The Season of a Rookie: Monaco

Norman Nato looks back on a landmark weekend of racing… 

There’s something special about Monaco – it’s a statement that cannot be denied and with allure and prestige, it’s the circuit that every racing driver dreams about.

With a proven track record in the Principality, Norman Nato is a driver who is well acquainted with the historic streets and just as Formula E made a return in 2021, so too did the Frenchman.

As the seventh round of Season 7, the Monaco E-Prix was a landmark one, and here at ROKiT Venturi Racing, we returned to our roots and entered the stage for our home event.

Competing on the full configuration for the very first time, it was a weekend of firsts, and for Norman, it was an exciting return to one of his happiest hunting grounds.

“Monaco is the circuit that you dream about as a driver in your junior career so to compete on the world’s most prestigious race track is always special,” said the 27-year-old.

“Before the E-Prix, the last time I raced there was in Formula 2 back in 2017 but walking the track and preparing for the event was still very exciting.

“Competing on the full configuration of the circuit was a really big change compared to past seasons but I think the event took a massive step forward in terms of the spectacle.

“I think it was fantastic. There was so much overtaking and I think we put on a really great show. I hope we can race there more often.”

As the first and only single-header event of the current campaign, one sole race on Saturday meant that everything had to fall into place from the outset.

A disrupted practice programme, however, placed Norman on the back foot in the run-up to qualifying, although the Frenchman remained focused and determined.

“Looking back on the weekend, I don’t think our results mirrored the comeback we achieved – so much was going on behind the scenes and I think in the end, we were quite strong,” he explained.

“During FP1, I had a puncture which cost me some track time and over both practice sessions, I kept encountering a braking issue which meant it was difficult to get a clear view of our true pace and performance.

“We ended up changing the brakes just before qualifying, and using a new set of brakes, you aren’t always completely confident because you haven’t tried them out before.

“I lost a lot of time in Sector 1 for that reason but my second and third sectors were quite good – we ended up missing out on Super Pole by only one-tenth which put us in P10.

“To be honest, in these circumstances with limited preparation, we did quite a good job and if everything had gone as we planned, I think we could have easily been inside the top five.

“Going into the race, it was over before it really began and on lap 1, I had three cars in front of me that were fighting side-by-side on the run to Turn 3.

“At some point, Buemi had to avoid another driver and he turned into me and I got a really big hit which damaged my car, specifically the steering.

“My steering was very unresponsive and in slow corners, I had no rotation which meant I had to stay on the brakes for longer and I lost a lot of car performance because of that.

“I wasn’t able to have the minimum speed that I wanted and that meant that I was burning more energy so I then had to try and save more at different points during each lap.

“It was just about survival and we were limited with what we could realistically achieve. It was frustrating and it’s a story of what could have been but that’s Formula E.”

With seven races under his belt, Norman’s rookie season is already at its halfway point and from April to May alone, the Frenchman contested six races – double the number he took part in in the whole of 2020.

A three-week gap precedes the next race of the current campaign, however, and Norman will be making the most of this break for some much-needed downtime.

“In the whole of last year, I only did three races because of the pandemic but in the past month, I did six because of Formula E and WEC. The start to the season has been flat-out!

“Now that we have a gap between races, I’m going to rest. I’m going to see my family, do some physical training and get ready for the second half of the season.

“It’s good to have a break, especially after such an intense period, not only for us drivers but also the team in general. We get to reset and this means that we can come back stronger.

“The first half has been a very big and fast learning curve and for sure, I’m feeling more comfortable in the car although there are still some things I think I can improve on.

“I expect us to be more competitive in the second half of the season.”