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Mahindra surprise in Beijing with first podium

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Mahindra surprised themselves in Beijing with their first podium as Nick Heidfeld overcame tremendous pressure from both Dragon Racing cars to stand on the final step of the rostrum.

The Indian squad started the weekend with optimism and had their sights firmly set on being the best of the rest for the moment, conceding Abt and e.Dams were just out of reach.

Qualifying saw Heidfeld fight for pole, only to end up a fantastic third on the grid while Bruno Senna, after limited running in practice secured a satisfying seventh.

As the race lights went out both drivers made reasonable starts. Heidfeld was up to second, just in front of Prost after going round the outside of him in turn one. Likewise, team mate Senna did a carbon copy manoeuvre to move up to sixth.

While Heidfeld was holding his ground against the faster Lucas di Grassi and Nicolas Prost, Senna pulled a fantastic overtake to get in front of Jean-Eric Vergne to move up to P5.

The group in front of Senna pulled away with the Brazilian then at the front of a rather large queue of cars. He pulled a slight gap on Vergne and later Loic Duval who chased Senna down. After some good defending the Brazilian fell back through the pack to ninth as the pit window opened. However, it appeared over team radio that the energy target Senna’s engineers had set for him was too low and he was told to “forget it”. This was followed by an immediate overtake on Sam Bird.

Both drivers then pitted and ultimately suffered for it. Quick Nick was overtaken by di Grassi and Prost to fall down to fourth initially before Prost locked up allowing Heidfeld back through. Eventually however, the faster Frenchman re-took the German. Although Heidfeld had a bad stop, Senna’s race was utterly ruined by it. He was kept in the pits for almost two minutes and fell right to the bottom of the field. Points were then out of the question for the unlucky Brazilian.

As the final laps drew in, Heidfeld found himself in third with Prost having to pit due to a broken rear wing. The German was then harassed all the way to the finish by the Dragon duo of Duval and Jerome d’Ambrosio. Although it looked at one point the German would lose out, the two Dragon boys then almost took each other out. However, some excellent power management and defending saw the German cross the line to take a surprise third place and first podium for the team, just ahead of the Dragon duo.

Meanwhile, Senna made up some ground to come home 13th after it looked as though the popular Brazilian would also bag some healthy points for the team with a sixth place finish on the cards.

Nevertheless, the Mahindra Racing team have done a good job over the summer break and have developed a fast and reliable powertrain which will no doubt see more podium finishes for both drivers to come.

Speaking of his first official Formula E visit, having been denied the chance to celebrate in Moscow last season, Heidfeld spoke highly of the team for allowing him to fight near the front.

“I want to thank the team for providing me with a car that can achieve a result like this. I can be a demanding driver and as a team we pushed hard to get this result. We will build on this achievement, refine the car and I believe the M2Electro can continue to race at the front of the grid.

“I had to work hard to defend on the final laps as other cars were putting pressure on me from behind but I’m glad that our race strategy left me with enough energy to keep them behind me right to the chequered flag.”

Dilbagh Gill, team principal of Mahindra Racing, was visibly emotional as his driver crossed the line in third, and praised the team for the hard work put in to deliver a podium contender.

“I don’t quite have the words to describe what the first podium means to the team and to Mahindra. The performance of both cars in qualifying and Nick’s final result (the fastest team behind Renault) shows that the approach we took to developing the M2Electro powertrain was the right one.

“The car has been reliable and consistent since testing and we now know we also have a package that can compete in both qualifying and race trim. We must congratulate ourselves but we must build on this success in the next race. We could potentially have finished even higher. We have a great car and now we need to aim for consistent race performance.”

Harry Benjamin |
Photo: Mahindra Racing