Mahindra Formula E driver Nick Heidfeld doesn’t expect to fully recover from his wrist injury, despite having made a successful return to racing earlier this month in Buenos Aires.
Heidfeld damaged a ligament in his right wrist when his car's steering wheel snapped during the Putrajaya ePrix in November.
The injury forced him to sit out the next round in Punta del Este and he also missed out last year’s World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain.
Although Heidfeld was deemed fit to race in Buenos Aires earlier this month, the German told exclusively to Motorsport.com that his wrist will never offer the same level of flexibility as it did before.
You missed quite a few WEC and Formula E races due to an injury, before returning to action in Buenos Aires. How’s your wrist feeling now?
"It was good enough to do the last race, but the hand is not fully back to normal - not as flexible. I felt towards at the end of the race, I didn’t have the power that would have been perfect. And getting in the car [for Buddh Circuit showrun], it did hurt a little bit.
"But it’s just because I started feeling it so well, so I didn’t pay much attention. I did normal movements and then felt ‘oh shit, it’s still not back to normal'. But it’s recovering very quickly, which is most important."
How long will it take to fully recover?
"The doctor said it will be a few months until it feels sort of normal, but I think I will never be back to the flexibility that I had before."
Do you think it will cost you on the performance front?
"No, I don’t think so because luckily in motor car racing you don’t need that much flexibility. I cannot go fully back and forth, but to turn the car it’s enough. So strengths will come, it just takes time."
Regarding Formula E, what do you make of the complaints from some quarters that the cars in the series are not quick enough?
"They are not as quick as Formula 1, but quick enough for street circuits we go to. If you’ve seen a race live and see the corners and how tight the cities are, it’s a good fit, I would say. If you go there with a Formula 1 car, it would be too dangerous. Actually, it would not be legal, it would not be allowed."
How do you rate your Formula E season so far?
"I think it’s been going well. It was fantastic to achieve the podium on our first race together in Beijing with Mahindra. And then, of course, I missed one race, which is not nice. Then it was a good comeback with seventh place.
"We want to achieve more. But with the injury we had it [the result] was decent, especially after starting P13. And it was a good reward for the team to bring both cars back in the points after Punta del Este, which was bit of a difficult race for everyone.
"And specially I have to mention that the mechanics did a fantastic job on Bruno’s car - they had to repair it in [in the middle of the race in] Buenos Aires. Actually, they were just finishing the car on the in-lap of Bruno.
"And he jumped into the car that was literally finished just half a minute ago. Maybe if you see the footage, you’ll see all the mechanics screaming and cheering like mad after the stop, which is not normal. But that’s because they were working flat out.
In Buenos Aires, Mahindra seemed to struggle in practice but ended up scoring a double points finish. So how did the team turn around its fortunes?
"I think it was a bit misleading in practice. It depends on if you get a clean lap, how much power you put. Certainly it wasn’t fantastic in practice, but I was sure it would not be as bad it seemed since we have a better view from inside.
"I know in the race if you keep a calm head and look after the energy, you will make some positions in the end and that’s what happened. In the beginning I went backwards, but not because of pace, I was just conserving energy. And it paid off. From last I made it to seventh position."
What is your opinion about the new Roborace series?
"I think it’s a great idea. I can’t wait to see it. It would be interesting to see when it will happen. Whether it will already be next year or later, but very interesting to follow. Like Formula E, it’s a new start. Actually, I really don’t know what to expect."
What inspired you to switch from Venturi to Mahindra?
"It was not an easy decision because Venturi is a very good team. We had chances to win some races last year. Beijing, for example. And in Buenos Aires, I was leading until one or two laps from the end and then we got a penalty for speeding in the pitlane because we didn’t have the speed limiter on.
"But speaking to Dilbagh [Gill], who is head of the team, I saw that he analysed very well why it didn’t work out with Mahindra in first season.
"They’ve done a lot of changes and you can see it’s going a lot better. And for season 3, I think, they are taking the right steps. It was more about the [long-term] future with Mahindra."
This year Mahindra has gone for a conservative approach with its technical package. Do you expect the team to introduce more aggressive solutions in coming years?
"Definitely. Mahindra certainly has a plan to push boundaries even further. Mahindra has changed a lot of things from year one to year two, but it was not possible to do everything at once.
"Next year we’ll see further steps in the drivetrain where we’ll push the limits more, like Renault is doing now. For us, unfortunately, it’s leading the pack. But I hope that we will compete against them on a much closer level in season 3."