Since Season 3, Jaguar Racing has been displaying some brilliant performances in Formula E. Team Boss James Barclay spoke to Editor Andrea Perilli about the team's journey in the series so far, analysing the performance, the lineup, and discussing the expectations the team has for the next races.
When a brand as prestigious and respected as Jaguar announces its return to the world of racing, you can clearly feel the excitement in the air. And when they announce they are joining such a straight-forward championship like Formula E, you can see how important the future is for the British marque.
Early in Season 2, the announcement came. In the following races, it was not uncommon seeing the figure of James Barclay in the paddock, preparing for what would be the long-awaited return of Jaguar Racing to motorsports.
And when Season 3 kicked off, things did materialise: the Big Cat was back in the fight.
“In our first year, we were new to the formula. We have a lot of very good people here but with Formula E, one of the challenges is that you can't go and do endless testing so as a new team, your only opportunity really is to learn on the racetracks, and that's what last year was about”.
There are various factors which differentiate Formula E from other more traditional forms of racing. One aspect which is particularly noted by everyone involved in the fully-electric championship, is the tightness of the schedules the series runs with. Upon their arrival to Formula E, the team became aware of this.
“Fundamentally, the car was the big area [to learn from], we had a very short lead time. We actually only had four months to design, develop and homologate our car, so incredibly tight period of time”, comments Barclay.
The first couple of races did not see Jaguar Racing at the front; given the complexity of the cars and the championship itself, it would have been rather surprising to see them up in the fight as early as in the first three races. However, it is step by step how you make progress, and already in the fourth round, the team was scoring points with both Evans and Carroll, who were also new to the championship.
The strong performances displayed, in spite of not finishing the championship where they would have wished to, surely gave Jaguar Racing the aim to push hard for the next season and be properly back into the fight.
“For this season, season two for us, we had a much longer lead time so we were learning a lot about what it would take to be successful in the formula from a car point of view”, says the Englishman. “And the car is a significant step forward”.
And for Season 4, already in the first couple of races, we saw a more dominant and stronger Jaguar car. The Jaguar Electrifies hashtag the team uses on their social media channels perfectly matches the British outfit’s electrification, which is very clear this season.
“Over 200 new components in the car, so in essence, a completely new powertrain, and that was a big step for us. We made some small changes to the team operations. Fundamentally, the team was working really well, but we just wanted to strengthen a few areas and we made some key changes.
“Some key personnel came in to, as part of that and that absolutely allowed us to take another step. So, the car a big step, some team operational changes, another step and then, of course, the driver lineup”.
Mitch Evans continues to race with the team, this season joined by Formula E’s first ever champion Nelson Piquet Jr., a racer who aims to repeat the glory obtained on his first season in the series.
“I use the phrase, reduce the variables, and it's about, kind of, as a team, you don't want to have too many unknowns and by bringing Nelson in, a proven winner with a lot of experience, we knew he would help us as a team as well.
“I think we have a very strong driver lineup, I'd say we have arguably the strongest driver lineup in Formula E with the experience and speed of Nelson and absolute speed and potential with Mitch”.
The learning year Jaguar had in Season 3, proved to be a very fruitful one, when looking at this season’s performance so far. But as anything in racing, until the car hits the track, it’s all hypothetical on how the season is going be like.
“So, anyone ever asks me: ‘Oh, where do you think you'll be?’ before the season starts, you know, we don't know. All we can do is the best work we can do possible, give ourselves the best opportunity of performing in the best way as a team.
“What we've seen so far this year is that the car is fast at a variety of circuits. Pretty much everywhere, we've been towards the front of the field which has been good so it shows we have a car which works in all conditions. Did we expect to be where we were? Honestly, we didn't quite know but we had the hope and the ambition that with all the work we put in, we'd definitely be a team that was in the points on every race. That was our ambition”.
Despite suffering some issues during the races, the team has proven to be one of the most consistent ones on track. Whenever Evans or Piquet Jr. are in the Top 10, both drivers are fighting towards the front. As Barclay mentioned above, the team does have one of the strongest lineups.
“What's great with is that if you look at Nelson and Mitch they've been able to learn from each other. Mitch has absolutely learnt a lot from Nelson already and vice-verse. You know, Nelson's seen that Mitch is incredibly fast and he's learning from that as well. So, I'm really fortunate”, proudly tells the Team Boss.
New Zealand’s Mitch Evans had a prolific junior career before landing on the Jaguar Racing seat. Already on his first races, he showcased his innate skills at the wheel. “What's fantastic about Mitch is we brought him into Formula E as someone who we were very keen, I was very keen, to have in our team. He had a fantastic junior career.
“For sure, probably should be in Formula 1, without a doubt. We were lucky to get him and I believe in his absolute raw talent and his ability, and I believe he's the fastest guy in Formula E”.
On the other side of the garage, Nelson Piquet Jr. is well –known for his willingness to continue pushing hard despite the adverse situations that may surge during the race. James Barclay also praises this aspect about the Brazilian driver.
“His motivation to drive the team forward is really admiring. I really admire that. It's also very motivating to see someone who wants to see the team progress and his commitment, and his support to help us do that is really good. I really admire that. He's a great guy and he's passionate. He's a proper. Nelson is happiest when he's in the car, driving, and I really admire his energy to see us perform is really motivating for the team”.
With one podium in the bag and over 80 points, there is still a long way to go until the championship finishes, but for Jaguar Racing, the motivation is there.
“It was frustrating that we couldn't stand on the podium for our first podium. That was really, as a team, it's a shame. Everyone deserved that opportunity to stand on the podium”. The team’s first podium finish came inherited, following the disqualification of Daniel Abt in Hong Kong.
“It will happen for us, we just need to keep on pushing and working hard”. Barclay believes that the team has not “shown its true form yet. We think there's more still to come from us as a team.
“A good example is qualifying”, he acknowledges. “We haven't really had a perfect qualifying yet this year. So I think with a good qualifying, we really set ourselves up for a really good opportunity to get on the podium”.
With the second half of the season about to start, the team looks forward to more result which could help them climb up in the standings. “We’re pleased with where we are but we still, you know, we're going to push for more clearly.
“We just need to put together a perfect weekend where we have a good practice, good qualifying and then I think if we qualify well, there's no reason why we can't fight for the podium”, adds Barclay.
Jaguar’s return to racing has proven to be a successful one so far, and with things shaping up excitingly for the next Formula E seasons, the public is more than pleased to see the Big Cat back in the fight.