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Where other motorsport championships are veering into predictability and being called “boring” by their own biggest names, Formula E couldn’t be further from the same path right now.
While Toto Wolff criticised the lack of action in Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, FE’s season resumes after a pair of racedays in Berlin. The races broke records for overtakes and leaders and FE now heads to Monaco for the start of the second half of the season.
The title fight, which early on in the campaign looked like being something of a two-driver battle, has expanded to at least five. Pascal Wehrlein still leads, but the man who won the very first race of the season in Mexico City – and followed it up with two straight second-place finishes – has had to stay patient to get himself back in contention.
Jake Dennis picked up 62 points in those first three races, then not a single one more in the next four. Another P2 last time out keeps him fourth in the standings and very much in the hunt for the championship – where only 24 points separate first from fifth – but the competitiveness, and at times this season chaos, in Formula E means every single race is a massive battle to earn places.
While every drive naturally wants to be at the top as often as possible, knowing you’ve had to be at your best makes the great days even better, though. “You thrive off competition and that’s what makes it so rewarding when you do well. You have to be on your A-game to deliver a top result; a slightly off-the-mark set-up or drive is so punishing. That’s the beauty of Formula E, there’s a lot of spec parts so the driver can make the difference,” Dennis told the Independent in Monaco.
“That’s also what makes one-day events so hard: if you’re off the pace in FP1 then it’s really difficult to fix that in a day, you’re generally going to carry that all the way through the day. FP1 can be a real marker of whether you have a good weekend or not.”
That all means Dennis, teammate Andre Lotterer and the entire Avalanche Andretti garage will be hoping to make a good start to Saturday, when free practice, qualifying and the main race all take place.
Four DNFs in a row as a result of everything from shunts to tech failures left Dennis and the team in an uncomfortable position, but the Sunday race in Berlin was a “big relief and big morale boost” for the entire team, he noted, which allowed a reset ahead of Monaco – a tricky location to continue the title push as a result of his relative inexperience there compared to some of the grid.
“This is the one track which a lot of drivers have such a good understanding of. Some of these guys have driven this track for 11 years across all kinds of series so the level you have to be at to match those guys is super high,” Dennis explained. “This is only my third attempt while they know every bump and curve. But the event, Monaco itself, it’s an incredible track to drive, it’s quite fast for us and the overtaking opportunities will be good at the start of the race.
“Hopefully we can have a good qualifying car because that’s been the weakness this year. I’m happy with top eight generally, because on race day we’re one of the best. I’d be confident from there we can score a podium or win the race.”
It’s a tough ask to win any race, of course, and Dennis hasn’t done so since the season curtain-raiser in Mexico City. But if he can – and three P2s since then show he’s more than capable – he’ll be right back in the mix as one of the championship favourites.
Who else does he see being a challenger across the remaining eight rounds, and what can Andretti do to improve their chances?
Jake Dennis (left) and Andretti teammate Andre Lotterer
A little bit of risk management, perhaps.
“We’re in title contention at the halfway point with six or seven who can do a really good job. Ultimately I have the car to do it but I’m not really worried about the championship. The races at the moment are quite high risk, picking up damage, so we need to keep it clean and pick up top fives and see where we are come Rome and London,” he said.
“Mitch [Evans] is looking really strong and Nick [Cassidy] is in a really good run of form right now. You’d be stupid to count out Pascal [Wehrlein] or Antonio [Felix Da Costa] so anything with a Jaguar powertrain or a Porsche is going to be very strong.”
The big performances and top-three finishes can provide huge boosts, as we’ve heard. But so too is there plenty to be said for a series of races where points are consistently put on the board, even if they don’t lead to immediate celebrations. The season is a long one, after all.
So which is a driver’s preference: consistency or celebrating? As it turns out, it’s an easy decision.
Monaco will be Dennis’ 40th race in Formula E, while he claimed his tenth podium in Berlin: a pretty good ratio which surprises him to hear about.
“That’s not bad, I’ll take that! If the end of the championship was the same in both instances, say finishing fifth, then I’d prefer four DNFs and a win to get the buzz! Fifth is fine but it’s not a podium or a big emotional win so I’d take the highs and lows. Nothing beats a podium or a win to be honest.”
Perhaps that’s the competitor in him speaking. Perhaps that’s the Dennis which will be on show on Saturday.
:: Watch the 2023 Monaco E-Prix live on terrestrial television on Channel 4 at 13:30 BST on Saturday 6 May
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