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SEASON REVIEW: Team Chaos Prevents Success for Dragon

Technical, operational issues produced Dragon’s toughest season to date…

Photo: Formula E

Dragon Racing registered its second-poorest points haul and finished in its lowest ever position during a chaotic fourth season in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

A total of 41 points was only enough for ninth position in the teams’ standings after another trying season for the Jay Penske-led team.

It ended the season in the middle of a major staff overhaul in an effort to bolster its operation ahead of the upcoming campaign in which it will face even more competition from major manufacturers.

However, the issues that affected its 2017-18 program were brewing far before last October’s Valencia pre-season test.

It had looked as if renewed hope could set up a positive season for Dragon but a litany of problems, both technical and operational, conspired to prevent any significant progress.

A confusing situation involving Porsche set the tone for the season ahead.

The manufacturer was in discussions with Dragon to set up a mutually beneficial engineering consultancy within the team, ahead of Porsche’s Season Six entry.

The deal collapsed on the cusp of the season, and the precise reasons behind the program’s failure were never fully explained although it is understand that Penske was hesitant, fearing that it would end up benefitting Porsche more than his own team.

The collapse seemed to create a domino effect which, indirectly or otherwise, forced Neel Jani out of the team after just two race appearances at the season-opening Hong Kong E-Prix double-header.

Jani’s body language after Hong Kong smacked of dejection, and stories began to emerge that a degree of chaos was starting to reign.

A few races later, and Nigel Beresford, one of the founding fathers of the team, had left by March’s Punta del Este E-Prix.

This struck as a major shock to onlookers, with Beresford viewed as one of only a few within the operation with the ability to rekindle the halcyon days of Seasons One and Two when it achieved wins and podiums.

Nevertheless, to say Dragon’s season was entirely a negative affair would be an overstatement.

The somewhat fortunate podium finish that Jerome d’Ambrosio registered in Zurich went a small way to underlining at least some inherent pace in the Penske EV-2, which featured input from Mike Gascoyne’s MGI under Penske technical director Nicolas Maduit.

The Belgian’s strong end to the season came just after he discovered he had lost his seat for 2018-19, with test driver Maximilian Guenther being lined up as his likely replacement.

In Jose Maria Lopez the team captured a mercurial Formula E talent who had several points to prove after being unceremoniously dropped by DS Virgin Racing last year.

The Argentine driver’s respectable fourth-place qualifying result in Marrakesh was backed up by finishing sixth in his debut race with the team.

The former FIA World Touring Car Championship star had other notable performances in Punta del Este and Paris, meanwhile.

However, his erratic tendencies, which had surfaced early on with DS Virgin, didn’t completely disappear, leading to several incidents once again.

These were compounded by bouts of ill fortune, including being struck by Antonio Felix da Costa while leaving his pit box in Rome.

“Things were not easy when I came here but straight way I could be quick and there were some OK results like in Morocco,” Lopez told e-racing365 in Zurich.

“For sure the team needs a few changes here and there but Jay is ambitious and I think if things get more organized for next season then we can surprise some people again.

“The team has proved it can get great results in this championship.”

The season saw plenty of activity on the technical front at Dragon with a new single-speed Xtrac gearbox and differential, fresh Magneti Marelli MGUs, newly-desgined cooling installation, and a new Brightloop converter.

Penske continued to put a huge amount of faith into Maduit, who moved out to California in order to work on future projects including the management of the Gen 2 powertrain.

The former Venturi team principal and PSA engineer has had a remarkable rise to prominence in recent years through Formula E and enjoys the unequivocal backing of Penske.

It remains to be seen if the pairing will be able to lead the team to results as it faces even tougher competition from the additional automakers joining the series over the next two seasons.

Photo: Formula E

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. hellothere

    August 17, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    you cant really say too much about the drivers in this season, dragon as a team made really amateur mistakes that cost drivers penaltys

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