In motorsport, a racing driver’s mentality and sheer determination is second only to mechanical innovation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that on the weekend photographer Adam Whitehead took these photos, Formula E driver Jean-Éric Vergne came from 11th on the starting grid to clinch a third-place podium spot after missing practice with suspected coronavirus.
Shot in Marrakech at the last race before the season’s pandemic suspension in February 2020, this series captures what Vergne has described as his most difficult weekend in Formula E to date. It may have been the most unwell he has ever felt, but, ‘when you see the red lights going off at the start, it just clicks and you go into a different mode. It’s like some extra power is taking over your body,’ Vergne says. It is this mindset that has helped him to gather an impressive set of racing credentials.
At 32 years old, JEV, as he’s known to friends and fans, counts junior karting and British Formula 3 titles as early triumphs, while more recent career highlights include three Formula 1 seasons with Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso, then a stint at Ferrari as a test driver, and four 24 Hours of Le Mans race finishes under his belt.
Now he has found his place as one of the most decorated and experienced drivers in the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E championship, having won 10 races and two world titles, and competed in seven seasons with an eighth under way: ‘The season started pretty well… I think we’re in a good position to fight for the championship if we continue to score points and fight for podiums. I’m very confident and am working better than ever with my team.’
In the past, Vergne has admitted that losing his F1 seat left him feeling negative. It is, however, the toughest moments that help us to grow the most: ‘You cannot go back and change things. I am where I am thanks to the mistakes and the good things I’ve done, and I’m very happy with who I am in my personal and professional life. You’ve got to be happy with what you achieve. And in that way, I’m happy.’
The Formula E season continues in Berlin on 14-15 May and races in London take place on 30-31 July; fiaformulae.com
Photography by Adam Whitehead