If you had told leading figures at Panasonic Jaguar Racing ahead of the season that the British outfit would tick off its first podium and pole position in Season Four, there would have been great satisfaction.
Yet, despite these milestones having been achieved, the full context of the ‘Big Cat’s season left more than just a lingering sense of what might have been,
Despite the well-earned bounty of 119 points and the occasional race in which Jaguar could threaten for a breakthrough win, it did have shortcomings as a result of it still coming to terms with operating a full-blown ABB FIA Formula E Championship team.
Jaguar was still maturing in its second season of competition and still adjusting to the widespread changes in its operational and technical staffing structures.
Both Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr. contributed strongly to the points haul with the Kiwi just outscoring his teammate by 68 to 51 points.
Evans went for broke at the Rome E-Prix but was compromized by his aggression when energy ran scarce, while he also had a strong position in Uruguay scuppered by a weight distribution infraction.
While Piquet did get the better of Evans in qualifying, with a seven-to-five swing in his favor, Evans was generally stronger during the races.
It was the New Zealander who ticked off the milestones of poles and podiums, but behind the scenes, Piquet was cracking a metaphorical whip along with long-term engineering ally Phil Charles to ensure the team improved its overall efficiency both on- and off-track.
The results were varied as Piquet endured some wretched retirements with no fewer than three of them astonishingly down to either seat-belt malfunctions, or, in the case of the first New York City E-Prix, inadvertently switching the car off while exiting the pits.
This formed a dreadful streak of six races between Punta del Este and the finale in which the inaugural Formula E champion’s season was completely sullied by collecting a paltry six points in seven races.
As Charles attests, some of the issues were the manifestations of the Jaguar team still finding its feet in the series’ high-pressure, time-poor race weekends.
“I think we can all be proud with the number of points that we gathered compared to the first season for the team,” Charles told e-racing365 in New York City.
“But there was obviously some frustration too, definitely.”
“Having said that though we did the hard parts right by getting the performance of the powertrain up and the results came as a result. This is the hard part of the job and we got most of it done.”
“We now have to stand back, evaluate and accelerate the learning. We still had some teething issues that other teams had in seasons one and two.
“Overall though when you look at where we came from, then we have to be pleased at the progress.”
Yet, through all of this, the reality proved that Jaguar was right in the hunt for fourth place in the teams’ title right until the New York finale.
If Evans’ driveshaft had not broken on the grid and Piquet’s bizarre switch-off hadn’t happened, then fourth place, and beating the well-established Renault e.dams and Mahindra Racing operations, was a very realistic proposition.
Jaguar Has to Regroup for Season Five
The lingering concern and regret of missing out on a possible fourth-place finish in the standings has long since been put to bed.
“All the teams had to cope with a dual campaign of Season Four and then getting the Season Five packages up and running,” said Charles.
“Unlike some teams, we don’t have separate test squads so whether or not this will have a big impact on what we see next season then we will have to wait and see, but for sure it was not an easy period for anyone.”
There is a considerable amount of work to be done for Jaguar ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and losing Selen Tur, its powertrain tech lead, ahead of the season was certainly not in the script.
How it regroups from that loss will be crucial, while further challenges with holding onto Evans may arise following a breakout season for the Kiwi.
He caught many eyes with ferocious pace over the course of 2017-18, despite some clear and public errors, such as in Zurich when he lost a likely podium by exceeding the Full Course Yellow speed limit.
His mentor and manager Mark Webber has attended several Formula E races now and his links with Porsche are well-known.
Evans tested for the German manufacturer in LMP1 at the end of 2015 and could be a shrewd investment for Andreas Seidl and crew which is casting its net further than initially believed for its Season Six drivers.