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Why Jaguar is a genuine threat to Porsche in the Formula E title fight

A clean sweep of the podium last time out in Sao Paulo signified Jaguar’s credentials as a Formula E title challenger after a difficult start to the season. Despite a healthy lead in both championships, Porsche can’t rest on its laurels ahead of its home round in Berlin

Sam Bird, Jaguar TCS Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6, leads Pascal Wehrlein, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, Porsche 99X Electric Gen3

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

The Porsche Formula E team has more reasons than most to be satisfied with its current performance this season as it prepares for its home race at the Berlin E-Prix this weekend. The German manufacturer has been the class of the field so far in 2023 as it leads the Teams’ championship by 41 points, and its driver Pascal Wehrlein holds a 24-point buffer over Jake Dennis – another Porsche powertrain user with Andretti Autosport.

It’s fair to say the marque hit the ground running with the new-for-2023 Gen3 regulations but, as the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last race – and that arguably should have Porsche worried.

The pecking order was turned on its head somewhat at the previous round in the inaugural Sao Paulo E-Prix, as not only did Porsche not win for just the second time this year – following Jean-Eric Vergne’s success for DS Penske in Hyderabad – but no Porsche-powered car even occupied a step of the podium for the first time all season.

Instead, it was Jaguar that took a clean sweep with Mitch Evans leading home Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy and team-mate Sam Bird. For Evans it was a much-needed result, his first win and podium of the year after enduring a difficult start to the campaign.

“It’s come at a really good time, we couldn’t leave it much later in the season because we’ve lost a lot of ground [in the championship],” says the Kiwi, who already sits 47 points adrift of Wehrlein in the standings after six races. “The qualifying has been good, the pace has been good, the race pace has been solid but for different reasons we’ve not been able to convert into a good result.”

A quick scan of those results from the previous rounds might suggest to some that the success in Brazil was just a flash in the pan but delve deeper and it’s clear that the Big Cats have had a roar for some time.

Both Evans and Bird had been on for a strong result in Hyderabad before the latter collected his team-mate and was handed a five-place grid drop that, somewhat ironically, was applied in Brazil. This was because a qualifying crash prevented the Brit from starting in Cape Town, while Evans finished outside the points in South Africa.

There had been other signs, though, that Jaguar had the capabilities to mount a challenge against Porsche, not least a pole for Evans in Hyderabad and Bird having taken third and fourth from the two races in Diriyah.

Despite not taking a win so far, Jaguar customer team Envision driver Cassidy has shown what the manufacturer's package can produce

Despite not taking a win so far, Jaguar customer team Envision driver Cassidy has shown what the manufacturer's package can produce

Photo by: Andreas Beil

But a better indication of the Jaguar powertrains true potential has been demonstrated by its customer squad. After somewhat of a sluggish start to the season with just 10 points from the opening three races, Envision’s Cassidy has been in fine form, finishing runner-up in Hyderabad and taking the final step of the podium in Cape Town before finishing inches behind Evans in Sao Paulo.

The Kiwi’s team-mate, 2015-16 Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi, has also found consistency with the car, recording five points finishes from the opening six races. It leaves Envision as Porsche’s closest challenger in the Teams’ battle while Cassidy sits third in the Drivers’ standings, just 25 points behind Wehrlein.

But how much of the Sao Paulo performance was the Jaguar powertrain hitting its stride, and Porsche dropping the ball? The layout of the Brazilian street circuit certainly played a part, its unusually long straights – at least in the world of Formula E – meant it was a race no one wanted to lead and what Bird credited for his rise through the field from 10th.

"We have new cars but everyone is learning from race to race. They always had a really strong car in one-lap pace, in qualifying, but also in the race now they seem to be on top of it, so I expect close fights until the end of the season" Pascal Wehrlein

Title protagonists Wehrlein and Dennis were both left down the grid after lacklustre qualifying performances – the one-lap pace of the Porsche powertrain perhaps its one Achilles heel – and they eventually collided in the race with the latter retiring after some help from Dan Ticktum. Despite starting 18th and suffering damage to the floor of his car after the contact with Dennis, Wehrlein was still able to recover and finish a respectable seventh.

His Porsche team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa fared better, qualifying on the front-row and would have been in the lead battle come the end of the race but for running wide at Turn 1, which meant he needed to come to a complete stop that dropped him down the order. Even so, he still finished an impressive fourth underlining that mistakes and incidents rather than a massive drop-off in performance were at the heart of Porsche’s dip in form.

But Wehrlein is in no doubt that Jaguar and Envision have found a sweet spot and the early advantage enjoyed by the German team has been whittled away.

Championship leader Wehrlein is wary of the threat posed by Jaguar and Envision

Championship leader Wehrlein is wary of the threat posed by Jaguar and Envision

Photo by: Andreas Beil

“I think in the race they looked pretty strong, already in the beginning of the season they looked strong,” says Wehrlein. “We have new cars but everyone is learning from race to race. They always had a really strong car in one-lap pace, in qualifying, but also in the race now they seem to be on top of it, so I expect close fights until the end of the season.”

The other side of the Berlin double-header this weekend marks the halfway point of the 16-race season and a point in the year where most teams are well on top of the new Gen3 cars. Other than the switch of venue from New York to Portland, the remaining venues of Monaco, Jakarta, Rome and London are all familiar to the teams and drivers, which is in stark contrast to the three new locations of Hyderabad, Cape Town and Sao Paulo that Formula E has visited over the last three rounds.

The familiar circuits will provide a greater base for teams to work from, which could well swing momentum in favour of the Jaguar-powered machines as the season progresses.

Rome and Jakarta were certainly happy hunting grounds for Evans and Jaguar last season, the combination winning all three races, and there’s every reason to believe that after their breakthrough Sao Paulo victory they can challenge for wins at all the remaining rounds.

Porsche may lead both championships for now, but it has every reason to be looking over its shoulder at the fast-approaching pack.

Can Porsche keep the prowling Jaguars away?

Can Porsche keep the prowling Jaguars away?

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro

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