Oliver joined the Nissan e.dams Formula E team from the 2018/2019 season, and achieved rookie of the year in his maiden season. He brought a wealth of motor racing experience to the team, in a career that has spanned 20 years across multiple racing disciplines.
In 2020, as a supporter of Shell Eco-marathon, keen to honour the talents and achievements of the student teams, Oliver joined us as a special guest at the 2020 Europe Off-Track Awards.
We caught up with him to talk more about racing electric vehicles and the importance of energy optimisation in Formula E, what teamwork means to him and what tips he has for students aspiring to careers in STEM and motorsports.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: As someone that has always had a passion for motorsport, do you have some advice for the students taking part in the Shell Eco-marathon who are only just starting out in the automotive space?
Oliver: The one bit of advice I would give myself if I could go back is that nothing goes further than hard work. Pursue your dreams, never give up. There are bound to be hurdles on the journey, so I think it is very important to never give up, work hard and make sure you are as prepared as possible.
There is a balance in life as well. Of course, you have to enjoy life. Who knows where things can lead so I think it is very important to have a good balance, work hard and at the same time enjoy life and have no regrets.
Q: Many of our Shell Eco-marathon teams divide themselves into sub-teams when it comes to creating their vehicles (e.g. design, manufacturing, safety). As a racing driver who is part of a significant team operation, how important is cohesive teamwork in on-track success?
Oliver: The key thing to remember when working with a team is to have a good relationship. Everybody has got to feel comfortable in the relationship and I think communication is obviously key. Preparing well so everyone is on the same wavelength in terms of decision making and how they do that so there is no room for errors. I think that’s very important, as well as trying to be as relaxed as possible and communicate in the best way with the team.
Q: Shell Eco-marathon is all about energy optimisation. Teams use design techniques to build cars capable of being ultra-energy-efficient and develop a driving strategy that focuses on conserving energy on the track. How important is energy saving and efficiency in Formula E racing?
Oliver: Within motorsport everybody is trying to push the technical regulations to the limit all the time. That’s what we do in order to try and maximise our performance, so that comes first and there’s also the aspect of safety.
Within Formula E and what we do, the FIA do a great job of looking after that. We look for performance but behind that we have to pass a lot of checks. It is very similar to what they must do for the Shell Eco-marathon Off-Track awards.
Safety is extremely important and so is optimising technical skill. Optimising and maximising is a balance, they’re both very important things.
Q: What or who inspired you to get into motor racing?
Oliver: I think I knew I wanted to race professionally from a very early age. It was something I was extremely interested in growing up. I was more into bikes when I was younger, but my mum wasn’t too happy with me racing bikes.
Probably from the age of five or six I was very interested in racing and it quickly became apparent that I was quite okay. It was something I wanted to pursue and put a lot of effort into.
Q: Shell Eco-marathon encourages teams to innovate and look to the future of mobility. Formula E is often seen as a trailblazer and ahead of its time, how does it feel to be part of such a future-focused championship?
Oliver: It’s fantastic to be part of an innovative, future-thinking championship like Formula E. When I first started out in racing I didn’t know a lot about Formula E, but it’s really opened my eyes as to how we can help bring awareness to mobility solutions for the future, and I find this new technology very interesting. I’m looking forward to the future and excited to be part of Formula E.
Q: Shell Eco-marathon has many different vehicle classifications and categories for students to get involved with. As someone that has raced in multiple championships, including electric racing and internal combustion engines, what would you say are the key differences from a driver’s perspective between the two?
Oliver: I would say the two main differences between the two types of racing are acceleration time and noise. So firstly, when it comes to acceleration; with the electric powertrain there is an instant torque, so as a driver I get that power straight away and get to full speed instantly.
Secondly, noise… Although the combustion engine and the gears are undeniably noisy; compared to the Formula E electric motor and gear box working together, electric still has its own specific unique sound that is not completely silent as most people would assume.
Q: How do you cope under pressure / when facing challenges?
Oliver: I think it’s easy to get too wound up when under pressure, so I just try to keep things normal and relax, have a good laugh with the team and stay focused without adding anymore pressure.
Q: You’re used to travelling the world during the racing season, how do you stay motivated during a time when we must stay-at-home?
Oliver: I have been doing quite a lot of fitness training. Spending a little bit of time with family, it was nice to relax at the beginning and recharge batteries.
I think setting yourself new challenges and learning new things is a good one. As a racing driver you spend a lot of time on the road, so it was nice to do the normal things in life. And just knowing that the season was getting started again was enough to get the motivation and juices flowing.
We finished last season strong, I’m so happy with the results… I’ve achieved my first Formula E win in Berlin, as well as getting pole position and the fastest lap of that race.