Jann Mardenborough got a chance behind the wheel of a Virgin Racing Formula E car.
He’s gone from Playstation champion to GP3 race winner and now Jann Mardenborough has first hand experience of driving a fully-electric single-seater. The 22 year-old Britain enjoyed a run in a Virgin Racing Spark-Renault SRT_01E at the final Formula E test at Donington Park and we caught up with him to get his thoughts...
What did you think about your first experience of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E around Donington?
The first word that comes to mind is: interesting. But the second phrase is that you have to think a lot about what you are doing and what’s happening. You have to always think about what re-gen map you’re on, what setting the paddle is on for the brake re-gen, so there’s a lot to think about.
Then at the same time you’ve got to consider how much energy you’re using as well. I did five laps and then had half the charge than what I’d left the pits with and we weren’t flat out for the whole time. There’s a lot to think about as a driver which is quite refreshing actually because you always have your engineer talking to you on the radio but no live telemetry, so your engineer can’t talk you the way around the lap, so you have to be quite clever in the way you approach things.
I think that in a race situation it’s going to be very interesting to see the people who are very switched on and thinking about the long-term goal compared to the people who want to go flat out all the time [and] might not finish the race.
Formula E is very different to the cars you’re used to driving so far in your career, but how did the performance feel generally?
I ran in map five, so one below the top map. I got into fifth gear and I think we were doing 190kph for the chicane at Donington and that wasn’t with a flat-out exit from the corner before, so it’s quick enough. On a circuit like Donington, it doesn’t feel completely rapid but I imagine on a street circuit – when everything’s really tight and with the instant torque you have out of the slower corners – it will feel very punchy.
It’s the first time I’ve driven an electric car with gears – which is interesting because you always have to be looking at the shift lights to know when to change gear. Although there is sound, it’s not like a petrol engine – when you get in tune with the engine noise and you shift gear accordingly – you have to think about the shift lights and everything else. It’s very hands-on for the driver.