YOKOHAMA, Japan – Following a busy first part of Season 9, with nine races in less than five months spanning five continents, the Nissan Formula E Team drivers Sacha Fenestraz and Norman Nato reflect on their first season with the squad, the challenges of Gen3, and more.
How did you find the adaptation process to the Gen3 technology?
Sacha Fenestraz: When I began testing last year with Nissan, I quickly realized that I kind of had to start again, from a blank sheet of paper almost. The car is so different to anything I experienced before, even the Gen2 machinery. I knew the energy management from my experience in the Gen2 car, but I had to adapt my driving style.
Did you find it easy to settle in with Nissan?
SF: Yes, it was great, the relationship between the whole squad is really good. On my side of the garage, my engineer Johann and I are both new to Formula E, so we are learning together and really open minded with each other. When mistakes happen, we're honest and talk about it openly. It's been going really well so far and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with the team and building the season together.
I also have a great relationship with Norman, the best I've ever had with a teammate. We don't hide anything, we share data and ideas. When we started working together, he told me he would be open and we would help each other and we both quickly realized we had a healthy relationship there.
What has been the highlights of your maiden Formula E campaign?
SF: Monaco! Even though it was taken away, to achieve pole position at such an historic and important track for a racing driver, that was the highlight for me. Of course the first pole position in Cape Town was very special but for some reason Monaco felt even better because I never expected it. If you told me last year I would take pole in Cape Town and Monaco I wouldn't have believed you but somehow we managed to do it.
Can you explain your feelings in the moment you took your first Formula E pole position in Cape Town?
SF: It took quite a few days for it to sink in. It brought a lot of emotions, the beginning of the season was a bit of a rollercoaster for me, achieving a pole position this year was not at the top of our objectives for the campaign, so managing to do it was great and I was extremely happy for myself and the team. And then we proved it wasn't a one-off in Monaco, which made it even better.
How did it feel to go up against Norman in the Monaco qualifying semi-final?
SF: I hated it! I'm very much a team player, I don't just race for myself, so I always hope for both of us to do well. I knew one of us wouldn't have the opportunity to fight for pole position, it would've been great for us to meet in the final and be guaranteed first and second on the grid, but this is Formula E and sometimes it can happen. Of course, once I jumped in the car and put the visor down, I did the best job I could and didn't think about who I was racing against. But still, it was a shame to be against Norman and I wished it was someone else, although obviously I was happy to have Norman at the front of the grid with me.
How was it to battle with the championship leaders in Monaco?
SF: I feel that Monaco was one of the races I learnt the most from, in terms of strategy, when to push and what to do from who I was following. To be up with the championship leading teams and drivers gave me a great opportunity to learn just from watching behind. Obviously I wished I was ahead of them, but just by observing it was a great way to see our strengths and weaknesses against the leading teams.
How did you find the adaptation process to the Gen3 technology?
Norman Nato: It was complicated in a way because there are many new aspects we have to do differently and learn in terms of preparing to drive the car, it's definitely not the same technically compared to Gen2. On track, especially during push laps, it's fairly similar, it's more the approach and strategy that we had to change.
Did the Gen3 cars match your expectations?
NN: In terms of power, I would say it's been a really good step forward. It's positive because as drivers we can clearly feel the boost compared to a Gen 2 car. I think we would all prefer more grip in general, because it's really tough to drive the car in the way that you want to. We would like to push a bit more but there's just not enough grip to do that.
Which of the three new tracks (Hyderabad, Cape Town, São Paulo) was your favourite and why?
NN: India, despite the fact that Turn 1 was messy! The rest of the circuit was great, and it was fun to battle on track. Qualifying was also cool to drive, the layout was really good. Brazil was very different, I quite liked it, bumpy and challenging, which is what I enjoy in Formula E, where you have to fight with the car. Cape Town is an amazing place but I think the track was too quick for the cars, with the level of grip we have.
How did it feel to race on your home circuit at Monaco in the Gen3 car?
NN: To drive any car at Monaco is a pleasure and a dream, it's Monaco! It's so special, and the only regret I have - not speaking about the race which is obviously tough to swallow - is that everything happens in one day and you don't really have time to enjoy it. It all went so fast, we spend two or three days doing media, which is enjoyable, because it's great to soak up the atmosphere, although it would be ideal to have more chance to enjoy the moment on track. But anyway, to race in Monaco is a pleasure and to be on the limit in qualifying and perform well, it's an extra happiness.
Has the Monaco qualifying session given you a boost of confidence ahead of the remaining rounds?
NN: To be honest, not really, because I never lost my confidence. A few times this season we've made mistakes with tire strategy or been unlucky, for example we caught yellow flags in qualifying in Cape Town and Brazil, so there were a few occasions I feel we should've been up there, but weren't for whatever reason. We proved our speed in Monaco and it was really important and good for us to bounce back the way we did following the tough weekend in Berlin.
What do the team and you need to do to be competing at the front in the second half of the season?
NN: I would say energy management in the race and getting the best out of both cars. So far, we've struggled to get the two of us in the Duels and we've never had a double-points finish, which is a difference between us and other teams. Monaco was the perfect race example, we had the performance to do it but it didn't happen. This is what we need to develop in the second half of the championship and hopefully it can have a massive impact on the teams' standings if we get it right.
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About Nissan in Formula E
Nissan made its all-electric racing debut in Season 5 (2018/19) of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, becoming the first and only Japanese manufacturer to enter the series.
In Season 7 (2020/21), Nissan announced its long-term involvement in Formula E and its commitment to the Gen3 era, which will run from Season 9 (2022/23) through to the end of Season 12 (2025/26) of the all-electric racing series.
In April 2022, Nissan acquired the e.dams race team, with the Japanese automaker taking full ownership of its involvement in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
In June 2022, Nissan announced it would supply its Nissan EV powertrain technology to McLaren Racing for the entirety of the Formula E Gen3 era.
For Season 9 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, the Nissan Formula E drivers will be Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz.
Nissan races in Formula E to bring the excitement and fun of zero-emission electric vehicles to a global audience. As part of its goal to achieve carbon neutrality across its operations and the life cycle of its products by 2050, Nissan intends to electrify every all-new vehicle offering by the early 2030s in key markets. The Japanese automaker aims to bring its expertise in transferring knowledge and technology between the racetrack and road for better electric vehicles for customers.
About Formula E
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship became the first global sport to be certified with a net zero carbon footprint from inception back in 2020, having invested in certified climate-protecting projects in all race markets to offset emissions from every season of electric racing.
All cars in the championship are powered by electricity, with the series acting as a competitive platform to test and develop the latest in electric technology.
The World's greatest manufacturers race against each other on street circuits and Formula E promotes the adoption of sustainable mobility in city centres in a bid to combat air pollution and lessen the effects of climate change.