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Q&A with Nissan's Oliver Rowland and Dorian Boisdron on Formula E Team's Past and Present

Veteran driver Rowland and team director Boisdron reflect on previous Formula E campaigns and look ahead to the 10th season.

The 2024 Formula E season gets underway on Saturday, January 13 in Mexico City. Now in its 10th season, the global circuit, which features 11 teams, has been described as the Formula One of electric vehicle racing. 

The Nissan Formula E Team, frequently called Nismo, features veteran British driver Oliver Rowland, 31, and French teammate Sacha Fenestraz, who is 24.

In December 2023, Rowland and team director Dorian Boisdron participated in an interview session in Yokohama, reflecting on their past experiences in Formula E and looking ahead to the new season and beyond.

This interview was first published on the Nissan Global Newsroom website. It is republished below courtesy of Nissan.

A Shared History for Rowland and Boisdron

Oliver "Oli" Rowland and Dorian Boisdron are both integral names in the history of the Nissan Formula E Team. They have been part of some of its most successful campaigns, including season 6, when the outfit ended the year as vice-champion. Dorian has held the position of team director since 2022, while Oliver makes a return to the squad as an experienced driver to partner with promising youngster Sacha Fenestraz, following two years away. 

The duo discusses the paths they took to their current positions, as well as some of the responsibilities involved in their positions today.

What lessons did you take from during your previous time with the team?

Rowland: A lot, almost everything I know about Formula E came from that time. I entered the team not knowing much about the series, but despite the fact I had little preparation, I still enjoyed those early days, and learned a lot from them. [And] I found that energy management was crucial, and handling this effectively throughout a race was an important lesson to take on board. 

My experienced teammate at the time, Sébastien Buemi, helped me a great deal when I joined, making sure I integrated with the crew and learned how to [give] feedback to the engineers. Everyone at Nissan guided me in the right direction and shaped me into the person I am today.

Formula E
Team director Dorian Boisdron in a December 2023 portrait. (Courtesy of Nissan Formula E Team)

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Recollections of Early Days with Nismo

What do you remember from when you first joined the Nissan Formula E Team?

Boisdron: I've had a long relationship with this outfit. I first joined the team as development manager. This covered the R&D (research and development) and manufacturing of the car and its components. One of my first memories of being at the team was working on the highly complex concept that we were developing at the time ― it proved to be quite a challenge from an engineering standpoint. It was at this time when Oli first joined us, ahead of the launch of the Gen2 cars.

How has your career progressed since then?

Boisdron: I've had a few roles within the squad. As mentioned, I was the development manager for my first two years, and then I joined the race side of our operations as team and sporting manager. This was during Gen2, when strategy was particularly crucial with the race format at the time. We had to make constant calculations about the pace of our drivers, the possibility of a Safety Car, and such. In that time, I developed my relationship with the managing director, and he taught me how to tackle new tasks, such as organizing and managing. 

With the transition to Gen3, there were reshuffles and I was appointed team director. It was, and continues to be, a great opportunity for me to grow both as an engineer and a person.

Formula E
Nismo driver Oliver Rowland (Courtesy of Nissan Formula E Team)

The Evolution of the Nissan Formula E Team

What has changed and what has stayed the same during the time Oli has been away from the team?

Rowland: Quite a lot has changed, but the key thing that has stayed the same is the mentality and will to win. The people here have the same passion, motivation and hard-working nature that has served them so well in the past. In terms of differences, I think the team has grown into itself a little more. The structure has changed, and there is now a good balance of new faces and some of the old guard who were here during my previous stint. 

Dorian, [Nismo managing director] Tommaso [Volpe] and everyone at Nissan have done a great job building the team ― it is because of their hard work that we continue to grow day by day.

Boisdron: I would agree with Oli's points ― the structure has changed over the period, including the ownership as well as staff. We now have more structure, with more managers and oversight, especially in the technical and administration areas. However, I believe we have kept our pure racing spirit that is so vital to this team's DNA.

Additional Recollections of Working Together

What are your best memories of working with Oli?

Boisdron: One of our best moments together came at the end of season 6 [in 2020], just after the first lockdown. We were just beginning to return to the workshop after such a long time away and faced six races in eight days in Berlin. Surprisingly, the break improved the atmosphere within our team, everything seemed more straightforward, and we could all see the huge potential we had as a unit. 

At the time, flights and travel were restricted, and so Oli would come to work in his own campervan, and sleep outside the factory! This showed the level of dedication he had, and still has, and it helped foster the strong relationships that he enjoys today within the squad. 

We had an amazing run in Berlin, with four podiums in six races, including a win for Oli. It was great to see him celebrate on the top step, after all the effort he had put in with us. Another memory of Oli that stands out in my mind is his last race with us in 2021, when he finished in second place. The level of driving he showed that day was simply extraordinary and was a clear demonstration of the talent he possesses.

Formula E
Oliver Rowland is behind the wheel in this October 2023 photo. (Courtesy of Nissan Formula E Team)

Outlook for the 2024 Formula E Season

Oliver returning to the team for season 10 presents a new challenge for both. While his previous stint and existing working relationship with Dorian will help him settle in quickly, hard work still lies ahead to prepare for the coming year. With season 10 looking to be Formula E's most competitive yet, Oliver and Dorian give their thoughts and expectations for 2024.

Do you expect Oliver to find his best form quickly?

Boisdron: Absolutely. I remember when he first joined, he was obviously young and inexperienced in Formula E. Despite this, he showed that he was a pure racer from day one, being able to quickly set excellent lap times even in setups that he didn't feel were optimal. 

It's this attitude and ability that gives me great confidence that he can hit the ground running and deliver great results for the team from the first race.

Formula E
Oliver Rowland in an October 2023 portrait. (Courtesy of Nissan Formula E Team)

Was it always in your mind that a return to Nissan was possible?

Rowland: I had an amazing time during my first three years (2018-21) with the team, so when it came to look for a move at the end of last season, Nissan was definitely at the top of my list. 

As a driver, you look for people who have confidence in you and for somewhere where you can feel comfortable and supported, and Nissan gave me all of these things. This made Nissan the logical choice, especially given the trajectory the team is on. Over the last 12 months the team has made good strides with the car, it seems to have strong one-lap speed and has been on the right path in terms of race pace.

Reuniting with Nismo and a New Chapter in Rowland's Life

How does it feel now that you're back and settling into the team again?

Rowland: It feels great, I've always kept in contact with most of the crew, so it was good to see so many familiar faces. Initially, I was nervous to return to the factory, but as soon as I walked through the door, I felt like I had never really left. 

It was amazing to start work again, see the smiles on people's faces, and catch up with old friends on the team. I already feel at home again and I hope to add to the long list of stories we already have together.

What has changed in your life and career since you left Nissan?

Rowland: In terms of my personal life, I got married a few months ago which was naturally a special moment for me, but aside from that, there's not been many changes. As a racing driver, I feel I'm now wiser and more experienced, and I understand the challenges of Formula E much better.

Formula E
Dorian Boisdron in an October 2023 file photo. (Courtesy of Nissan Formula E Team)

Boisdron's Thoughts on the Team's New Driver Partnership

Are you expecting Oli and Sacha to form a strong partnership?

Boisdron: Yes, definitely. I think they form a pairing that is a strong mix of experience and youthfulness, and yet they both have the same willingness to work together to achieve the best results for the team. Neither of them are drivers who would allow their egos to get in the way, and I can already see that the communication between them is straightforward and honest. 

I am excited to see what their partnership can bring in the future.

Formula E
Oliver Rowland, driving the Nissan car at the front of the pack, participates in a preseason testing session in October 2023 in Valencia, Spain. (Courtesy of Nissan Formula E Team)

Rowland's Optimistic Expectations for the Season

What do you think is possible for you and the team in season 10?

Rowland: It's hard to say with certainty, given how little time on track we've had prior to the season. That said, I don't think there's anything stopping us from being capable of achieving a few pole positions, competing for podiums, and maybe claiming a race win later in the campaign. 

Valencia [Spain, where preseason testing took place in October 2023] was encouraging for me, I immediately felt very competitive, and the package seemed to suit my needs as a driver. I believe that we have a stronger car than we did in season 7, and I was able to score poles and podiums that year, so I hope at least to replicate those results. 

On a personal level, the fact that I've got a good team around me at Nissan means I can be fully focused on doing the best job possible. Given the package and team we have this year, I'm confident that we can enjoy a successful season.

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