We met Karun Chandhok in Bangalore yesterday. He's 30 now, and while his Formula One career was a relatively short one, let's not forget that the man has piloted several types of very, very fast machinery that you and I can only admire from behind a fence. If that.
He now races for Mahindra Racing's outfit in the Formula E championship, a new format of motorsport that involves electric race cars. Placing fifth in the inaugural race was an impressive achievement, given the likes of the competition which includes Audi and e.dams-Renault.
The story continues in the next slide.
The informal event began at the Mahindra Reva facility in Bangalore, where invitees were given a quick tour of the rather impressive factory. Chetan Maini, the CEO of Mahindra Reva, walked us through some of the key sections of the spick and span manufacturing facility-we saw Mahindra e2o spaceframes, powertrain components, batteries, body panels, presses, the solar energy setup of the plant, and more. One e2o was humming away on the dynamo, looks like it was prepared for the test...
After the quick walk around, we were ferried across in a convoy of Mahindra e2os to the West End Hotel for a press conference with Mr. Maini and Chandhok. They fielded questions from the media on what Formula E was compared to Formula One, Mahindra Reva's plans for the future, and more. Karun spoke about the huge cost differences in the two, and that comparing the two forms of sport were "like comparing a Maruti to a Mercedes-Benz S-Class".
While top F1 teams spend around 300 million Euros over a season, Formula E sees participating manufacturers work with a hundredth of that figure! Both Karun Chandhok and Chetan Maini also spoke about how technology and know-how gained in the electric race series can be transferred down the auto chain to road cars much faster than it occurs in Formula One.
However, my favourite part of the entire event was chatting informally to the very patient Karun. I had always thought that since electric racers and e-cars have the personality of providing instant torque throughout the rev band, corners could theoretically be taken faster in an electric car, since there's immediate torque when you lift off and thus, you can brake later.
I was wrong, however. Karun highlighted us to the fact that it's not about taking a corner quickly, it's balancing all the braking and lift-off so that you can go faster for longer, because at the end of the day, how much range you have is what counts. The more range you have left, the longer you have to put pedal to e-metal. It was fascinating stuff, and that's when I realised what he touched upon in the press conference about how being good at math can help you in Formula E, since there are scores of numbers and data for a driver to keep track of during a race.
It was good finally getting to see the famous Indian racer and charismatic CEO in person. And since it was an informal event, I think that helped put everyone at ease for a valuable interaction. With the second race scheduled to be held this coming Saturday in Putrajaya, Malaysia, nerves must be on edge at Mahindra Racing, but the top 5 finish in the first race should help boost the confidence of the team. Much luck and success this year.