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Formula E

Jaguar’s sluggish Formula E start could prove costly

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

False starts aren’t tolerated in many other sports but in racing, you can get away with them and forget.

Perhaps Jaguar will do exactly that 14 races down the 2022 Formula E season line.

Should it not work out that way though, it could easily look self-critically back to a messy opening two races in Diriyah that yielded just 13 points.

This total is dwarfed by the 58 and 57 of likely title rivals Venturi and Mercedes. Sometimes the early chapters of great storylines can be the most telling.

The reasons why there was such a poor return for the Big Cat are numerous. But they involve costly errors, untapped pace, and occasional wrong place at wrong time misfortune.

It all left team principal James Barclay quietly ruing a disappointing opening to a season in which Jaguar is looking to right its self-inflicted open goal title miss at Berlin five months ago.

Formula E Ad Diriyah E Prix 2021

“We’ve got to stay strong as a team, these weekends are going to happen through the year and it’s all about how we bounce back,” Barclay told The Race.

Bouncing back is quite plainly a must for Jaguar now, as the Mercedes powered cars have shown that in the right circumstances they have a clear advantage – something that Barclay is “conscious of”.

“They have done a good job being fast here all weekend,” he acknowledged of Mercedes.

“There are two more you’ve got to contend with [as Mercedes has a customer team in Venturi], but that was the case last year.”

Crucially while Formula E has a new qualifying format that promotes a more meritocratic structure and a clearer competitive hierarchy, it’s also just as difficult as before for those not qualifying well to scythe through the field.

This was evidenced by Sam Bird, who started the second Diriyah race from the back row of the grid after his qualifying brush with the wall, but was only able to climb to 15th – albeit unable to deploy the extra energy he’d been saving before the late-race safety car.

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“It’s so competitive now in Formula E if you’re not qualifying well, the days of coming from the back to the front are no longer possible,” agreed Barclay.

While Bird was able to muster strong points on Friday with a controlled fourth position, Mitch Evans could only make 10th after he felt he was blocked by Andre Lotterer’s Porsche in qualifying and started 14th.

Lotterer was not investigated for the alleged block, but Barclay was certain it compromised Evans significantly enough to alter the outlook of his race.

“The painful thing was being blocked by Andre in qualifying, that really cost us,” said Barclay.

“That one lap where the track is improving, Mitch had great pace, he was quickest on 220kw in the morning then gets blocked on his quali lap. That killed our day and that was all out of our control.

“We need to resolve and make sure the new format is really strict on that and everyone plays fair.”

Like Bird, Evans also hit the wall on his qualifying group lap on Saturday, tweaking his steering and rooting him to a 16th place start.

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That was doubly frustrating for the Kiwi as he knew that the race pace was likely to be subdued by slower cars in front of him. Despite this, he was eyeing a late push for the lower reaches of the top 10 but was thwarted by the contentious Alexander Sims triggered safety car.

“Our strategy meant that we could really attack at the end, everything was geared up for it and it [the safety car] just killed it,” said Evans.

“The race would have been flat[-out] at the end which I think was a shame because it was really setting up to be a corker.”

Like Saturday’s unsatisfactorily race end in itself, it was all too little and too late for Jaguar, which needs some very detailed debriefs back at its Grove base this week before Mexico.

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