After a season with the race-winning DS Virgin Racing outfit, Jose Maria Lopez is hoping to “adapt” to the differences of Dragon Racing, in his return to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship this weekend in Marrakesh.
The three-time WTCC champion and Toyota LMP1 driver has joined the Jay Penske-owned operation, replacing Neel Jani, who departed following a challenging opening weekend of the season in Hong Kong.
Lopez, who has yet to drive the Penske EV-2, said he expects the American squad’s Formula E challenger to be significantly different to the Virgin DSV-02 he drove to two podium finishes last season.
“I was in one of the best teams last year,” Lopez told e-racing365. “Especially at the end of the season we were really strong.
“And Sam Bird won the first race this year and is leading the championship.
“There is a big difference. Nobody works in the same way.
“There are some things different, but I’m trying to get used to [things] as soon as I can and to adapt especially to the software, which is different, and the way to save energy.
“There are a lot of things I have to get used to again because I was used to a completely different way with Virgin.”
While not initially getting the full-season drive with the team, the Argentinean revealed he had been in discussions with Penske following his departure from DS Virgin last season.
“We had the contact a little bit with Jay at the end of last season,” Lopez said. “Before they signed Jani, we were talking about it a little bit. There was some discussion at one point to do a test.
“We had the contacts and had the opportunity and took it because I think it’s very important to be back as soon as I could.”
With both Jani and teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio struggling in Hong Kong, at sometimes one-second per lap off the pace, Lopez realizes it will be an uphill battle this weekend.
And it’s expected that his lack of experience with the car will make prospects even more challenging.
Lopez said he has less than two days of simulator work in Monaco, admitting it’s “not enough” as he would have liked or is used to.
“I sat in the car for the first time yesterday,” Lopez said. “I’m a professional; I know what I can do. But I think the most important thing is to take it easy in the beginning and see what happens.
“We’re probably not in the best situation in terms of looking for a result today but things can change quickly.
“We’re working hard to improve the car. I don’t know if it’s in this race, but I think we can improve and have a car to achieve important results.
“For me, the important thing is to get to know the people and the car… I’m coming to the track to do my best. I have to be realistic, to set an objective.
“The only thing I can take is Hong Kong, which wasn’t very good. We’ll start from there and we’ll see. If the car is good, we’ll try to do something good.”