BMW i drivetrain measures up to the competition?
Félix da Costa: The BMW i engineers have done a fantastic job. Our drivetrain is fast and efficient – simply put, we have a really good package at our disposal; that’s despite it being the first time that BMW i engineers have developed a drivetrain for racing rather than production. It presented them with totally new challenges. Hats off to their achievement.
Sims: Our drivetrain really is very efficient. We can tell because we always do best in races where saving as much energy as possible makes the difference. That’s extremely important in Formula E.
Where can you make further improvements?
Sims: I consistently see that I have the speed to be up there at the front, but Formula E is so complex that as a driver you have to get the maximum out of every session to ultimately bring home the results. You also have to adjust your driving style very quickly from pure performance in qualifying to efficiency in the race. I’m working on these aspects. It’s really helping to have an experienced man such as António at my side.
Félix da Costa: I see the biggest potential off-track. We are getting to know each other as a team better all the time, and are working together better all the time too, but of course there is always room for improvement. I want to help as best I can, because I am proud of the whole team.
How closely do you work with your engineers – is it more than in other race series?
Sims: The little time that you have available on a race day in Formula E is the greatest limiting factor, which means you have less opportunity to exchange information with the engineers. We try to offset this with intensive preparation for race day – including using the simulator.
Félix da Costa: The technology in Formula E is unbelievably complex. It’s always about finding the perfect compromise between speed and efficiency, which is not all that easy and can’t be mastered by me as a driver alone. I need the close collaboration with my engineers for that.
Are you in contact with the BMW i engineers in Munich during the season?
Félix da Costa: The communication with the BMW i engineers was intensive primarily during the testing phase. I thought it was great to collaborate with people from outside the world of racing. During the season they work hard in the background to improve our drivetrain from race to race.
Sims: We had the chance to visit the BMW i engineers in Munich. It was incredibly interesting. They even gave us a first look at Season 6. Their work is the key to our success.