Written by Olivia Hartley, Edited by Janvi Unni
Once a somewhat controversial figure dreaming of entering the world of Formula 1, British racing driver Dan Ticktum, has now found his home in Formula E. Ticktum entered the young electric vehicle racing series as a rookie in 2022 with Nio 333 Racing. After a challenging season, Ticktum decided to remain part of the Nio team for 2023 on the promise of an increasingly stronger package over the next few seasons.
Dan Ticktum sat down with Divebomb to discuss the new era of Formula E ahead of the 2023 season.
Formula E (FE) is obviously quite different in comparison to other single-seater racing series. Did you feel confident going into your first FE season last year? How did you prepare for those changes?
Was I confident? No, to be honest. Obviously, throughout my career, I’ve been confident in my ability. I know I can adapt to things pretty quickly. But Formula E is incredibly different.
I think the biggest thing for me was the strategy side of things. How you have to manage the systems yourself. You really have to work very closely with the team to develop the systems around what suits you in the most efficient way. So it’s quite a lot to get used to.
I think obviously I didn’t have the best platform to work with last year. The team wasn’t the strongest and I’m sure they’ll be happy to admit that. I didn’t really have a chance to prove myself, besides I guess the last race where I got into the duals.
What would you say the key differences are between racing with a petrol-fuelled car and an electric vehicle?
I think not having gears is a big thing. But honestly, once you’ve done a few laps, it’s really not as different as you’d expect. Obviously you don’t have the noise, just the motor noise, which is more of a whine.
What is cool is if you lock up or if someone crashes into you, you can hear all that a lot more. I guess the way the torque is delivered is slightly different. It’s obviously pretty linear and quite instant, especially now with the Gen3 having more power, it’s quite difficult to manage in traction zones.
Everyone thinks it’s going to be worlds apart, but it’s really not once you get used to it.
How does the Gen3 car compare to the Gen2? Are you enjoying the change?
There’s pros and cons, if I’m honest. Obviously more power is great. The tyre is the biggest thing, it can be difficult to manage. It’s quite hard to feel, so that combined with more power, it can make the car quite twitchy to drive. I remember speaking to (António Félix) da Costa when we were walking outside the garages and we both said it’s the hardest car we’ve ever driven.
But, in Mexico last week, I did quite well in qualifying. So when you do put it together, it’s obviously more rewarding.
You had a somewhat challenging season with Nio last year. Have you felt confident that they’ve been able to provide a better package for you this season?
Yes, I would say in short. We’ve only done one race, so it’s difficult to say how efficient we are, and that is the biggest thing with Formula E.
From a driving perspective, the races are quite different to any other category because you have to keep your minimum speeds up. The higher the minimum speed is, the less energy you then need to use to get back up to speed on the straights. So there is an art to that. But overall, if the package is not efficient, then there’s only so much a driver can do.
I would say certainly more promising, particularly over one lap. The car is much stronger than last year. I was able to get into duels in my first race, and I think that if I wasn’t up against Jake Hughes in the first duel, I would’ve actually progressed to the semi-final, and then could have potentially been in the top three on the grid. Because I was quicker than all the other drivers in the duels, apart from Jake. So that’s a big positive.
I already feel a lot more motivated, and I’m sure the rest of the team does as well, to try and push things forward even more. I’ve spoken with the big bosses at Nio and there’s quite a clear three-year plan. So the plan is to stay with the team at the moment and be a part of that growth.
In comparison to other series, Formula E does aim to provide teams with slightly more equal footing. It provides cars with the same chassis, battery and tyres. Do you think, therefore, that Formula E is more reliant on the driver’s individual skills over the car?
When you put it like that, you’d think yes. A lot of the parts are the same for everyone. The budgets are obviously nowhere near as big as they are in Formula 1, but the top teams are still throwing tens of millions at it. It can be very different, in terms of software, and from a systems perspective, and how efficient the drivetrain is. It can vary a lot.
The short answer is no. It’s not as equal as I’d want and as most drivers and fans want. There are still quite big differences between the cars.
Fanboost is something that has been removed for 2023. What is your opinion on Fanboost and its removal from the series?
I’m very happy that it has been removed. I was always very skeptical of the validity of it, I think people used to cheat the system. Up to a couple of hours before the race I think you’d have an accurate representation of the fans voting at home. But then an hour before the race, if you are a big company in Formula E, I think they used to get, maybe as part of the employees contracts, all of the people that worked for that company to vote last minute.
There were a couple of times at the beginning of last season where I was in the top four, and there were drivers who initially had 2-3% of the vote and all of a sudden they’re third. So I was always a little bit dubious about it.
I’m quite cynical, I might be wrong because, you know, more fans are gonna vote close to the race anyway. But I’m honestly glad that it’s been removed.
You achieved your best FE career start of P5 after a very successful qualifying session in Mexico, congratulations. Do you think that is indicative of what we can expect to see from Nio and yourself going forwards?
Yep, good question. A little bit tough to say. I would, however, say yes. It’s obviously the job of the team and driver to adapt to every track as quickly as possible, but we do get very limited running. But what’s encouraging is our baseline seems to be relatively strong. I’m sure that the other teams that are not in that situation i.e. off the ball at the start of the season, will catch up over one lap. But I think I can get into the duals a few times this year, hopefully every race. If Mexico is anything to go by, yes, it’s looking good.
Unfortunately, you didn’t have the opportunity to convert that successful qualifying session into a points finish, thanks to the drive-through penalty you had to serve. I’m sure that was very frustrating. It was a software issue, not the fault of you or the team. Do you feel as though driving an electric vehicle leaves you with less control as a driver?
Yes, again it’s a good question. In petrol-fuelled cars, there’s obviously a lot of mechanical elements. So it’s relatively similar I would say in terms of reliability. But yes, there is a lot more out of the driver’s control, you could say, with the systems, and it all goes back to how big your team is. If you’ve got another 50 people working on each little bit of software, you’re less likely to encounter the issues that I did at the weekend.
And yes, it was completely out of my control, but you get in a petrol-fuelled car and the gearbox can break or a sensor could fail and you’re screwed, so it’s similar. But, as an FE driver, you are relying on the systems a lot. You have to work with the systems and shape the car around you with the help of the team.
Formula E does have a rapidly growing audience, but it doesn’t quite compare to other racing series, such as Formula 1, in that respect. Why do you think that motorsport fans should follow FE if they don’t already?
I think it’s probably one of the most exciting, from a racing perspective. However, if you look at Gen2, there were some races that were less exciting, but that is the same with Formula 1. They sometimes just follow each other round and round for most of the race.
It’s all street circuits, so it’s much easier to make a mistake, and because we don’t have wings that give the cars loads of down force, it doesn’t matter if we incur a little bit of damage. I’m not saying we all go around crashing into each other, but there are a lot more aggressive moves that result in exciting wheel-to-wheel racing. I’ve seen some of the races back and they are bloody exciting. So I would say that’s the main thing.
In terms of what the championship could do to improve viewing figures, I think making tickets incredibly cheap while the championship is growing. I know they still need to make revenue, but it’s only a few years old, and they need more people at the races. Mexico was great, it was sold out a few days before the event, 40,000 people. But some of the other events are not like that. I don’t know if it’s just the price that deters people, but a lot of people do know what Formula E is these days, which is obviously a start. I think in some races we need to be closer to the centre of cities, that would help, but again it’s all cost-related.
I’m honestly very excited to be part of Formula E, and as Formula 1 hasn’t worked out for me, I do see this as my home for the next hopefully 10 fruitful years.
I would like to thank Dan Ticktum for sitting down with me on behalf of Divebomb and providing an interesting insight into the world of Formula E. We look forward to following the 2023 season and wish success upon Ticktum and the Nio 333 Racing family.