JACK NICHOLLS: Jaguar needs Rome's happy hunting ground to yield points as well as positives

Another Formula E race, another article from me about how tight the championship is and how tough it is to predict what’s going to happen on this double-header weekend in Rome. There is, though, one team who really need a big haul of points this weekend.

When you look at the Teams' World Championship table, there aren’t many surprises. ROKiT Venturi Racing has impressed by being ahead of the factory Mercedes-EQ squad, albeit by just two points, but there's nothing out of the ordinary with Porsche, DS TECHEETAH and Envision Racing filling the other berths in the top half of the standings.

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There is a big name missing, though; Jaguar TCS Racing. The British team finished second in the championship last year, with Mitch Evans looking set to win the Drivers’ title until his car failed to get off the line at the final race in Berlin, and there’s an argument to suggest that on balance they had the fastest car last season.

This season has not started well, however. The British team are seventh in the standings with just 13 points after three races. At this point last season, Jaguar topped the championship 74 points. There's been an array of reasons for the lack of points. The first race in Diriyah wasn’t too bad, with Sam Bird finishing fourth and Evans 10th after a difficult qualifying session in that first outing of the Groups and Duels format.

Sam Bird Jaguar Racing Diriyah E-Prix Formula E

Things started going downhill for race two, though, as both drivers hit the wall in qualifying leaving Evans 16th on the grid and Bird 21st. There were still glimmers of hope, as Bird felt he had the pace to come through and score points had the race not ended behind the Safety Car.

It was then on to Mexico City, a circuit at which Evans had dominated on Formula E’s previous visit, and from the outset Jaguar were off the pace, and once again it was a race of recovery. There were more encouraging signs of race pace, as both drivers were in the top 10, but they ultimately ran out of useable energy when the race went a lap longer than they predicted.

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So that’s how they find themselves 55 points adrift in the Teams' table. All sport is about minimising the ‘ifs’ and the ‘buts’, and while there is a lot of evidence to suggest that Jaguar have a fast and efficient race car, the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ have stopped them from displaying it. Indeed, the powertrains are in the second year of homologation, so Jaguar still have the same package that served them so well in Season 7.

It may seem too early and a little hyperbolic to declare Rome a ‘make or break’ weekend for Jaguar’s title chances, but I don’t think we are far from that tipping point. Over the past few years we have seen late title surges, most notably last season from Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) who had four points after five races!

But Formula E is different now, especially with the new qualifying format where we are unlikely to see the huge leaps through the field thanks to being towards the bottom of the standings giving you an advantage.

Jaguar double podium Formula E Rome E-Prix 2021Jaguar go well in Rome. Evans and Bird celebrated a maiden double podium for the team last time around

So therefore, I would argue that Rome is very close to make or break for Jaguar's Season 8. If they are further adrift at the end of the weekend, with one third of the campaign completed, it will require a gargantuan fight back if they are to recover to where many predicted them to be at the start of the season.

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The good news is that they’ve got one of the most efficient cars on the grid, piloted by two of the best drivers on the grid. They also were very strong in Rome last time around – with the same car – scoring their first ever double podium with Bird second and Evans third.

Just to add to the positive vibes, Evans and Jaguar took their first Formula E victory around the streets of Rome in Season 5. In fact, that sums up Jaguar’s season so far, lots of positives but they need to turn the positives into points.

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