After a disappointing third season in Formula E, Dragon Racing entered Season 4 aiming to improve and be back in the front. Despite finding some downs along the way, the American outfit found some ups which are slowly setting the path.
Following a difficult campaign in Season Three slump down to eighth in the Constructors’ Championship with just 33 points, the Dragon Racing Team went into Season Four hoping to be regular top ten finishers once more.
Jérôme d’Ambrosio stayed with the team, whilst Loïc Duval was released after two and a half seasons being replaced by Porsche’s factory driver Neel Jani, sparking rumours of the German marque looking to purchase the team.
However, Jani left the team after his Formula E debut in Hong Kong and was replaced by José María López for the remainder of the season.
Dragon Racing didn’t have a much better luck, with their seven points finishers adding up to a total of 41 points to leave them ninth in the Constructors’, with d’Ambrosio’s third place at the Zürich ePrix being the team’s best result of the season.
Dragon Racing’s 2017-18 ABB FIA Formula E Statistics:
Podiums: 1 (3rd Place Zurich ePrix)
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Points: 41
Constructors’ Championship: 9th
Undoubtedly, Dragon’s high point of the season was Jérôme d’Ambrosio’s podium finish in the first-ever Zürich ePrix.
José María López’s debut for Dragon in Marrakesh, in which the Argentinian finished sixth, showcased what the team were capable of when all the jigsaw pieces fall into place and gave the team the optimism that the Hong Kong season opener couldn’t.
The race at Punta del Este was also a positive one for the American outfit, as both d’Ambrosio and López managed to finish in the Top 10, with the later also grabbing Fastest Lap points.
On the other hand, a lot of things did not go their way.
For starters, the first ePrix of the season in Hong Kong brought more downs than ups to the team, as both d’Ambrosio and Neel Jani finished outside of the Top Ten.
López had a good start in Santiago but contact with Sam Bird’s DS Virgin put him into the wall and out of the race.
But it was the Berlin ePrix at Tempelhof which was arguably Dragon’s most frustrating.
D’Ambrosio had a great opening lap and was up to third place, but couldn’t extract the pace needed from his car and eventually slipped down the order and finished in 19th. López was also running in the Top Ten near the end, but an unforced error and a collision with Felix Rosenqvist’s Mahindra in quick succession saw the Argentinian failing to score points.
The team could not finish the season on a high at their home race in New York City. Both races saw López and d’Ambrosio finish with no points in the bag, with the collision between both drivers in the first lap of the first race conditioning their chances of scoring points after a good qualifying session.
This cost them the chance to overtake the NIO team, which consequently meant that Dragon Racing ended the season ninth in the Constructors’ Championship on 41 points; just six points adrift of NIO.
Podiums: 1 (3rd, Zürich ePrix)
Drivers’ Championship: 14th (27 Points)
Jérôme d’Ambrosio may look back on the 2017/18 season as one full of missed opportunities and what ifs.
After a slow start to the campaign, in which the Belgian failed to score in the first three races, d’Ambrosio got amongst the points in Santiago, Punta del Este, and Rome; whilst narrowly missing out on further points finishes in Mexico City and Paris.
At the following race at Tempelhof, d’Ambrosio produced one of the starts of the season, going around the outside of Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi and Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne to pull off an excellent manoeuvre to move up to third.
Unfortunately, the Dragon car experienced some issues on the day and saw d’Ambrosio plummeted down the field and finish 19th.
His luck had changed at the inaugural Zürich ePrix though, as he benefitted from those in front receiving drive-through penalties, and went on to take his first podium of the season with a third-place finish.
After the race, d’Ambrosio discussed the difficulties Dragon had faced up to that point in the season. “This year, it was very difficult and we just kept on improving with a strong qualifying in Paris and Berlin and a strong one today that allows me to start at the front, which always increases my odds of a good result at the end,” said the Belgian.
This would be his final points score of the season, as the Belgian had a disappointing pair of races in New York.
In Race 1, d’Ambrosio crashed into teammate José María López on Lap 1; while in Race 2, he was helplessly taken out by the stricken car of Luca Filippi, who’d collided with the Andretti of Antonio Felix da Costa seconds before, ending on a bitter note.
José María López
Best Finish: 6th
Drivers’ Championship: 17th (14 Points)
After such a bright start in Morocco, José María López’s performance did not match the one he had on his first race of Season 4. However, the Argentinian was able to give the team good performances and points.
His first race in Marrakesh couldn’t have gone much better putting in an impressive display to finish sixth, scoring the team’s first ever points after a disappointing Hong Kong ePrix.
The next ePrix in Santiago saw the Argentinian make up three places on the start and in a strong position to score more points. However, contact with former teammate Sam Bird put him into the wall and damage his suspension.
Punta del Este saw López put in a strong performance, setting the fastest lap of the race en route to eighth place.
López faced another misadventure in the inaugural Rome ePrix, causing a crash at the Turn 13 hairpin after bumping into Nick Heidfeld’s Mahindra whilst passing him, causing a pile-up with the NIO’s of Oliver Turvey and Luca Filippi, before making a trip into the unforgiving walls himself.
López managed to avoid all the chaos in Paris to claim a point for finishing in tenth place.
Berlin was a weekend to forget for López too. On the run down to Turn 1, the three-time WTCC Champion was defending eighth position from the Jaguar of Nelson Piquet Jr., but both locked up under braking and ran wide. As López re-joined the track, he was on the outside line alongside Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist as they approached Turns 2 and 3.
The Córdoba-native attempted to close the door, but caught Rosenqvist’s front wing and was spun around, losing valuable time, and crawling to the line in 18th.
López’s season failed to improve, as a 12th place in Zürich preceded a double retirement in Dragon’s home race in New York; one of which was caused by teammate Jérôme d’Ambrosio.
Best Finish: 18th
Drivers’ Championship: 25th (0 Points)
To say that Neel Jani’s time in Formula E was short, but sour is an understatement to say the least.
The 2016 Le Mans winner signed for Dragon Racing in August 2017 to replace Loïc Duval in the second seat alongside Jérôme d’Ambrosio. But by the time they’d arrived at the race in Hong Kong later that December, a lot had changed.
Dragon had split from their partners Faraday Future, which led to discussion of a tie-in with Porsche as Jani was a factory driver for the German giant ahead of their 2019/20 entry.
In the Hong Kong ePrix itself, Jani struggled to compete, as he finished 18th in both races before leaving the team.
“As a result of changes that were unforeseen, Dragon Racing and I have decided that it is in the best interest for the future of the team and myself that we end our alliance”, he told Autosport when the news of his departure came out.