Interview with Nick Heidfeld

May 4, 2020.

From high-performance racing cars with traditional drive systems to e-mobility: the racing driver talks about his career in Formula One and Formula E, and gives us an insight into his involvement with Pininfarina.

What is Formula E and what does it stand for?

Formula E is a series of championship races featuring all-electric cars. It has only been around for six years and is already extremely successful. I took part for five years. Now, I accompany the tour as a special advisor to an Indian team called Mahindra. We visit lots of different cities, which is always great fun. In Switzerland, for example, we've been to Zurich and Bern. Elsewhere in the world, to New York, Moscow and Berlin. It's a really cool series of races as – unlike Formula One – you really don’t know until shortly before the end who is going to win.



Why did you get involved in Formula E?

I spent many years in Formula One, after which I tried out a few different things. It was exciting to try something completely new. Unlike all the other motor racing series, Formula E events take place on a single day. Usually on a Saturday, when we have training, qualifying and the race itself. That makes it quite challenging. Not just for the drivers, but for the teams and engineers too.



Nick, you’ve spent a long time behind the wheel of high-performance racing cars with traditional drive systems. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when changing to e-mobility? 

Switching from a normal internal combustion engine to electric power in motor racing was a huge change. Above all, the sound is different. But there are also positive aspects. You hear lots of other things you never heard before. For example, I could hear the brakes for the first time – and the wheels more intensively. This makes you more aware of any problems with the mechanical parts. It’s a bit trickier when it comes to wheelspin, i.e. when the back wheels lose traction. With a normal combustion engine, you hear it at a relatively early stage and are aware of the wheels rotating at a higher rate. It’s more difficult with electric cars and in Formula E. There, you have to try and develop different sensors.



You’re now a development driver and brand ambassador for Pininfarina. Can you tell us about your involvement and experiences?

Automobili Pininfarina is a new brand. I’m one of its development drivers. It’s extremely exciting because it’s all-electric. The car will have almost 2,000 hp. I believe I’m in a good position to help out there. Why? Partly because I know the electric side from Formula E, but also because I’m used to the power and performance of Formula One. Then again, the car has more power than I’ve ever experienced. Its acceleration times will be mind-blowing. Our aim is to go from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in under two seconds. On top of which, it will look fantastic. The first cars will go on sale next year.



Let’s take a look into the future of the average Swiss person. What will affect our everyday mobility most? What do you think?

I’m convinced that mobility will undergo extreme change in the near future. There will be a move towards electromobility, for sure. I hope this will be the case in the larger towns and cities especially, where it’s annoying to have to breathe in stuffy air all winter. But I also believe that more and more people will turn to public transport. Maybe we won’t have our own cars any more. But I don’t know whether electromobility will be the final word. Only time will tell. We’ll certainly go on using combustion engines for a long time yet. It's not possible to change something like that overnight.