until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Jaguar's gone from complete control to facing a huge headache

by Sam Smith
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The people of the United Kingdom go to the polls today in an election that's expected to have a very clear winner, and whose outcome hasn't looked in any doubt at all.

Until last weekend at Portland, the Formula E title race looked like it was much the same. Nick Cassidy was finally going to deliver Jaguar the first championship it's kept missing out on. Approaching the end of race one, the exit poll signs looked even clearer - the championship outcome could even have been settled without even needing the London finale.

But what felt like an unassailable advantage for Cassidy was halved over a weekend summed up by contact with team-mate Mitch Evans. Now Jaguar's life looks much more complicated.

With an eighth (which was first on the road before a penalty was applied) and a third, Evans moved up to second in the championship and reduced Cassidy's gap to 12. Cassidy had also spun out of the lead of the first race in nightmare circumstances and finished out 19th.

Porsche's Pascal Wehrlein is now on the same score as Evans and his charging Porsche team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa has four wins in five races, teeing up a late bid where he's mathematically still in contention, putting further pressure on the team-mates at the front of the title battle.

Jaguar needs to manage the centre ground now after its drivers' lobbying for championship points started to converge.

No landslide now for Cassidy

“I’m OK now, but it’s the heat of the moment and just so frustrating," Cassidy said. "I should be frustrated now but it happened, it’s annoying, not much you can do.”

For a man who had scored no points in a double-header Formula E weekend for the first time since Berlin in 2022, Cassidy was pretty calm an hour after last Sunday’s Portland E-Prix.

Calmness wins you things, though, and Cassidy is good at it when he needs to be. He’s pretty adept at keeping the lid on the boiling pan, in public anyway.

Behind the scenes he’s like any driven athlete with a thirst to win. He can be curt, he can be crass and he can come across as brutally frank.

He probably was a bit candid too last Sunday. When the blood is up and the carbon fibre flies, so do tempers. Especially when Cassidy, on his final attack mode, realised that his rear crash structure and his damaged Hankook tyre meant a points-ending trip to the pits.

And when he found out it was caused by his own team-mate maybe the blood threatened to boil.

But the circumstances were extenuating. Because Edoardo Mortara’s attempts to make the left of the first chicane after being ambitious on his brakes caused the mother-and-father of all devastating accordion effects.

Cassidy rear-ended Jake Dennis and in turn Evans did the same to Cassidy. While Evans escaped with light damage, his team-mate wasn't so fortunate.

Cassidy told The Race he had spoken to Evans afterwards.

“It’s not for me to judge, but he’s apologised, that’s cool, he’s really good about it, but it doesn’t really do much for my points,” he said.

Now, as if attacked by the famous chainsaw employed by the local Portland Timbers soccer team mascot, his advantage has been cut quickly in half.

Evans now being tied with Jaguar's season-long title rival Wehrlein means an added level of complexity to points permutations and intra-team management at the London ExCeL in a fortnight.

“I’ve got a 12-point lead and I’ve scored zero in two races so honestly it could be worse after a weekend like this,” said Cassidy.

"I’m in a much better position going into London this year than I was last year [when, as an Envision driver, he was 24 points behind eventual champion Dennis]. I think we’re going to be strong there. I’m looking forward to it because as a track it’s one of my favourites on the calendar.

“It’s just going to be a fight, man. Let’s turn up and bring it on.”

Evans’s mixed emotions

Evans followed up his contumacious penalty-affected Saturday race with a strong run to third on Sunday.

Evans had to “really get my elbows out, which then makes it very difficult to get to the attack [mode] and loses you more positions”.

This delayed his second attack mode grab and made it quite late. When the safety car came, it hurt him.

The late attack mode nullified a hard fought energy advantage which meant he was required to “just survive for the last few laps” because he had burnt quite a lot of energy passing traffic on his 350kW laps. That gained him track position but he just couldn’t fight for the victory after that.

How much Evans’s harsh penalty for the contact with Jake Hughes on Saturday - which dropped him from first to third - will define his title prospects is still unclear.

A year ago, he caused his own championship ambitions to implode by collecting Cassidy’s Envision Jaguar in Rome.

This time the combined 23 points Evans got from Portland, compared to the zero accrued just across the Jaguar garage on Cassidy's side, is clearly beneficial to Evans's bid to become the first ever Jaguar Formula E champion after three seasons finishing always in the top three but just shy of the top.

But the reality is he will have to do one of his famous double-win blitzes to ensure he can achieve that as both Wehrlein and Cassidy should be at the sharp end too in London.

“I’m expecting a good fight between the Porsches but the teams' [championship] is a really big thing for us," added Evans, with Jaguar leading in that department by 33 points.

"They’re both performing strongly, Antonio and Pascal.

"I feel like if we can get that [teams' title] then one of us can win the drivers'."

"One of us" - will that put a smile on Jaguar faces or will it send a shiver down its spines, as Wehrlein and unbelievably da Costa trot around like stalking horses ready to spoil a Big Cat party in London?

The juggling team boss in charge

“From our perspective, both drivers now stand a chance in the championship and they both have our full support,” said Jaguar team principal James Barclay.

“At the heart of it, though, we’re all racing for the team and from our perspective, both drivers have equal opportunity in this championship.

"As a team we’ll work to make sure we don’t do anything that puts the team at risk.”

Risk. In any other discipline of motorsport that would be a throwaway line. In Formula E it throbs and illuminates on the page. Risk and jeopardy are two of the most overused buzzwords in the Formula E paddock and with good reason.

Barclay and his senior team, in fact the whole squad as one, have a clear policy. That is to maximise both Jaguar driver’s opportunities to win the championship, but with an understanding that “we don’t jeopardise the teams' championship” according to Barclay.

“That’s got to be the goal and that’s pretty straightforward really, there’s no other option," he added.

“Both drivers stand a chance but both drivers will be respectful of each other and we’re all respectful that we’re racing for the team and whoever wins will win.

"But let’s also do it to maximise the team’s chance of our first championship as well.”

From the outside it feels like Jaguar has a genuine central overview of its garage, in that there is no division and no toxicity in rivalry between its drivers.

Some observers, other teams and even some media have tried to invent a ferment of discord between the two drivers. It didn’t wash. But the big stress test will be the London weekend, of course.

“We make sure we don’t have that two sides of the garage approach. It’s going to come down to the details in London, whoever gets the best details done. And most importantly we're racing for the team," Barclay adds.

“One of the guys will finish ahead of each other, that’s just the nature of the game, nature of the sport, but we’ll make sure both drivers get equal opportunity to fight for the championship.”

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