Alexander Sims is far from your typical racing driver. “The catalyst for my interest in electric vehicles was racking up miles about 10 years ago and getting fed up putting petrol in my car,” he says. “I remember three fill-ups in one week, like Groundhog Day, 60 litres at a time. I thought this can’t be the end solution. It seemed unsustainable behaviour.”
Not many of his breed speak in this way. But Sims, 31, never did fit the stereotype, even as a rising single-seater star. The Formula 1 dream faded early, but for the past five years, he’s earned respect as a pro for BMW in GTs in Britain, mainland Europe and the US. Then last year, as BMW prepared to step into Formula E, he landed a surprise call-up. “I honestly felt that single-seater ship had sailed,” he says.
The series couldn’t have a better – or more genuine – ambassador. “I switched early to a hybrid,” he says of his early EV conversion. “It was marginally better, but I felt like I’d gone from 45mpg to 50… So what’s next? The Tesla Roadster was about all there was at the time, so I wangled my way to get one, largely through the ‘Bank of Dad’! I’ve been fascinated by them ever since as the solution to decarbonising personal transportation.”
For those who’ve followed his career, the seat in a team run by Michael Andretti was all that Sims deserved. And it seemed that faith would be rewarded when he and team-mate António Félix da Costa – another who should have F1 starts to his name – ran one-two in the season opener back in December. Then they collided.