Edoardo Mortara took precisely five years to finally fight for wins in the FIA Formula E World Championship, looking as competitive as ever to take his title challenge to the next level. Since the start of season eight, the Swiss Italian driver has been on fine form once again – earning two wins and a podium – which leaves him in second place in the Drivers’ championship at the halfway stage.
Mortara made it clear that he once to go one better after a strong performance in season seven – which saw him come within touching distance of the drivers’ title – with just seven points being the difference between himself and eventual champion Nyck De Vries. After sitting down with Mortara, it is clear that he has a renewed confidence going into this season. The 35-year-old finished sixth in the season opener in Diriyah and took a brilliant victory in the second round of the weekend at the same venue.
His journey began when he first stormed onto the Formula E scene in 2017 with a podium on his debut race weekend in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, he was leading the race with two and a half laps remaining when the Swiss driver spun at Turn 2 going for the fastest lap, handing the victory to Felix Rosenqvist.
However, Mortara managed to get his redemption in season five by taking victory in Hong Kong, which was his first-ever win in the series and for the team.
Since the remarkable comeback after a tough rookie season, Mortara has proved to be one of the series’ most skilful operators, especially when it comes to challenging street circuits like Macau. He is now renowned as “Mr Macau” as he has won 10 times at the venue from 2008 to 2017 in F3 and GT races.
Leading up to the Berlin E-Prix where Mortara secured his second victory of the season, Formula E Zone asked him about his chance of winning the championship and the journey he had in the series since season four in Hong Kong.
“We were fighting for wins actually,” said Mortara. “Like during my first weekend, we were definitely not the fastest car that season. We were just lucky to have a really strong, competitive package that weekend. Actually, my first season turned out to be a difficult one for me.”
“I was kind of expecting that my first season would be hard. Right now, it’s a completely different team, but in season four I could see the pathway that we wanted to go through.
It became quite clear when Susie Wolff arrived that the team was going to take a step forward, despite it being her first role as Team Principal. Then, Jerome D’Ambrosio came in and continued the hard work put in by Susie.
“I think that we always added very strong engineers, and it was just a question of putting a structure around them and making them work, in order to extract the best out of them.”
Mortara has a history of losing out on drivers’ titles by the narrowest of margins, including during the 2016 DTM championship when he lost the title to Marco Wittmann by just four points.
Last season, he narrowly missed another chance in the season finale in Berlin, which didn’t play out as expected. His Venturi collided with a stranded Mitch Evans – who was also in the championship fight – at the start line. Clearing the way for Nyck De Vries to claim his maiden title.
Even though Mortara has been close to winning championships in the past, he doesn’t see this streak as something that he should be worried about. The Swiss-Italian driver feels that the unpredictable nature of Formula E means that you have to take the misfortunes as they come.
“In Formula E you can have so many ups and also downs, but that’s quite normal because it’s very unpredictable, plus the nature of the championship with the qualifying format that we had last year, it was very easy to have ups and down moments over the course of the entire season,” stated Mortara.
“It was not the first time I was fighting for a title. I have had the chance to fight for important championships before like the DTM championship which I missed out on. However, I have won a few of them. That is part of the game in motorsport: Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but I wasn’t really surprised about what we achieved last year as a team, and it was still a strong season despite missing out.”
Season eight has brought about a new qualifying format that follows the more familiar grid structure, allowing the best team and drivers to have the possibility to take pole position.
Mortara has established himself as one of the drivers to beat over the course of the last two seasons. However, the Geneva-born racer admits that being consistent is one of the hardest skills in Formula E to learn, and he didn’t allow himself to blame the old qualification format for his inconsistencies in the past.
“Obviously, qualifying was important last year because of how random it was, and how it if affected your whole race weekend. Of course, It remains important this year. What we thought was causing our inconsistency is now something that we don’t have to worry about anymore due to the new qualifying format. However, I did not like to blame that for my performances.”
“This year, we are starting to see that it was not only the qualifying format that was causing issues in our consistency.
“I think it’s the level of the championship, and when you have really strong teams and strong drivers, sometimes certain packages work better than others and you cannot always be competitive.
“Sometimes, you will have a Mercedes that is very competitive. Then you will have a Porsche that is extremely competitive. Other times it’s going to be a DS. This changes quite a bit, and finding consistencies in this championship is extremely difficult.”
“I find it a little easier to put a really strong lap together because we only had one lap in the past, so there was a lot of pressure to perform; now we have about two or three shots at it, which takes some of the pressure away.”
“The entire level of the grid is increasing. So you have some pros and cons with this new qualifying format. I would not say that I prefer it, but for me it’s easier to perform well. It’s pretty much equal. So it’s easier to put in a very strong lap, but it is also the same for everybody else.”
Even though Mortara admits that the new qualifying format isn’t the perfect solution, he also thinks that Formula E doesn’t have to change the format back.
“I think that Formula E should find the best qualifying format that provides the best show, and I think we’ve made a step forward compared to the last year.
“I think that it’s more entertaining to follow qualifying now than it was in the past. So I think that they’ve made a good step now. I’m not saying that maybe there could be some other options and some other solutions. What I can only judge is that we have made some steps forward, and I think that this is very positive for the championship.”
Even with five years of experience in the series, Mortara believed that he has still been adjusting to the rigours of racing in Formula E. Mortara still thinks that he has a long way to go in perfecting his energy management skills to be successful in this series.
“You don’t really get used to what you’re experiencing in Formula E. I didn’t really struggle that much with what most drivers struggle with when they enter the sport, but what I did find difficult was energy management and I am still looking at ways to get better at this.”
“I didn’t really struggle with that like everyone else. I had a good way of managing that at the beginning which gave me a lot of confidence. That doesn’t mean that I was competitive in doing that, even though I was doing better than most, I was still not fully happy with how I was managing energy.”
“It’s difficult to get used to Formula E. What makes Formula E so hard is that you can’t practice in free practice sessions with the full power for a significant period of time. You had to go in qualifying discovering what the car will do, which is why the pressure of putting in a nearly perfect lap is so hard, and I’ve found this to be the biggest challenge.”
After three iconic car manufacturers – Audi, BMW and Mercedes – announced that they will withdraw from Formula E at the end of season eight, many legendary manufacturers are set to join the grid next season.
One of the new teams set to join are Maserati which will make history as the first Italian brand to compete in Formula E with its return to single-seater racing after 64 years with the debut of the Gen3 regulations, Mortara shared his opinion about the big announcement ahead of 2023.
“It was extremely positive for the championship, and when I found out that we were teaming up with Maserati, I was extremely happy. Hopefully, if I do a good job this season, I can prove that I can race for them in the years to follow.”