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Opinion

Why Cassidy Formula E signing means Jaguar must succeed in 2024

OPINION: With Nick Cassidy joining Mitch Evans at Jaguar next season, the Big Cat squad has the strongest Formula E assortment. But while keeping an eye on the competition will be important over the coming months, what Jaguar has put together now means it must taste title success

Mitch Evans, Jaguar TCS Racing, 2nd position, congratulates winner Nick Cassidy, Envision Racing in parc ferme

It may only be just over a week since the 2022-2023 Formula E season ended in London, but nothing ever stands still in motorsport and the focus of teams has already switched to next year’s opening round in January and Mexico City.

A sign of intent has already come from Jaguar Racing, which has become the first team to formally announce its two-driver line-up for the upcoming campaign; and what a line-up it is. Mitch Evans will continue with the British manufacturer having been with the team since both joined Formula E back in 2016, during which time they’ve taken 10 wins together. And joining Evans next season will be fellow Kiwi Nick Cassidy, who on Monday was confirmed as having moved from Jaguar customer team Envision Racing into the full works outfit for 2024.

The signing of Cassidy is something of a logical decision for both parties given their close working relationship over the past year and the New Zealander’s impressive results which took him to second in the standings.

“We have had an eye on Nick for some time, in fact, when he did the rookie test for Envision [back in 2020] we were actually thinking of offering to do the test with us,” Jaguar team principal James Barclay tells Autosport.

“We definitely were tracking his career and he was someone I had my eye on with his performances in Japan [where he won the Super GT title in 2017 and Super Formula title in 2019]. Then there are moments in his Formula E career. One that stands out for me was a wet qualifying in Valencia where he made a slight mistake in the final sector, but he was so much faster than everyone in that session at one point it was incredibly impressive.

“We always saw his capability and then obviously we’ve seen that closely now this year with him being in our customer team. I’ve seen in Nick a driver who is absolutely dedicated to his craft, who is laser-focused on wanting to be successful and we love that spirit, we love that attitude. We’re real racers, we just want to fight for race wins and championships, and I think Nick has got that character as does Mitch. We’re really excited, I think they’ll be a strong pairing and I can’t wait to go racing.”

Cassidy completes an all-Kiwi line-up for Jaguar, while the pair both finished in the top three in the Formula E standings

Cassidy completes an all-Kiwi line-up for Jaguar, while the pair both finished in the top three in the Formula E standings

Photo by: Jaguar Racing

Before delving into the Kiwi dynamic and what it means for Jaguar as well as the championship, it’s worth looking at who Cassidy has replaced. Sam Bird spent three seasons with the British outfit having been a stalwart of Formula E since its inception in 2014 with Virgin Racing and then Envision. Two wins came in his first season with Jaguar in Diriyah and New York, but a barren patch followed with not a single podium in the 2021-2022 campaign. The Briton’s fortunes improved slightly this year with four more podiums but again no wins, which was in stark contrast to the four racked up by Evans.

More significantly, Bird was at fault for two collisions with Evans in Hyderabad and Jakarta that cost the Kiwi vital points and a stronger tilt at the title, having missed out by just 32 points to eventual champion Jake Dennis. It all meant that Bird’s time at Jaguar was always likely to come to an end sooner rather than later, although he is expected to remain on the Formula E grid next season with McLaren.

PLUS: How Dennis navigated Formula E finale chaos to be crowned champion at home

“Sam is a fantastic racing driver, he’s a fantastic human being and I think, from our point of view, if we look back [we had] some great memories together,” says Barclay. “I think he’s really proud to have raced for Jaguar, he joins an incredible list of drivers who have raced for this amazing brand and we’re proud to have had him drive for us.

"We absolutely have the ingredients and we should be able to fight for a championship next year" James Barclay

“There’s probably been a reality that we haven’t fulfilled the potential together and sometimes you need a reset and I think from both Sam’s point of view and our point of view we both felt that was the right time.”

That reset paved the way for Cassidy to join Jaguar and in the process, create arguably the strongest driver line-up on the Formula E grid regardless of who other teams are set to announce in the coming weeks.

Both Kiwis demonstrated incredible form during this year’s campaign, each taking four wins and heading to the London finale with a shot at the title. In the rain-affected final race, they were each in a league of their own with Cassidy’s win meaning he pipped Evans to the runner-up spot by just two points. At the ages of 28 and 29 respectively, both are just approaching the peaks of their careers and have enough experience in Formula E to get the job done when it matters.

Off the track, the duo are good friends having grown up and competed against each other in New Zealand, even being team-mates in the 2011 Toyota Racing Series meaning, in theory, their tight collaboration should only push Jaguar to new heights.

But this friendship was strained somewhat when Evans collided with an innocent Cassidy in the second Rome E-Prix, essentially handing Dennis the title, and more fractures might appear should they both find themselves in a position to win the title.

Hypotheticals aside, it’s arguably a scenario Jaguar would prefer to have with Barclay admitting that the teams’ title is the priority and that the “team obviously comes first and the decisions we make are about the best result for the team”.

This emphasis on the teams’ title comes after Jaguar missed out to customer team Envision on the final day of the season, having entered the final round tied on points as its powertrain dominated the second half of the season. The runner-up position is also one it occupied in 2020-2021, and during the last three seasons, Evans has also taken the drivers’ title down to the final round only to fall short on each occasion – his last title coming way back in 2012 when he won the GP3 crown.

It all means that while there have been moments of success, no title has come the way of the works Jaguar team in seven years of it being in the all-electric championship.

“Our desire and intention as a competitive team is to go and win the championship,” says Barclay.
“But this is Formula E and if you’re in the position of fighting for the championship come the closing stages of the season, you’re doing a good job as a team. We have a very strong driver line-up, we absolutely have the ingredients and we should be able to fight for a championship next year but we need to see what happens over the winter before we start racing again.

“Assuming we have that package which is competitive, which we should do with a homologation for two years, no one is really bringing any new hardware, that should mean we remain competitive. We have the ingredients to fight for the championship, but would I deem this year a failure because we came second – absolutely not.”

Barclay may not deem this year as a failure, but there inevitably comes a point where finishing second is not enough – and 2024 is that year. In Evans and Cassidy, Jaguar has two drivers capable of winning on any given weekend and who will push each other on track while helping to steer the team in the right direction off it.

The Big Cat now has everything it needs on paper to sit at the top of the Formula E food chain, and anything less in 12 months’ time will almost certainly be deemed a failure.

Can Jaguar finally capture a Formula E title next season?

Can Jaguar finally capture a Formula E title next season?

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

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