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Learning a new motorsport language

A tight race schedule provides a different kind of challenge for teams in Formula E, which is why ensuring things run smoothly is one of the key elements for success. ROKiT Venturi Racing Technical Director Jean-François Levere is tasked with this demanding role. We spoke to Levere to find out how he keeps the team in check.

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Jean-François Levere’s foray into the world of motorsport began as an assistant mechanic in go-karts before he progressed to formula racing. After over 25 years of building his expertise in the traditional form of motor racing, it’s no surprise why Levere describes the switch to Formula E as a “shock.” 

“I put the headphones on and for me, it was like hearing another language,” he recalls of his first outing in the Formula E paddock. “Everything was very different, you need time to get used to that because your brain is calibrated to classic motorsport and you have to change all your references clearly.”

Demanding schedules
Levere initially joined Venturi Racing in 2018 as a chief engineer and today serves as the technical director for the Monaco-based team. These days his role is to oversee the entire crew, “My role is making sure that people are working well together and in an efficient way. So, I try to organise everything to help them to be more efficient,” he says.

Keeping an orderly organisation is crucial when it comes to the highly competitive environment of Formula E and its condensed one-day race format. When asked if there was a particularly stressful moment for him, he says, “Last year, every race was very intense for us. Everything happens in one day. You start very early in the morning and you finish very late. At the end of the day when the race is over, you didn’t have time to realise anything.”

I put the headphones on and for me, it was like hearing another language.

Jean François Levere, Technical Director ROKit Venturi Racing

Levere pointed out that during the 2019 Mexico City E-Prix, where the team scored its first podium of the season with Edoardo Mortara, was a particularly memorable event, “It was a tough moment because of the temperature and we had to control lots of parameters and we were not fully ready for that. We needed all of the team to help the drivers to achieve this result.”

Teamwork makes the dream work
With new big names on the grid, Mercedes and Porsche will be providing tougher competition for the Monegasque team this season, but despite the challenges ahead, a source of great pride for Levere is the team’s progress in the championship so far. He believes they are in a good place to take on the new competition, “We had some very tough moments. The first two races (in season five) were very difficult. We were not ready from a lot of aspects but slowly we became more efficient and we achieved some good results.”

He admits to having no expectations in the beginning when he joined the team, but instead worked on ensuring the right people are in the right place within the organisation, “My only goal was to set up a race team. You cannot achieve results when you are not ready for it. That was my goal and I assume we are OK now. We have a good level of cooperation and the guys are perfect behind me.”

A woman’s touch
A big part of the fabric that makes the ROKiT Venturi Racing team is Team Principal Susie Wolff, who was appointed to the role in season five, the same time when Levere joined the team. What is it like for him to work with a female boss? “For me it makes no difference. I am quite happy to work with her because she has a lot of background in motosport,” he says. “When taking decisions, she understands and she takes the decision and that’s what we need. We need to be reactive and she’s very good.”

Great expectations
Looking ahead to the future of the championship, Levere is enthusiastic about the series’ growth. “I think it will go up massively to be honest. The level is very high in terms of the drivers and the teams. I assume all championships are like that, if you have the manufactures inside, it will become a very good and very strong championship, so it will develop very well.”