With restricted time between sessions and countless amounts of data to analyse, the role of a Formula E Head of Performance is a stressful one and pressure is present at all times.
For every issue there must be a fix and every decision comes with consequence. Planning strategy is an art-form and at the end, there is one objective: Executing the perfect race.
As Head of Performance, Alex Dardelet is no stranger to the demands of his job, and with over one decade of experience in his field, cuts a cool, calm and collected figure in the ROKiT Venturi Racing garage.
In the final part of our observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, Alex opens up about the pressures of his job and explains the value of preparation in such a high-stakes environment.
“Quite a lot of my role relates to optimising the performance of the car but we can experience very different challenges from one weekend to the next,” says Alex.
“Even from one session to another, things can change quite quickly so it is very important to be adaptable and proactive to solve and minimise issues.
“Formula E is all about preparation and half of the job is done in the simulator before you even hit the track. After FP1, you should not be too far off.
“From there, you need to maintain momentum but one of the trickiest things is the time. Practice, qualifying and the race all take place on one day so there is very little time to analyse data between sessions.
“All work needs to be done in a very short amount of time and to do this, you need 200% focus. You need to be on auto-pilot and because of the time restraint, the pressure and stress can be high.
“Problems need to be solved efficiently and this is the most challenging part of being an engineer in Formula E.”
In this high-octane environment, adrenaline builds and in the heat of competition, emotions run high although as Alex explains, remaining calm is crucial to delivering a strong result.
“During a race weekend, there are a lot of different emotions at play but I can never allow them to influence my decisions because I have to make the right call,” he continues.
“No matter what is happening, you need to stay focussed, stay calm and you need to anticipate what the next move will be. It’s like high-speed chess.
“To get the best strategy outcome, I remember that whatever is happening is happening and that I cannot change it. I know that we need to execute the best possible race, regardless of what’s going on.”
To cope in the face of pressure, extensive preparation is at the top of Alex’s agenda before each race weekend, with the correct knowledge providing him with the right tools to get the job done.
“I think that by maximising my own preparation, I can react well in moments of stress because it means that it is easier to respond to different situations,” explains Alex.
“I have been in Formula E since Season 2 and have experienced how fast things can change from one moment to another.
“With experience, you get used to reacting and even if things change suddenly, I don’t get too stressed because I know how to respond.
“We also make sure to train before the weekend by simulating mistakes in the simulator so, if it happens in reality, it is easier to react and stay calm because you know what you need to do.
“Making mistakes is universal and it is common to make them under pressure. That is why we make sure we know what to expect when we come to the track.
“Like an exam at school, if you are fully prepared, there is nothing to be scared of. You know that you have prepared and that you are the best that you can be. Then, you know that you cannot blame yourself because you did everything that you could do.”
Upon completing a race weekend, all attention shifts to the next event on the Formula E calendar but before preparing for the next E-Prix, Alex takes care to rest, recharge and reset by taking the time to disconnect from the pressures and stresses of work.
“As soon as I get back home after a race, I always make sure to take out half of my day so I can go out and play golf,” he adds.
“I switch off my phone and I play for three or four hours so I can focus on something different to my job.
“I love golf. It allows me to relax and get rid of any negative emotions that I might have. In that way, I think golf is very important to my mental preparation.
“The sport itself is quite challenging and it is important to stay calm. I think it helps me to react properly when we are at the track and regardless of what’s going on, I can get my head down and get the job done.”