The Debrief: Inside Max’s incredible São Paulo performance

Maserati MSG Racing’s Chief Engineer, Cyril Blais, debriefs São Paulo with insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

With the wave of the chequered flag comes the end of another race. But the 2024 São Paulo E-Prix wasn’t just any race – it was a race that will be remembered.

From facing an impossible scenario before lights out to leaving Brazil after staging one of the greatest comeback drives seen in Formula E, São Paulo was the epitome of achievement.

With the World Championship’s 10th season back underway, our Chief Engineer, Cyril Blais, debriefs the weekend using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“We executed an incredible race in São Paulo, and after turning a challenging scenario to our advantage, the whole team is elated, and deservedly so,” says Cyril, who was named as Formula E’s Engineer of the Year in 2023.

“After the Diriyah E-Prix in January, we faced a big gap in the calendar, and we made sure to take advantage of this break to look into our performance with a lot of depth.

“When we did this, we identified several key areas where we could improve our package, and we introduced some new solutions for the weekend. I think our hard work really showed.

“In 2023, São Paulo was a key turning point for us as a team – it was the first weekend in Season 9 where our performance aligned, and I think this added to our motivation for this year.

“Before we even got into the weekend though, we were aware that it might be difficult, especially for Max, because we changed his gearbox and then his inverter after FP1.

“Making those changes came with a penalty but we knew there would be a lot of overtaking in Brazil, so took the hit on a track where we knew it would be possible to recover.”

After changing the gearbox and inverter, Max received two 20-place grid penalties which ensured that the 26-year-old would start from last, regardless of where he qualified.

“The penalty meant that Max would start from last, but because it came in at 40 places in total, we also knew that he would have to serve a 10-second stop-go penalty in the race which would put him even further from the field,” explains Chief Engineer, Cyril.

“We planned the strategy far in advance, but I think we were all quietly confident, especially after Max qualified third which showed us that the car was in a good window.

“He took his stop-go penalty at the end of lap one, but the Safety Car on lap seven – which our strategy relied on – allowed Max to close up to the back of the pack.

“With the advantage of the slipstream, Max saved a good amount of energy and with real-time data insights that we received from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, we were able to execute a strong strategy.

“Max chose to move forward in the peloton at the perfect time and did some good, clean, and consistent overtakes to move into the top 10.

“Going from last after the stop-go, 25 seconds behind the next closest car, to finish ninth at the flag, only eight seconds off the lead, is an amazing performance. We’re super happy with the result.”

Marking the fourth race of his Formula E career, the São Paulo E-Prix presented another learning opportunity for Jehan Daruvala, who tasted his first experience of the series’ peloton form of competition.

“São Paulo was Jehan’s first experience of peloton racing in Formula E, and I think the intensity wasn’t what he expected, but he’s making good progress every single weekend,” continues Cyril.

“Formula E is a very difficult championship, especially for a rookie driver, and as the only rookie on the grid this season, Jehan is on a very steep learning curve at the moment.

“The pace he showed in practice was the best he’s shown all season, if it wasn’t for a small mistake in his second qualifying run, I think he was on course for another duel appearance.

“One lap pace is definitely Jehan’s strongest area of performance right now, but he’s constantly improving in race conditions, and we know that we’re getting closer to a breakthrough result.”

Following São Paulo, preparations are already in full-swing for the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix – Formula E’s debut race in Japan – on March 30.

“The team is owed a big thank you for such a great effort this weekend,” adds Cyril.

“From changing the gearbox and inverter on Max’s car, our mechanics were very busy, and together, we pulled together a strong performance in what seemed like an impossible scenario.

“Tokyo is the next race this season, and because it’s a new circuit, every team will be starting from the same position which should level the playing field.

“We’ll regroup, debrief the weekend, focus on what we can do to improve and hopefully, secure an even stronger finish in the next race.”