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Mahindra drivers Nyck de Vries and Edoardo Mortara

Formula E: How De Vries ‘unexpectedly’ joined Mahindra

De Vries makes his return to the Formula E grid for Season 10 of the electric racing series

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Mahindra team principal Frederic Bertrand has shared how a chance meeting with Nyck de Vries brought about the Dutchman’s return to the Formula E grid.

Nyck de Vries, Mahindra Racing and Jake Dennis, Andretti Global
Nyck de Vries had limited running time in the Mahindra M9Electro. (Image: Andrew Ferraro / Formula E)

This week, Nyck de Vries made his first return Formula E since he departed the series at the end of Season 8. It’s a racing series the Dutchman has a positive history with. A successful run with the Mercedes-EQ team saw De Vries clinch the 2020/21 World Championship. The year following saw him drive alongside Stoffel Vandoorne to claim the Teams’ Title in Mercedes’ final year in the electric racing series.

De Vries left Formula E to explore other avenues, before eventually signing for AlphaTauri. But with his time on the F1 grid cut short, Season 10 marks a homecoming for Nyck de Vries.

Mahindra announced its new driver lineup at the end of September, featuring Nyck de Vries and Edoardo Mortara, who departed Maserati in a move that surprised many. After an immensely difficult season, the Mortara-De Vries pairing could be exactly what Mahindra needs.

Signing De Vries

Speaking in a press conference on the final day of pre-season testing in Valencia, Mahindra team principal Frederic Bertrand seemed under no illusion that Mahindra would make an immediate return to the front of the grid. Bertrand and Mahindra’s prerogative seems to be to “restructure”, “redefine” and “recreate” the team.

Mahindra’s current mission played a big part in what exactly Bertrand was looking for in a driver. “Our aim was to find the people understanding what the team in the state of mind is,” Bertand told members of the press, including FormulaNerds. He added that both Mortara and De Vries “have very often had difficulties”, and that they have helped to “develop teams in the past”.

Going into further depth about the signing of both drivers, it seemed that chance had a role to play in obtaining Nyck de Vries.

“In Nyck’s case… it happened, I don’t want to say by luck, but a little bit unexpectedly,” Betrand explained. “We shortly met in London [at the E-Prix].” He added:

“He was leaving the grid and I just said hello. And I told him that if in any case you want to join us and then help us to come from back position to the front position, you’re welcome. And then nothing more.”

“Then we had a phone call maybe two weeks after, and then we start the discussion and that’s how it happened,” shared Bertrand. “He also liked the project, he liked that we are on a long term approach and that we have the backing of a strong manufacturer. Having my wish so clearly expressed and so clearly explained, probably convinced both [Mortara and De Vries].”

A difficult start

Pre-season testing has been something of a nightmare for Mahindra. It was the only team that suffered damage as a result of Tuesday’s pit garage fire, which caused damage to Mahindra’s garage — in particular, De Vries’ side of the garage and the team’s IT equipment.

It’s a team’s worst nightmare at the best of times, but for Mahindra, it’s been a deeply trying time. Whilst Edoardo Mortara at least has experience with the Gen3 car, De Vries is a complete newcomer. Mahindra had to resort to divvying up track time between De Vries and Mortara, the two drivers sharing the same car. Mortara took part in Thursday afternoon’s session, whilst De Vries occupied the #48 car throughout Friday’s mighty ten hour session.

Still, Bertrand – with his optimistic disposition – has been able to find positives from the experience. The fact that both drivers have been able to have time in the car is one. Bertrand explained the differences in experience and understanding between the two, as both Moratara and De Vries work to get up to speed with the team and the car before the start of Season 10 in January.

Silver linings

“The two [Mahindra drivers] are at a different understanding of the Gen3 car,” said Bertrand. “Edo [Mortara] has the experience of last year and he has quickly got the confidence in the car, so that’s one thing which is important, he got the confidence.”

“I think he feels that that car fits his driving style and the way he wants to push the limits, so he’s fast and I think for the team, he’s asking for simplicity,” he continued. “And that helps a lot because it calms down a bit the trend which we may be at last year, to push too much on trying to complexify a lot of things. We are back to basics, and that’s important.”

“On Nyck’s side, it’s a bit different,” added Bertrand. “He has had no or little time in the car, so it was important for him to drive [on Friday], get confidence also, understand how to work with his engineers, and understand Gen3 because finally he was not having the same level of experience.”

“I think he’s getting well into the car now and understanding better, and we can see the pace is improving, so I think its positive that we can be part of the test, at least for that, so that the two of them are able to bring back confidence from Valencia.”

Bouncing back

Although Mahindra have had limited track time, they’ve undoubtedly been the stand-out team at pre-season testing. Not necessarily from a performance perspective – although Mortara was rapid on Thursday – but Mahindra has been the very definition of resilience and determination. They very well could have packed their bags and headed home, but Mahindra’s spirit has not been dampened.

Season 10 will be a year of rebuilding, growing, developing, and strengthening for Mahindra. If the grit and determination Mahindra has shown in Valencia is anything to go by, the team could be fighting at the front sooner than we think.

Featured Image Credit: Mahindra Racing on X

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