Jim Wright has been appointed chief commercial officer at Mahindra Racing, in a move first reported by Sam Smith at motorsport.com.
Wright is a well-known figure in the Formula E paddock. He’s been in charge of commercial operations at the Venturi team since the sport kicked off; under his watch, the team has secured significant deals, such as the recent headline partnerships with ZF and Rohm.
But former Williams F1 team member Wright’s influence extends much further. He was instrumental in bringing Nick Heidfeld into Formula E, as we reported back in early 2015. Heidfeld started off at Venturi but moved to Mahindra for season two, so Wright’s move will reunite them. Wright has also been a key figurehead in the Formula E teams’ association since its inception; that association has been critical in giving the teams a voice in the sport and helping to shape the future of Formula E.
“Mahindra’s ambition is to be a top player and we will continue to resource accordingly,” Mahindra team boss Dilbagh Gill told Current E today. “Jim has been involved with Formula E since the beginning and also brings to us a great deal of experience from Formula One from 12 years as head of sponsorship and marketing at Williams F1 as well as helping to establish the Virgin F1 Team in 2009. I have worked closely with Jim over the past 18 months leading the Formula E teams association and am very excited to see how far we can take Mahindra in 2017 and beyond.”
The move is notable for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a sign of how the Mahindra outfit is evolving. The team hasn’t thus far had a standalone commercial role, instead twinning Gill with a communications professional (with a different person in the role for each of the three seasons thus far). The team has grown steadily in partnerships, talent and technology, with season three already looking likely to be the season that the team finally realises its potential and long-term planning.
The second thing to note is that this could well be the final nail in the coffin for Venturi. That team has struggled to make headway in the sport; as well as a new powertrain and driver pairing in season two, the team’s leaders were replaced, but all to no avail. The technology is getting increasingly more sophisticated, teams are getting bigger, the brains trusts are getting ever-more impressive and the OEM backing is getting more direct. How can privateer firm Venturi continue to be competitive in the coming years and how will that affect attempts to secure sponsors?
Securing global transmission specialist ZF as a partner back in the summer of 2016 was big, big news; given the team’s lack of performance and results to date, much of that achievement must be placed at the door of Wright. What will Venturi do without him, and what will he be able to do in a team with a more substantial budget and results already on the board?
As well as leading the Mahindra squad, Gill has also been the technical lead at the teams’ association. Bringing Wright into the red-and-white garage is a signal of intent that the team means business and that it is prepared to compete now in commercial as well as technical areas with some of the big-name OEMs rolling into the sport, including Audi, BMW, Jaguar and, possibly, Mercedes. The team will now be well placed as the sport transitions into a much bigger sport, one which looks like it could soon be attracting sponsors and deals to rival far more established series, including the likes of WEC and F1.