Sophie Clare interviewed Jack Aitken, former reserve driver for Williams and Renault in Formula 1 and a current rookie for Formula E’s Envision Racing team.
This season Jack Aitken is competing in the European Le Mans Series, the ADAC GT Masters and the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. Within this busy racing schedule he was also in Berlin for Formula E’s Season 9 Rookie Test. During a conversation at the Berlin Tempelhof street circuit, Aitken shared his thoughts in the run-up to the testing session.
Sophie: How did you find being out of the driver’s seat this weekend? Are there lessons that the drivers have applied with the changing conditions, track surface, which you can apply tomorrow?
Jack Aitken: Yeah, I mean so I came a couple of days early just so I could see what was going on and try and absorb some information. To be honest, it’s not my favourite activity to be just hanging around at the track, spare, with no driving to do, because I did a lot of that when I was in F1. But yeah, I did pick up some useful things and everyone’s been really really helpful in helping get me up to speed.
S: Do you think that Formula E has a particular appeal to drivers like yourself, who may have been reserve drivers or in feeder series? What do you think has attracted a lot of you to the rookie test?
JA: I think yeah it’s not so much to do with my reserve stuff, it was more just because I’ve been trying a lot of different cars lately, and Formula E is something that was an option, something that I’m interested in. So I’ve wanted to try the car for a long time now, just to see what it’s like because I’ve heard it’s very different. The opportunity came up with Envision, who are obviously doing very well at the moment, so I’m just quite happy to join in for the rookie test and get a taste for it.
S: There’s been this amazing fan atmosphere here this weekend, so much overtaking and racing action — what do you think is the unique selling point for Formula E which makes drivers and fans alike so enthusiastic about it?
JA: Well Formula E just has the opportunity to do things from the ground up a little bit more differently, and that goes for things like the qualifying format, also the way that the racing plays out with strategy, and even the way that they set up things like the paddock. I think it’s a refreshing thing to see it done a bit differently. I will hold comment on the car until I’ve driven it, but at least from the simulator it is also something that also has a unique style to it. I think it’s a very interesting challenge, because the car has a lot of power but relatively a lot less grip. You know, usually when you move up from single seater cars, from a lower grade to a higher grade, grip and power go up the same amount relatively. And here we have a very powerful car that relatively has not much grip. So it’s a different style for sure.
S: I’m sure that energy management will also be an interesting challenge and something new to take on.
JA: Yeah, of course, that’s a big part of it as well. I’ve played with it a little bit in other series with fuel – I mean energy saving whether it’s fuel or electricity is kind of the same concept. So that’s less different, it’s just more intense here [with Formula E].
Both Aitken and the Envision Racing team were pleased with the results of the rookie testing. Damage to the chassis of Sebastien Buemi’s vehicle during the race weekend meant that Aitken and fellow rookie Jonny Edgar had reduced time on track, however the team was focused on gaining insight, collecting data and understanding before the second half of the Formula E season.
From the Envision team’s outstanding performance in the Monaco E-Prix just two weeks after testing in Berlin, their hard graft is continuing to pay off. Nick Cassidy executed a remarkable 10 overtakes during the Monaco E-Prix’s 29 laps, even overtaking on the outside which is almost unthinkable in the Monte Carlo street circuit. Cassidy’s victory in the Principality marked his second consecutive race win following on from Berlin, bringing himself and the team to the top of both drivers’ and constructors’ standings.
With the rookie testing complete for this season, it remains to be seen whether any of those rookies will take the step up into Formula E in the future, but it is certain that the opportunity to spend time on track in the GEN3 was valuable for teams and rookies alike.