Is Mazzola unlocking Venturi's potential?

Last week I spoke to former Ferrari testing guru, Luigi Mazzola talks to Trent Price about the hidden keys to unlocking performance and how it can push Venturi up the Formula E grid.

Mazzola’s career at Maranello concluded in 2009 as coordinating director of performance development. In that time, Mazzola accrued a spectacular eight constructors World Championships.

Whilst sporadically keeping his hand in motor sport, Mazzola’s expertise in people management saw him develop a successful executive coaching business that also encourages and finds direction for young talent. It was these rare attributes that Venturi team owner Gildo Pastor recognised would be an excellent fit for his race team; recruiting the 54 year old Italian to augment team coordinator Franck Baldet in developing Venturi into a Formula E front runner.

In some ways, the move to Venturi is a return to square one for Mazzola, having experienced the slightly chaotic environment at Ferrari during the early 90’s and steering it towards the powerhouse it eventually became until the early 2000’s. But he says the turnaround was indicative of the era’s relaxed testing regulations.

“There were much more people working in the company (Ferrari) with more specialized work in each technical area”, explains Mazzola. “We had a complete structure for testing, the number of days testing and more budget.”

Mazzola is keen to highlight that nowadays, short-term on track results must be sacrificed for long-term gains. Suggesting that while Venturi’s podium at Long Beach was a spike in the right direction, we mightn’t see the team’s full potential until at least the 2017-18 season.

“Really everything is innovation and development is more difficult without testing, I don’t think could be a different way to develop ideas without compromising the season” says Mazzola.

“It is possible to dedicate a year to develop not considering the result in the championship in that year - an example could be McLaren Honda in 2015? Either text bench, simulator etc are not a complete solution. They help but are not enough.”

A major theme in Luigi’s coaching is about ‘being in the present’. But there is more to this concept than just not getting ahead of yourself and not allowing setbacks to distract you from the ultimate objective. His explanations bare a remarkable similarity to those of Argentinian designer Enrique Scalabroni – who also worked at Ferrari during the early 90’s – both in their views on collaboration in sport and the wider world at large.

“Performance is in the being in the present, anxiety is in the future, guilty sense and judging are in past”, Mazzola explains. “If everyone understand this concept the entire world will be much better. It is a spiritual concept and my experience help me to understand and looking for this concept.

If you think a company it set his performance with target and objectives to achieve, but an objective is looking for the future so is causing anxiety and fears. To make them understand that is the travel and not the final destination that make as happy is my goal. Travel means action, action mean being in the present.”

Mazzola says he has already identified the areas that require tweaking at Venturi, saying they “are different ones and once putted right will be a surprise for everyone in the team”.

Often the most efficient race teams run with an open-plan approach, with all areas of the operation communicating; e.g. not hiding behind office doors or emails.

It’s an approach that worked successfully for Pat Symonds both at Manor and Williams and one that Mazzola definitely subscribes to; reiterating that “knowing every-one has got importance, a clear action plan obtained through solutions from everyone, commitment to the company, using emotions and sharing emotions are the key to achieved interesting results”.

Luigi indicates that while seeing “some races on TV” during the debut season of Formula E, his move to Venturi was prompted as much by inquisitiveness as it was by the need to compete again.

“After several year working in the business I defined a clear package of work to offer to the company and now I’m more free to think something else” he admits. “I’ve been always curios and looking for changing, Venturi was and is a best option to come back to the motorsport. I’m a racer and I like a lot to be in competition.”

Like a supplier, there is always a risk that customers may sometimes upstage you. Nevertheless, there is a silver lining knowing that Venturi’s powertrain is a competitive package – as shown by Dragon’s qualifying performances and Jerome DÁmbrodio’s win in Mexico. If there there is indeed any data sharing with Dragon, Mazzola is coy; stating that he is “too young in the team to answer to the question, give me more time into the company and I will answer.”

And Luigi’s thoughts on the WMSC’s review of Formula E’s road map in relation to bespoke batteries in season 5? As a man who’s success at Ferrari was rooted firmly in development, does he believe a sole supplier or bespoke development is the right way forward for the series?

“I think season 5 will be quite interesting”, he says. “Open to the development to the battery will be the key for this championship.”