Rowland: “Indian magic” behind strong home FE result for Mahindra

Rowland had finished no higher than 13th in the three races prior to Hyderabad after a challenging start to the year, with a lack of efficiency of the Mahindra powertrain hurting his chances of breaking inside the top 10.

But Rowland went on to enjoy his most fruitful outing of FE’s Gen3 so far on Mahindra’s home turf last Saturday, running inside the top 10 throughout the race and climbing as high as fourth before finishing fifth on the road.

A five-second penalty for a track infringement left him down in sixth, but it still marked only the second points finish of the season for Mahindra after both Rowland and Lucas di Grassi drew a blank in the Saudi Arabia double-header last month.

While the Jaguar implosion that also eliminated two other cars from contention played into Rowland’s hands, he was also pleasantly surprised with just how efficient the powertrain was during high daytime temperatures in the southern Indian city.

“Honestly, the first three races have been extremely difficult races for me,” the British driver told Autosport.

“I’ve had very little feeling of the car and also our energy management hasn’t been very good.

“So today [Saturday] was unbelievable. I was wondering with 10 laps to go if we got something wrong and we are one lap less [on remaining energy].

“[But] the car was mega, the pace was good. I don’t know, maybe it’s a bit of Indian magic.”

Rowland tried an ambitious move for third position with just three laps remaining in the race, the British driver attempting a pass around the outside of Envision’s Sebastien Buemi heading into the hairpin.

Oliver Rowland, Mahindra Racing

Photo by: Srinivasa Krishnan

But the 30-year-old instead got pushed wide and ended up conceding a position to Porsche’s Antonio Felix da Costa, who eventually claimed the final spot on the podium after Buemi was penalised for exceeding the maximum allotted power.

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Rowland admitted that his chances of pulling an overtake were slim, but he had to take the gamble as the penalty he had received for exceeding track limits was going to drop him down the order anyway.

“I knew I had five seconds, so I was going to risk to try and get past,” he explained.

“I knew it was the wrong thing when I tried because the track was so dirty. I kind of thought I had to try, I knew in my mind it was the wrong choice but I had to try.”

Rowland’s team-mate di Grassi qualified a distant 19th out of 22 drivers in Hyderabad due to a “wrong” tyre strategy, leaving him with a mountain to climb in the 33-lap race.

Di Grassi did manage to jump inside the top 10 during the race but was eventually classified in 14th place, with his charge compromised by the same five-second penalty as Rowland for repeatedly infringing track limits at Turn 1/2.

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