Jake Dennis left the Diriyah opener in a strong spot. Last season, as a rookie, Dennis flew out of Saudi Arabia with no points to his name after a chastening pair of DNFs. This time around, he's 25 points in to another season where a title push is the agenda.
Mexico City is new to the Brit, but he's treating it like any other race weekend, though he's looking forward to racing through the unique granstands of the Foro Sol in front of a passionate Mexican crowd.
"Preparation hasn’t been different to any weekend and it’s not one of the tougher ones to learn, to be honest," said the 26-year-old. "The walls aren’t so close here and we’re just making sure we’ve got the setup in the right ballpark and we’re going through everything we normally do with software.
"We’re at a small disadvantage but I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I feel like we can win here this weekend and I’m just focussed on doing the job in FP1 and 2, then qualifying. It’s a really nice track – quite technical with a few more slower corners compared to Diriyah. The last sector will be very cool with the stadium and the fans in there – it’ll be special. And yes, it’s Mexico. There’s nice weather and I’m very happy to be here.
"It started off really well for us in Saudi - a lot better than last year. We have 25 points on the board, whereas last year we had two DNFs. We’ve hit the ground running and the car’s been performing really well."
With BMW leaving after a seven-year spell in Formula E over the off-season, and Avalanche joining as the team's title partner, the American outfit has drafted in a raft of new staff. Starting so well is doubly impressive, with Dennis sure things will only get better over time as the team gels.
"It was always going to be a challenge with a lot of new personnel with BMW leaving and Andretti guys taking their place – and with Avalanche coming on-board. But what credit to the team Diriyah was after all our work over the winter – it really paid off.
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"I think we’re definitely the most competitive car that doesn’t have a Mercedes-EQ powertrain in it. Third and fifth in Diriyah showed that. There’s so much in software you need to learn and I’ve a good understanding of it already but the personnel changes meant there were some that didn’t.
"The team and I are bonding and going through all the scenarios – watching past races and looking into how we can work better and what we can do differently but it’s definitely working out well so far.
"There are definitely occasions where we’ll be caught out this year but as long as we keep on top of things and keep those to the minimum we’ll just get better and better each round with the team gelling and becoming even closer."
Consistency's ever more key
With the new qualifying format, the quicker drivers - the ones at the sharp end of the points table - will in theory have a better opportunity of placing higher up the grid. There's less of a penalty for good form with Groups and Duels than there was in the Groups and Super Pole format of the past.
Dennis is sure this will squeeze things tighter than ever in the Drivers' World Championship, and he's right so far - with the spread at the top narrower than it was heading into Round 3 in Season 7.
"I love the new quali format," says Dennis. "It’s great to watch and you saw the reaction on social media – I can’t wait for more of it. Last year, even in Group 3 or 4 and you did an average but clean lap you could get through to Super Pole. This year, to get into Duels, you have to nail the lap because you get two attempts, which is rare in Formula E.
"You see a lot more genuine pace now in the top 10 and they’re there on merit. That makes it tougher to move forward in the race. I started eighth in Diriyah and you’re up against the likes of Andre Lotterer (Porsche) and Lucas (di Grassi, ROKiT Venturi Racing). You’re not passing any slow cars anymore. It’s hard but rewarding.
"Consistency is everything in Formula E. Last year was probably the most consistent of any in the series. People were winning races then not scoring for a couple of rounds – and I was one of them. Even Nyck (de Vries, Mercedes-EQ) who won the title had some really bad weekends.
"With the new format, you’re not going to be able to afford a bad weekend. You get the opportunity to score big in every round now."
Published on 11th February 2022