Inspirational, Interview, Women In Motorsport

Jennifer Babington: “Incredible to be part of such a high-performing team. . .”

Hi, everyone! I’m thrilled to share my latest article, an interview with Jennifer Babington. Jennifer has worked as Operations Director and General Counsel at Formula E team Envision Racing since January 2019.

A big thank you to Jennifer for sparing some time in her incredibly busy schedule to speak to me.

Until the age of 12, Jennifer lived in Kwangyang, South Korea. As someone who’s also been fortunate enough to spend much of my life overseas, I wanted to know what the experience brought Jennifer.

“. . . it meant that from a very young age, you had to learn how to make friends, and not just necessarily through verbal communication. . . I think that was the best thing about it for me. We lived on a site, pre-dominantly with South Koreans but there were also lots of Austrians, French, Germans, English kids from different parts of the country. . . My best friends at the time were a 55-year-old German couple! There were times when it was just me and my brother over there, so we ended up having to get to know a lot of people. I think that’s done me in pretty good stead going forward in being interested in interacting with lots of different people. . .”

When Formula E raced in Seoul, Jennifer was able to go back to South Korea for the first time in years.

“It felt like I was going back home somewhere. Just that chance, to feel like there isn’t any restrictions to where you can go and what you can do. . .”

Photographer: Paddy McGrath. Taken at the Monaco ePrix.

Despite growing up in a “sporty-based family”, Jennifer commented that motorsport wasn’t a passion until later in life.

Before working in Formula E, Jennifer worked as Legal Counsel for renewable energy producer Element Power. After that, she became Chief of Staff for the UK Green Investment Bank. Jennifer reinforced that her route through to working at Envision Racing was through a love of sustainability, to which she has dedicated eighteen years of her career.

“. . . would I say before joining Formula E, I was a die-hard Formula E fan for the four seasons before I joined? No. But now? Definitely. The races I don’t get to go I find really challenging, sitting at home shouting at the TV. . . it’s a completely different experience from [being] a fan but not an avid fan through to now – it being my family essentially.”

Jennifer described being in the role for a few days, before being asked to fly out to Rome for the E-Prix.

“. . . so, I turned up there and it went from there I suppose. From the passion for what we do.”

To my comment about the close-knit ‘family’ aspect of the team, Jennifer reinforced just how special it is.

“Absolutely no choice, really. I’ve had jobs before. This isn’t a job. This is a combination – I want to say this as politely as I can about them . . . unruly children running around that you need to keep an eye on, but also those children are absolute geniuses. I do not make the car go fast or slow or have an influence over what happens. What I hope I have an influence over is making sure that there’s an environment where people can thrive and have the opportunity to do their best and give their best to their roles. Making the home run efficiently, making our family work – each person having the opportunity to be able to do the best at their job. Be that Robin [Frijns] and Seb [Buemi] [Envision Racing’s drivers], communicating effectively with them so they know they’re supported. . . Marketing team, events team – everyone knows they can ask me, and I’ll tell them.”

Photographer: Wiebke Langebeck. Taken at the Monaco ePrix.

In her role as Operations Director, Jennifer manages the team’s Race Against Climate Change (RACC) initiative. This focuses on a global transition to renewable energy sources and the take-up of electromobility. As part of this programme, Envision Racing has committed to planting a tree for every pledge made. Recently, this figure reached an astonishing 250,000. Named the ‘Sustainable Chain’ pledge, this has led those 250,000 people to “commit to making changes in their life, day-to-day, to make them more sustainable”.

But the RACC initiative includes a range of projects, which Jennifer described as “having the opportunity to go and speak in schools to kids about climate change and what we do as a team, to creating these amazing artwork installations we’ve been doing the last couple of seasons.” This past winter, the team sent their Recover E car over to Dubai for COP28. Previously, Envision Racing launched their car livery at COP26 with renowned climate scientist Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute.

“We want to win every race we go into; we want to win on track. But then what do you do once you’ve won? It’s all well and good to kind of walk away holding the trophy thinking ‘yay’, but it’s a wasted opportunity. What I love is the combination of being able to take that win and know that that means it will drive more viewers to our site, more eyeballs on it. . . it’s just an amazing mash-up of the passion that motorsport generates, but not just using that to sell another car. It’s using that to educate, to be able to inspire, to bring together those two loves.”

“Last season was amazing for us – [Teams’] Championship winning season. Incredible to be part of such a high-performing team and to know the lows that we’ve come from to get to that high. . . The mindset changes we’d all had to put in place to be able to get ourselves to that point – to become a winning, highly efficient . . . team. It’s brilliant learnings, the type of thing you take on to you wherever you end up going. . .”

Again – thank you to Jennifer for her wise words and advice.

Hearing about Jennifer and Envision Racing’s dedication to sustainability through the team’s off-track ventures was incredibly inspiring.

Cover Image Source: Envision Racing