Tales from the paddock: Ian James: “It’s going to be another tough battle to the bitter end”

Jan 26, 2022

While the F1 teams are making preparations for the official unveiling of their new cars and first test session of the new era, the eighth season of Formula E gets underway this coming weekend

  • News from the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport teams
  • Five questions for Ian James
  • Social media news: What’s new online?

News snippets

A new era dawns: The 2022 Formula One season brings many innovations and changes. New rules, new cars and new challenges signify the start of a whole new era in the sport. But before the actual racing action in the 73rd F1 season commences in Bahrain on 20 March 2022, all eyes will turn to Silverstone where the team will unveil the new Mercedes-AMG F1 W13 E Performance at a digital launch event on 18 February. Later that day, initial systems checks will be carried out on the W13 in the course of a shakedown session on the Silverstone track. The first official tests are scheduled for the week of 23 ‑ 25 February in Barcelona, with another three-day test taking place two weeks later from 10 ‑ 12 March immediately before the season opener in Bahrain.

Curtain-raiser in Diriyah: Meanwhile, the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team returns to the race track as early as this week. On Friday and Saturday, the first two rounds of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will be contested in Diriyah. Driving the two Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02s will once again be reigning world champion Nyck de Vries and his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. The 2.494 km circuit, which runs alongside the historic city walls of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diriyah, has already brought the team a number of successes in the past two years: in Season 6, Stoffel Vandoorne finished on the podium twice, and in Season 7, Nyck de Vries chalked up a maiden Formula E victory in the opening race. This year, the team can expect some new challenges at the start of the campaign, including a new qualifying format in which the drivers compete in head-to-head duels after the group stages. In addition, more power is available to the drivers in the race and the stewards have the discretion to extend the race duration by up to 10 minutes in the event of safety car deployments or full-course yellows.

WINWARD Racing secures pole position in GTD class at Roar before the Rolex 24: The legendary Daytona International Speedway hosted Sunday’s Roar before the Rolex, a qualifying race for next weekend’s 24-hour endurance classic. In the 100-minute session, Lucas Auer (AUT) and Russell Ward (USA) steered the number 57 WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to pole position in the GTD class. The #75 of SunEnergy1 Racing (P4), the #32 of Gilbert / Korthoff Motorsports (P5) and the #28 of Alegra Motorsports (P6) also secured promising starting positions in this class for the 60th Rolex 24 At DAYTONA.

The qualifying race, which was restricted to only two drivers per team, delivered a similar level of success in the GTD PRO class. Austin Cindric (USA) and Dirk Müller (GER) in the #15 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3 initially qualified fifth but were then the beneficiary of penalties handed out to the opposition. The duo, who will be supported by Patrick Assenheimer (GER) in the full 24-hour race, will now start from third place in their class. Maro Engel (GER) and Jules Gounon (FRA) driving the number 97 car of WeatherTech Racing were able to secure fifth on the grid in the GTD-PRO class. The prestigious 24-hour race in the US state of Florida starts on Saturday at 13:40 local time (19:40 CET, 18:40 GMT).

Five questions for Ian James

Ian, what’s the feeling now in the team to be cast in the role of the ‘hunted’ and not ‘hunter’ for the first time in the championship?

Ian James: We’re approaching Season 8 full of excitement and anticipation. We’re all champing at the bit, itching to get started again, but I don’t think our approach is about to change significantly now in terms of moving from being hunters to becoming the hunted. We still face the same challenges as in previous years and the fact that we won the World Championship last season doesn’t really mean anything as regards next season. We know how close this championship is and just how strong the opposition are. It’s going to be another tough battle to the bitter end.

Will that increase the pressure on the team and if so, how will you deal with it?

Ian James: The pressure is always there, for sure, but when I see the long hours everyone is currently working, I’m pleased to see that a real hunger to reach our full potential still exists within the team. We’ll approach the season with a measure of humility, which we must do, considering how strong our opponents are and how high the probability is that the championship will go to the wire. But pressure is always there, and that’s okay, you know. Pressure makes you stronger. We even welcome it, so we’re really looking forward to the season starting up again soon.

Taking the world championship double out of the equation for the moment, what were the main lessons learnt from last season that will make the team even stronger in Season 8?

Ian James: We learned a great deal during Season 7, especially from the challenges we had to overcome. We had a good start to the season but struggled towards the middle, which made us aware that we may perhaps have pushed too hard in a few areas that didn’t get us where we wanted to be. Instead, it put us slightly on the back foot. We’ve learned from that. We can always find the right way forward again provided we can draw the appropriate conclusions from our analysis, be brave enough to question what we’re doing and take a step back in order to change direction. It would be very nice were that to happen again at the end of Season 8. But this is crucial – if we’ve gone down a path that we think won’t work, then we need to hit the reset button and ensure that we make the necessary corrections.

So, does having the ability to adapt play a key role in all of this?

Ian James: Yes indeed. Being able to adapt and have the courage to question things and adapt where necessary are paramount. HPP at Brixworth plus the Formula One and Formula E racing teams in Brackley make for a strong combination.

How does the team benefit from these synergies?

Ian James: We always knew that whatever we managed to achieve would be passed on to the Mercedes-Benz motorsport family, and we can see that as well in our collaboration with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains at Brixworth. All the knowledge that we’ve been able to draw on from the work and development that have taken place as a result of Mercedes-Benz being involved in F1 and the fact that we’ve been able to use it to advance our own learning process in Formula E have been real assets as far as we’re concerned. Hopefully, we can give some of that back through our development work in Formula E so that the F1 power unit can remain as powerful as possible in the future.

I’ve spoken on many occasions about the cultural aspects, if you like, of what we can learn from the success of the entire team here at Brackley. The much-vaunted ‘no-blame’ culture that we have here is also crucial to our success. We are very proud to be part of this family and that has undoubtedly given us the opportunity to accelerate our development and has also contributed to our title win. The synergies that exist in our motorsport family will not only be relevant in the upcoming season but also for the future. The culture and know-how that we’ve built up here will continue to benefit us and form a core part of our organisation over the long term.

Social Media News

#RoadTo2022: New year, new car and a new era for F1: Formula One is undergoing some major changes for the 2022 season. James Allison talks us through the innovative features and reveals why they’ve been introduced.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4c_0sM8P5U

#FiringUpW13: The start of a new F1 era and the first firing-up of our 2022 F1 car. The W13 comes alive!

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI4PqFhvvaE

#MyJobInF1: In the latest episode of ‘My Job in F1’, we introduce Victoria, our Marketing Operations Director. Whether it’s sponsorship events, car livery, hospitality or team clothing, Victoria’s role to ensure that all aspects of marketing are delivered to the highest standards by the various people responsible.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEdAi5c1YtY

#BehindTheScenes: We take a look behind the closed factory doors on race day at the Qatar GP and reveal what happens in the Race Support Room before, during and after the race.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLXXmIPisgI

#TheNightShift: When night falls and most of us are already asleep, the work in the factory still goes on. A few weeks ago, we joined the night shift to find out what our hard-working team-mates are up to.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr48TlDTakk

#8xF1Champions: What does it mean to be a team? It’s not just the trophies in the cupboard: it’s the spirit, the challenges you’ve had to overcome and the way in which you’ve done it... It’s about the opponents we’ve raced against, the friends we’ve won and the friends we’ve lost. All of that makes us what we are.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I88ClBH5jfA

Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, Launch
Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, Launch
Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, Launch
#97 Mercedes-AMG GT3, WeatherTech Racing, and #28 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Alegra Motorsports
#75 Mercedes-AMG GT3, SunEnergy1 Racing
#57 Mercedes-AMG GT3, WINWARD Racing
Russell Ward (left) and Lucas Auer, #57 Mercedes-AMG GT3, WINWARD Racing