Nico Müller and the knife-edge

Interview with the NIANCO esports founder before the Italian eX Prix

October 23, 2022

Nico Müller says he very much enjoys racing the eX ZERO in the World eX Championship. He finished second last year at Monza, and this time the Italian eX Prix is presented by NIANCO esports promoting the World Wildlife Fund (Tuesday, October 25, 19:00 UTC). A good opportunity to talk to the NIANCO founder and PRO driver.

Your best result came last year at Monza – can you repeat this?

For me personally, the last event of World eX at Monza was a successful one. I managed to qualify for the Final and had a pretty exciting race there. I nearly managed to win it. Maybe we can achieve something similar or even better this year. I think it won’t be any easier. If anything, it’s probably going to be more difficult this year. But we’re up for the challenge and looking forward to a great event.

What does NIANCO stand for?

The name of our team and the anchor stands for Nico and Company. So, one of them is me, obviously. Then there’s Patrick Niederhauser, one of my good friends and also a professional racing driver who is passionate for esports. And By the Way communications – that’s our agency that is supporting us and standing with us since day one. And we also have RacingFuel Simulators, a Swiss based and Swiss produced product, an actual simulator that has been developed here. And we’ve been part of the development from the very beginning. They are with us on this journey.

Who stands behind the team?

Behind NIANCO esports there are a few important personalities. Patrick and myself are obviously two of them. But there’s also Thomas Schmid, who is our main esports racer. He’s been with us since day one. And he’s done an awesome job also in helping us finding the right structure for our team, finding the right drivers for the championships in which we are competing in, making sure that we have some expertise in the world of sim racing to count on. And he’s doing an awesome job in that. These are the three guys behind the steering wheel that are there since day one, but also in terms of organization. And then also our partners By the Way, and RacingFuel Simulators.

Why did you start NIANCO esports?

The idea of starting NIANCO came up because I really enjoyed sim racing myself. When World eX developed and started to appear, I really wanted to compete in it as a team. So, we needed some sort of foundation, some sort of structure to be able to be part of this awesome championship. And then together with Thomas, our main esports racer, we saw the potential also within Switzerland to be one of the main teams of our country and compete in all those national championships out there and build ourselves a name in that scene. That’s why we wanted to go for it.

Are you happy with the progress of the team in World eX – you have already one car qualified for the Super Final at the Nordschleife?

It’s now our second season in World eX and the progress is there. We are qualified for the Super Final on the Nordschleife thanks to an awesome performance of Miklas (Born). Thomas (Schmid) is also consistently up there. It’s great to see. It’s super challenging. The level (in World eX) is very high and we are proud of the progress we’re seeing. And for sure, we want to keep going higher. Fighting for race wins regularly is our goal in the in the midterm but it needs a bit of time. We’re also busy with our real racing. Our esports guys are very focused on it. They’re doing a great job. Now it’s time to also build up the pros up. With Miklas we have a great one. I would love to be in it myself a bit more regularly as well. We’ll keep going from there. So far, all good. In World eX the level is super high. It’s very challenging to be consistently at the front – be it on the esports corner but also for the pro racers. They’re putting a lot of effort into it, but it is very tough to be at the front consistently. But we’ve managed to be already one of the qualified cars for the Super Final on the Nordschleife thanks to an awesome performance of our youngster Niklas Born. Thomas (Schmid) is doing an awesome job. He’s regularly up there on the esports side. We have exciting guys like Fred Eugster. And now it’s up to myself and Patrick as well to find the time to be part of the races a bit more regularly and prove that we can also do that. But it needs time. You need to prepare. You need to get to grips with the eX ZERO. It’s a very challenging car, but super exciting and we’re loving the journey.

What makes World eX so difficult?

There are several factors that are making all the eX extremely challenging. The main one is probably the car. The eX ZERO is extremely powerful. It’s very exciting to drive at the limit. And then the setups change weekend by weekend. The (host) teams decide which setup they go for. You have to be very adaptive. Every race is a new challenge. The format is very unforgiving. If you if you want to win, you need to nail it. You cannot afford to make any small mistake. And that’s why we love it.  

Please describe driving the eX ZERO.

Driving the zero is like playing on the knife edge. You have to really push it to the limit. But if you go slightly above, you pay a big penalty. It’s easy to ask too much of the tyres, to overheat them and then you pay the price later on. It’s really a game at the absolute limit and you have to be on top of it.

Miklas Born came into the team this year and immediately recorded a podium finish – how do you rate him?

Miklas Born is a very exciting youngster and we’re very proud to have him on our team. He’s doing an awesome job. He straight away got to grips with the car extremely quickly and he also fitted into the format extremely rapidly. That was very impressive. He’s very talented on the real racetrack, but obviously also in the virtual world. That is exciting to see and we are really looking forward to see what he can do on the remaining journey we have in front of us together. We are very proud to have him at NIANCO.

Did you already decide who will race the No. 51 in the World eX Super Final?

The decision on our driver for the Super Final and the 51 NIANCO esports car is not taken yet but we do have a pretty clear tendency of whom we’d like to see in there. Hopefully it won’t be the only NIANCO car in the race. That would be awesome and once we know everything is clear we’ll take our final decision on that.

Thomas Schmid is your regular ESPORTS driver – what can you say about him?

Thomas Schmid is our main esports driver. He is extremely important for our team. He’s really helped us a lot in building the structure for NIANCO, finding the right guys for the different championships we’re competing in. And obviously everybody can learn a lot from him. He has a lot of experience in sim racing and he’s really doing an awesome job on all the different platforms. One of the main ones is obviously rFactor 2. He’s really a very important pillar of the team on all fronts.

How important is RacingFuel for you as a partner? What are they providing for the team?

RacingFuel Simulator is a very important partner for us. They have been with us since day one. They love the idea of a Swiss esports team, but also competing in World eX. They love seeing us competing in that championship. We're proud of having them. They provide us with the best material we could ask for, the hardware, the simulators we get to race on are absolutely awesome. And they help us with whatever they can in terms of further developing our skills. Also finding the right drivers. They have a great network, and we try and give something back in terms of helping to finetune their simulators even further, to develop their product, which is already awesome. We’re extremely proud to share this journey with them.

What does NIANCO do apart from World eX?

We are expanding in terms of where we are competing more and more. We have several national championships, officially recognized national championships, and we have lots of good drivers competing under our name in those. We want to keep growing. We want to keep growing also on an international level, be present on different platforms and build our structure around World eX which is definitely our main championship that we’re competing in. But we have a lot of good guys coming up. They are proving themselves in the different championships we’re currently competing in and we’re sure they will be ready for bigger challenges very soon.

Can you please explain the nicknames of your two cars.

The nicknames of our two eX ZERO cars, Stögu and Säntis, are coming from our two local mountains. One is mine and Patrick’s, which is the Stockhorn, in Swiss-German in the short version Stögu. We’re really connected to our home regions. We love spending time here and training outside. And that’s why I thought the name of our mountain would be a good fit. And that’s the same for the other car, which Thomas Schmid is mainly competing in. He’s from another region in Switzerland where the Säntis is his main mountain. And that’s why we came up with those two names.  

NIANCO has chosen to support the World Wildlife Fund. How important is it for you to do something for the environment?

When we are not in a simulator or out in a race car, we love spending time out in nature training and being active. And we are very lucky to be in a region with a really amazing landscape and pretty much endless opportunities to have an awesome time outdoors. That’s why I think it’s very important to give something back and to make sure we’re taking care of our planet. The general message that World eX is taking along its own journey is super important. And we’re very happy to contribute a little bit to all of that.

What are you doing in your personal life to save the climate?

In my personal life, I just try to pay attention in everyday life on the footprint I’m leaving behind that goes from not eating too much meat to making sure I don’t produce too much waste wherever I can. I just try to limit that. In daily life, I try to not be traveling too much by car, if possible. I love riding my bike. If I can go to the shop by bike to buy my groceries, I will do that. It’s the little things that that can make a difference, if we all start to be more aware about our daily actions. And that’s what I’m trying to do at home as well.

Please talk about the end of your time with Audi and your plans in real racing for 2022.

In my professional racing career, there is a new chapter which is about to start. I’ve had my last race together with Audi in DTM and it’s been a super exciting journey together. I’m very thankful for every little bit of it and now looking forward to the new chapter, starting with Peugeot in FIA WEC in Formula E (with ABT). This are two extremely exciting championships that I get to be part of with two great teams. One of them I know very well, I’m extremely happy and excited to be rejoining and meeting the familiar faces again and go racing together. And it’s a completely new challenge with Peugeot which is already starting very soon actually. I’ll be already in the car for the WEC finale in Bahrain in November. The break has been very short and I’m very excited to go racing with them already this year and then formally starting very soon. Obviously, we're in the testing phase and I’m extremely happy with the new program that is coming up.

Did you already talk to Peugeot Sport about a Peugeot eX?

No, I didn’t actually talk to them yet, but I definitely think it could be something very exciting. They have proven that they can build very innovative real-life race cars. I guess they would probably very much like the eX ZERO and the concept around it. Who knows what the future brings …

With all your programs: Is there any time left for hobbies? If yes, what are you doing?

My racing program has been pretty busy the last few years and it looks like it will continue that way, which is a very good thing. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’m getting. I won’t complain at all. But for hobbies there is not so much time left. That’s also why sometimes it’s difficult to actually find time to be competing in the simulator. When I do have some time, I just want to spend time with my family and with the little one who is already kind of an adrenaline junkie. We’re out on our bikes and doing stuff like that in summer. I love spending time on the lake, in winter cross-country skiing. There’s more than enough to do around here, lacking more time than anything else. But as I said, I’m very happy with how things are going. And when you have a little time at home, you just enjoy it even more. And I mainly do that together with my family.