That’s a bit more like it,” said Alexander Sims on the team radio after winning his first Formula E race back in December. “I might even crack a smile on the podium.” The clichéd narcissist extrovert racing driver profile doesn’t exactly fit when it comes to one of Britain’s highest motorsport performers. Studious and serious but with a nice line in quiet, self-deprecating humour, Sims has always been a breath of fresh air.
The last time we caught up with him, last summer, he’d just finished a topsy-turvy Formula E season in which he’d been involved in a few too many incidents and accidents. But a maiden pole position and podium in the final round in New York had left him hopeful that BMW Andretti would re-sign him for a second crack at the all-electric single-seater series – especially as he is a genuine believer in EV propulsion. Again, he’s not your average racing driver.
Fast-forward to our strange lockdown present and Sims can reflect on a satisfying few months – despite the odd blip. BMW Andretti did indeed keep the faith, which Sims immediately repaid at the Saudi Arabian double-header season opener with two more poles and that maiden win. It was an “unexpected but fantastic” opener, especially for BMW, which stole the limelight from much-vaunted Formula E newcomers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Significantly, neither has yet to win a race.
For Sims, 32, it’s been up and down since then. Typically of Formula E, there were no repeat winners in the five rounds completed until Covid-19 led to a rash of race postponements. Who knows what happens next and when but, as it stands, Sims is third in the points, 21 down on leader and ex-BMW team-mate António Félix da Costa, who has switched to reigning champion DS Techeetah, with Jaguar’s Mitch Evans splitting them. Sims’ new, young and impressive team-mate, Maximilian Günther, is just two points behind after winning in Santiago, Chile, which leaves BMW Andretti just eight points down on DS Techeetah in the teams’ standings.
“The biggest thing really is just the depth of the field,” says Sims. “Everyone is absolutely on it, with big operations behind them and a lot of smart people working really hard. If you have an off-day for whatever reason – we all do make mistakes – you can fall so quickly. You can look very mediocre with a relatively small error.”
Sims audibly tightens when he recalls his own mistakes this term, the first in Santiago when he understeered into a wall while running 11th and the second a final-lap collision with Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara in Marrakech while fighting for fifth. “It was a light touch from him, moving across on me in the braking zone, but it damaged the driveshafts,” he says. “In that moment, you think ‘I shouldn’t have gone for the move, I should have played it safe’. Then you think back to the eight people I overtook in Mexico and the five I overtook in Marrakech up to that point. I was aggressive when I needed to be and they worked out fine. It’s such a difficult balancing act. When you’re fast you have got to push the issue – and sometimes it goes wrong.”