Formula E interview with Nissan driver Oliver Rowland: "I needed a break, no question about it"
Oliver Rowland is back in Formula E. After his premature surprise exit from Mahindra, the 31-year-old Brit returned to his "old love" e.dams - now the Nissan works team. In an exclusive interview with e-Formula.news, he gives an insight into his life of the soul following the Mahindra exit, talks about his new role model role for Sacha Fenestraz and explains his roadmap leading up to the pre-season testing in Valencia.
Oliver, the split with Mahindra is now a few months ago. From whom did it originate?
It was ultimately my decision. It just wasn't (at Mahindra) the way I would have liked it to be. Honestly, I didn't feel anything was going to change in the short term.
But so mid-season - that came as quite a surprise to most...
On the other hand, that was not my decision. I wanted to finish the season in a good way, but I didn't have the chance to do that anymore. It was a bit of a surprise and came at relatively short notice, but all the better. I had plans up my sleeve anyway. I'm in a better position now and much happier.
As we've seen on your social media channels, you've had a lot of time for your family over the past few months. How much did you enjoy the break?
Without any doubt, it's nice to spend a lot of time with your family, but at the same time it was hard for me to watch the races and not be there, especially the first ones. It became a bit easier then. I have my karting team and I spent a lot of time with them. I organised this and that to put myself in a good position for the rest of the year. But in the last few months it's become a bit boring now and then.
Was the time off also helpful in view of your recent fluctuating form?
I needed a break, no question about it. I literally started at Mahindra right after the Berlin E-Prix (2021 season finale), bit the bullet and exhausted myself. Maybe that's also a reason why my performance deteriorated a bit. I wasn't as consistent anymore. I was frustrated, tired and kind of fed up with the situation. Was it necessary? Yes. Did I enjoy it? I'll put it this way: I don't want to stop racing anytime soon.
Nissan has had a real resurgence in the second half of the 2023 season, the powertrain is competitive. Did the decision to leave Mahindra save your career?
Time will tell, but I firmly believe in it. Otherwise I wouldn't have been so convinced to leave the situation I was in. If you don't perform in a racing series like Formula E for two or three years, then you are forgotten very quickly. So I had to make that decision, be brave. In the end, it paid off.
You previously drove for Nissan e.dams from Season 5 to Season 7, now the return. How much does the team feel like family to you?
100 per cent! I already feel very comfortable here again. I have only worked a little with the team so far, but things will progress here. I joined the team a few weeks ago for the first time for a proper session with Sacha and all the race engineers. There are a lot of new people compared to when I was there. I would say about 70 percent of the team is new. Still, it felt like home again straight away.
What some people probably don't know: Your history with the team goes back even further.
I've been in and out of there since late 2016, when I was still at DAMS. That was quite a while ago, but I immediately felt at home again. I feel respected there. I think people are grateful for what I have contributed in the past. I want to believe that I can help them move forward again in the future.
Your young teammate Sacha Fenestraz (24 years old) has also changed your role: You are suddenly the veteran in the team.
Yes, it is the first time that I have a younger teammate. I see it as my responsibility to show him the 'mature' way of doing things. I remember it well when I was his age. It was exactly the same with me and Seb (Buemi) back then, only the other way round.
What can Sacha learn from you?
Let's see - maybe he'll spank me (laughs). He's already really good and I'm sure he'll be very quick in qualifying. What I can bring to the table is experience. I've been through it, made right and wrong decisions. I know what works here and what doesn't, and how to motivate the team. In the races, I'm sure I can help him a bit more, because we want to race with two riders at the front.
Sacha has been able to set real highlights in his first year, but has also made some momentous mistakes, like in Cape Town when he blew his first podium.
That's normal. I made a lot of mistakes in my first season. It's more about the evaluation afterwards. Seb would always put his arm on my shoulder and say, "You're doing a good job." Sacha clearly showed what kind of speed he has, and that's the most important foundation in Formula E.
Why are the races in Formula E in particular so difficult for newcomers?
They are completely different from a time trial. It takes a completely different attitude and mentality. There is a lot more to manage and at the same time we (Nissan) probably don't have the easiest package in the world to do that. We are very fast on a lap, but probably not the most efficient. But that will come with time.
The collective pre-season test sessions begin in Valencia on 23 October. What is your timetable until then?
First of all, I'm getting married in Ibiza. Then we have a test day at the beginning of October, followed by simulator sessions, the shakedown of our race cars, and then it's off to Valencia.
There is no time for a honeymoon?
No, we'll do that in November when the tests are over (laughs). We have to see how they go first. It would be too much time that we would lose, especially with a new project like this. I don't want to be away for several weeks. We have to step on the gas.