Two rounds into Jaguar’s first Formula E season and the British manufacturer had failed to score a single point in the all-electric series.
The media quickly turned sour and serious questions were been raised about Jaguar’s capacity to succeed in Formula E. Many believed they had underestimated the challenge of entering the sport. Others criticised their decision to sign Adam Carroll and Mitch Evans, two former GP2 drivers who had failed to reach the pinnacle of single seater racing.
Carroll, of course, was ten years further down that path than his Kiwi teammate but had enjoyed only sporadic success since leaving Formula 1’s feeder series. Evans was seen as a bright future prospect, however, his lack of experience showed in the first two rounds and the pitchforks were beginning to be drawn.
Amid this wave of pessimism, Jaguar arrived in Buenos Aries and with the help of an incredible lap from Evans, made the doubters think twice about their previous criticisms.
It was in the first qualifying group of an overcast qualifying session where Evans set a lap time that would be good enough to narrowly miss out on Super Pole and start the ePrix from a brilliant seventh place.
Qualifying in Formula E is very much reliant on the drivers not making mistakes, with just one lap to set their time, there is no margin for error. It’s fair to say Evans did a magnificent job with his lap, though it wouldn’t have been possible without having the car underneath him to do it.
The new tyres for the third season of the FIA Formula E Championship hold the key to qualifying high on the grid, with the optimal operating window for the tyres incredibly difficult to find. Jaguar had greatly struggled with this in the opening two rounds, with a 14th place in qualifying for the Hong Kong ePrix their best result thus far.
Ultimately Evans found the sweet spot with the tyres in Buenos Aires and showed that he does have a competitive car when the conditions are right, proving that Jaguar’s first season is far from them simply developing the car while trailing home at the back of every race.
As reported by Luke Smith of NBC Sports, Evans was pretty happy with how his day went.
“Qualifying was great, to be honest, I topped the group. If you ask me or the whole team if this would have happened after Marrakesh, we would have taken it with both hands. So it was a great confidence boost for everyone.
“We’ve been targeting qualifying just to get some track position for the race, and we proved that we’re going in the right direction with that. We’ll try and keep that consistent now.”
Furthermore, this flash of brilliance further suggests that Mitch Evans could be the man to lead Jaguar to success, he may not have the prior success of some of his rivals but he’s young, incredibly quick and marketable.
I would argue Jaguar should have signed someone with Formula E experience to lead the team but regardless they still have a future star and a driver in Carroll who is clearly dedicated to the program, after he announced that he wouldn’t be racing in WEC this season, and would be fully focused on leading Jaguar to glory.
While qualifying showed the potential for Jaguar to thrive in the sport, their race quickly brought them back down to earth. Carroll was left grounded on the grid and Evans lost a chance at his and the team’s maiden points due to a pitlane infringement.
“The race was going great until the pit stop, some were going longer, some were going same as me which allowed me to stay there a bit,” said Evans. “I was feeling great. I hit my energy targets every lap.
“Second stint I really struggled for some reason. It’s something we’re going to look into. So it slipped away from me, the points just on the last lap. I was really on the edge of energy. I came out across the start/finish line on zero.”
Energy management is something that will improve with more experience for Evans but the clear groundwork for a successful Formula E career is there for both driver and for the team.
“I think as I said it’s been a good confidence boost for everyone. We know we can race with these guys, it’s just about refining everything now,” Evans added.
“On that second stint, we’ve got to be a bit more aggressive on energy. Whether we can just extract a bit more out of the car and I can do a better job, let’s see. Overall it’s really encouraging for everyone, and I can’t wait for Mexico now.”
While technical and setup issues will be fixed over the course of their debut season, there are some fundamental design issues with the Jaguar’s I-type 1 powertrain that will hold Jaguar back from finishing anywhere other than the foot of the table this season.
It is a compromised package that is mainly based on a season-one package such as the longitudinal motor layout. Furthermore, the car is heavy due to the two-speed aluminium cased gearbox, so it’s likely we won’t see the full potential of Jaguar until their second or third season in the championship, however, from their first three races, it’s clear, the potential for the British manufacturer to succeed in electric racing is there.