The mere fact that Nissan e.dams has fallen so far down the Formula E teams’ standings in one season is already pushing it into what is expected to be an almost forensic-like audit of its structure and operations.
It has to build towards the Gen3 era at the end of next season to launch a fightback from a disappointing 2021 campaign in which last year’s runner-up has squandered several strong positions and dropped to 10th in the teams’ championship with one event to go.
Its Nissan IM03 package is not lacking a massive amount of pace but the consistency of its application and a succession of points sapping events mean that it has graced the podium just once (Oliver Rowland at Puebla) and delivered a meagre average of six points per race.
These performances have been a major surprise this season, not least to the team itself.
But it’s not averse to making life difficult for itself. There is history.
In the 2018/19 season, both Sebastien Buemi and Rowland toiled with Nissan’s initially experimental dual-MGU powered IM01 design. Yes, it brought occasional performance but it also brought shunts, recrimination from competitors and a testy time with the FIA’s technical department.
That saga was eventually resolved in a somewhat shadowy fashion by the FIA outlawing the design from the end of that season onwards. It left technical director Vincent Gaillardot and his team enormously frustrated and left merely to scramble for a single MGU redesign over the summer of 2019.
In the circumstances, the team did a remarkable job then and last season to finish as runner-up in the 2019/20 teams’ standings after a late flourish in which Rowland scored his maiden win at Berlin and team-mate Buemi took three podiums in the final five races.
Now though there is despondency and it has contributed toward whispers that the e.dams off-shoot of the DAMS business is for sale.
Its owners are the sons of the company’s late founder – Jean-Paul Driot. Gregory and Olivier Driot attend some races but the day-to-day running of the operation is firmly in the hands of managing director Francois Sicard.
“The focus is now more on how to organise better the team to make sure that we develop when Generation 3 is here,” Sicard told The Race last month regarding the team’s immediate future.
“So how we improve the organisation for the development of the car and how to improve our racing team, so we are more focused on this.
“This is our approach for the long-term, to make sure that the future is secure, and the only way to secure the future of our race team is by winning.”
Whether the Driots sell up is entirely up to them but Nissan already has a slice of the operation in its dominions. That move came in September 2018 as Driot fought a brave battle against the illness that would sadly claim his life the following August.
Prior to the stake being acquired by Nissan, Alain Prost was the only other partner in the team – which was born in late 2013 as the visionary Driot bought into Formula E’s massive potential.
In 2021, two years after Driot’s death and three since Nisan bought into the operation, the roots of the partnership appear to stand strong despite the present ill-wind of underperformance.
“We are not discussing about the renewal of the relationship because this is a given for us,” Nissan’s global motorsports director Tommaso Volpe tells The Race.
“There are more important things that we are discussing [like] how to address Generation 3 which is more involved.
“In a way, we see it as a new cycle because this is what it is, and the change in the technology shows also opportunities in the different way to approach from the organisational point of view.
“So it’s not a question of the team now, just the question of how we refine the organisation between the racing team and the car development.”
There is a lot for Volpe and indeed Sicard to address right now. Nissan has lost Rowland to Mahindra, its once talismanic driver Buemi is in a trough that he appears unable to get out of and with homologation now set and fixed on the IM03, it could be a long final Gen2 season for the Franco-Japanese team.
This is why multiple mentions of resetting for Gen3 brew-up naturally in a conversation with Volpe and Sicard, and it is not long before the words ‘budget cap’ are mentioned.
“The matter for us is not about the partnership, it is about how we make sure that with Generation 3, where the technology is different, the level of competitiveness is much higher, there will be probably a budget cap,” says Volpe.
“So you need to be sure that you are as efficient as possible in every single dollar, pound or euro, how you spend.”
That will be a vital part of the recovery package for the team, which has been spending the days since the London E-Prix evaluating not only Rowland’s replacement but also how it makes the most of the lengthy five-month off-season between August and January.
Whatever Nissan e.dams decides it has to ensure that it can rekindle its forward momentum which it has somehow lost in 2021.
Berlin may or may not provide a last orders tonic but irrespective of that happening or not, Nissan e.dams will be one of the busiest of teams on the run up to Riyadh next January and the Gen3 era later in the year.