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Nicki Shields: “We call ourselves the Formula E Family”

In an exclusive interview for Overtake Motorsport, Nicki chats about the future and innovations of Formula E, as well as her recent time at Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Nicki’s own twitter bio proclaims her to be a “car fanatic”, and this passion shone through as soon as our Motorsport chat began. Since it’s inaugural season, Nicki has been in the pit lane of every Formula E race, so who better to chat with regarding the effect this formula has had and where its future lies.

 

Since the first ever testing session at Donnington Park, where these all electric racecars took to the track for the first time, Nicki has been “splitting [herself] into three people at once- managing to do the Channel 5 show, the CNN show and the Formula E show” at every race weekend. So I began by asking her how the sport has evolved since it began.

 

We got to Beijing, in September 2014, and we had an incredible race with 20 cars on track, with a big finale when Nick Heifeld practically summersaulted across the track with Nico Prost. And all of a sudden, Formula E was in the headlines and everyone was talking about it. So yes, we started with a bang, shall we say!
And from then on, every race and every season [has] just massively built momentum. It really hasn’t sat still. And every time, a race is more smooth in terms of an organisation perspective, the tracks are better, the locations are getting better.

 

Formula E is still a very new motorsport championship, with many changes already agreed upon for future seasons. I asked Nicki how she would like to see the sport evolving, and her hopes were simple – “I want it to become a mainstream sport. At the moment it is very much still a niche.” Similarly to her own experiences, Nicki admits that this electric racing formula has “converted some pure petrol heads, because they just love racing”. She also agrees that the sport has attracted new fans to the racing world. These are the “more forward thinking, trail blazers who are interested in that electric power train. I think Formula E has done really well at engaging with younger fans through social media.”

One of the ways that Formula E is already moving forward will be seen in Season 5, as the car batteries will last for the entire race. This eliminates the need for a pit stop for the drivers to move to a second car. However, when I asked Nicki which one regulation she would alter, if she was in charge of the sport, she touched on this idea. “I think we should still maintain a pitstop, because it is fun and adds a bit of strategy into the mix. I think if we don’t have a pitstop then it takes out some of the tactics and some of the strategy and I enjoy having that.

 

Given the impact such a new formula, with the first three races alone drawing in 56 million TV viewers, I asked Nicki what other racing series could learn from Formula E.

Considering it is a FIA world championship, [Formula E] is a very friendly, open and supportive environment. Everyone is supporting each other. And that goes down from mechanics, across teams, to PR to broadcasters and drivers. Everyone gets one really well and supports each other. We call ourselves the Formula E family and it really does feel like that! We are all this travelling family and you can feel that in the pitlane.
I think maybe with some other championships you are pitted against each other more and it doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere. And obviously, if everyone that works there really enjoys it and really enjoys the atmosphere then that flows through to the fans and to everyone watching it.

 

This self proclaimed “car fanatic” had recently spent the weekend at Goodwood Festival of Speed, prior to our conversation. So I simply had to ask her what her highlights had been! She began by telling me about interviewing Niki Lauda as he was reunited with the Brabham, “fan” car. “Hearing of the tales of when he first drove that car and what it was like and how bonkers it was, was really nice to hear

She then went on to tell me about how Jackie Stewart “dissed [her] fashion sense”. Nicki explained how “he was wearing a racing suit from in period – those super cotton racing suits that weren’t really fire proof at all, but then he had these Nike Air’s on” which lead to many jokes and banter.

 

So I ended my interview the way I end them all, asking Nicki which three Motorsport figures she would invite to a fantasy dinner party.

Michael Schumacher – just because there’s so many unanswered questions that we would have the chance to ask him about.
Probably Ayerton Senna – again just because he’s an ultimate legend.
I’d either go for someone like Sir Stirling Moss because he’s a total legend and he’s hysterical […] or someone cheeky like Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen just to mix it up a little bit! That would be seriously fun!

 

You can watch Nicki in the pitlane when Formula E returns for season 4, in Hong Kong, on the 2nd and 3rst of December.

 

Feature Image Credit: FIA Formula E Media site. 

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