The Season of a Rookie: Valencia

Norman Nato reflects on another promising weekend in Valencia… 

After narrowly missing out on his first podium in Rome, Norman Nato held a clear objective in mind when Formula E returned to the Circuit Ricardo Tormo to contest the Valencia E-Prix.

The Frenchman was primed to seize every opportunity, and in the face of a historic moment for the series, was ready to race into the unknown.

As Formula E’s first race on a purpose-built circuit, the Valencia weekend was tipped to be the series’ most challenging to date as EV technology was pushed further than ever before.

With high energy consumption and ever-evolving conditions, the weekend changed Formula E’s regular recipe as wheel-to-wheel action was exchanged for a battle of strategy.

“Valencia was a big unknown for Formula E, and because it is so demanding in terms of energy consumption, we knew that racing on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo would be a challenge,” explained Norman.

“Formula E is about managing energy and I think that was shown, maybe more than ever, last weekend.

“Because it was really tight in terms of energy, finding the right balance between pushing and conserving wasn’t easy and I think that changed the way we raced.

“Formula E cars are designed to race on street circuits and that means we’re always on the limit but Valencia had a big focus on strategy management – both races were about saving as much as you could.”

In the tempestuous conditions of Race 1, the energy demands of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo were perfectly illustrated when, regardless of the rain, conservation was at its most challenging.

Dealing with such a situation came as a surprise for the majority of the field, and instead of fighting for position, it became a fight for survival.

“Race 1 in Valencia was my first proper wet race in Formula E and because you don’t usually have to save as much energy in those conditions, the fact that energy management was such an important factor showed just how demanding the circuit was,” said Norman.

“For sure, we had a lot of wheelspin in some corners, but the strategy was like we were racing in the dry and this caught a lot of people out. In the end, it was just about surviving.

“I think I was too aggressive at some points and I never thought it would be so difficult to save even a little bit of energy – it was a big surprise to all of us.”

Facing the need to save an unprecedented amount of energy, slipstreaming was a key component throughout the weekend in what was a conservative approach to competition.

While playing a role in the first leg of the double-header, it was instrumental in Race 2 as nose to tail action created motorsport’s nail-biting equivalent of a peloton as Norman explains.

“Slipstreaming was one of the biggest tactics during the weekend and while it was working in Race 1, it was even more effective in Race 2.

“By staying close to the car in front, we were able to lift earlier than usual without scrubbing off speed and that meant we could lift and coast and regen more energy than usual.

“In the car, I had to play it smart – when to overtake, when to push, when to follow even if you’re quicker. It was very strategic.

“After the opening laps, Race 2 became a waiting game and that made it very intense. The pack was bunched up and we were all biding our time and I was in a good position with my energy.

“Half-way through, the two cars in front of me slowed down a lot in Turn 9, maybe to save more energy and that caused me to tap Alex Lynn – I just couldn’t avoid him.

“This gave me a five-second penalty which was a shame because up until that point, we had executed everything perfectly.

“When Dennis slowed down in the chicane to shorten the race by one lap, I again didn’t expect it but it meant that all of the cars behind me closed the gap so that’s why we finished in P5 after the penalty was applied.

“For sure, it was frustrating not to finish P2 and to miss out on the podium but I think, overall, it was a good weekend. In qualifying for Race 1, I was only one-tenth off pole position and in Race 2 I think we had the fastest car on the track.

“Despite the penalty, it was a good day for the team overall and after Rome, we showed that we’re capable of fighting for the podium and that it’s not just down to luck. That was very important to me.”

Having now scored his first top 10 finish in Formula E, Norman’s attention now shifts towards the next race of Season 7 – ROKiT Venturi Racing’s home race, the Monaco E-Prix.

As motorsport’s most prestigious venue, all want to taste success in the Principality, but nevertheless, ROKiT Venturi Racing’s rising star is staying focused on the task at hand.

“I can’t wait to race in Monaco next weekend because in a Formula E car, it’s much more fun to drive on a street circuit and everything is more on the limit,” added Norman.

“When you are young, you always dream about Monaco and winning there on such an iconic circuit is very special. It’s the most prestigious of them all.

“I’m fortunate to have been successful in Monaco in the past – I won there in Formula Renault 3.5, I won the Monaco Kart Cup when I was young and I finished on the podium in Formula 2.

“In the end though, we have the same goal for the next race. We want to do the best we can, avoid mistakes and if we have the performance, fight for podiums and wins.

“I’m still a rookie in Formula E so I’m always learning and improving on a step by step basis but we have to go for it.

“Since Diriyah, we have shown that we can fight for silverware and if we can keep this momentum, I’m sure that finally, one day soon, we will be jumping on the podium.”