Formula E debutant Neel Jani has admitted that Dragon Racing is on the “back foot” and that it will be “very difficult” for the American team to make any impression and catch up to its rivals in Season Four.
Jani finished 18th in both Hong Kong races and alongside teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio, was unable to consistently compete with any of the other nine teams.
The 2016 FIA World Endurance Champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner signed for Dragon in September and although the deal is completely independent from his Porsche factory contract, at one stage last month a Porsche engineering involvement looked likely.
This potential scenario was ended abruptly on the eve of the season and Dragon left Hong Kong with no points and its most uncompetitive weekend since its entry into the all-electric championship in 2014.
“We are clearly right now the team most on the back foot,” Jani told e-racing365.
Jani described his Sunday race, stating that a lack of speed in general through sector one, which is made up of a straight and a hairpin, illustrated how far behind the Penske EV-2 was to the opposition.
“It’s the start/finish straight, one hairpin, and middle of the next straight” he explained.
“We lose generally four-tenths on the straight, always. That’s like me going in the Porsche at Sector 1 at Spa, and I go and compare it to the Rebellion. That’s the difference.”
Both drivers struggled for pace all weekend in Hong Kong. While d’Ambrosio finished 55 seconds behind eventual winner Rosenqvist, Jani was lapped in the 50-minute race.
“I always said and always knew that I would struggle somewhat, that it will be difficult,” said Jani.
“I realized that, because it’s new. But at the same time my reference can be Jerome, who is a race winner, a proven race winner.
“So I would have thought that maybe he will be around P10. But the problem is that he’s second last. So where am I?”
With the homologation of each Formula E car already locked in, it gives the Jay Penske-owned squad little room for developments this season.
Despite the frustration from the weekend, Jani said he was encouraged with his own personal progression in adapting to Formula E cars.
“I think with my own race, compared to Jerome, I improved,” he said. “I still have to improve though. But I got into a window at least today, if I take [d’Ambrosio] as my reference.
“But the problem is that we are not even there. All I can do is learn the circuit in race mode. Now we have to analyze what it is and how we can catch up, but it will be very, very difficult.”