“Chalk & Cheese” – an interview with Jaguar’s James Calado

by James Bowers

James Calado is a name that you’ll be hearing a lot around here at The Checkered Flag, not only for his antics in the World Endurance Championship and now Formula E, but also for his new series of personal blog posts that’ll be going live every month. In fact, the first one is out now!

A little while ago, however, we took the chance to speak to the British racer about his new project with Panasonic Jaguar Racing at their Warwickshire-based HQ.

From winning Le Mans with Ferrari, to being signed up by Jaguar for the 2019/20 FIA Formula E Championship, this Summer will certainly feature in the highlights reel of Calado’s racing career.

“Yeah it’s been good” he said, rather modestly. “I managed to go on holiday and spend time with the family, but there wasn’t much rest in between the WEC championships and coming into this [the Jaguar Formula E team] and being in the car as much as I can be, so it’s been pretty hectic.

“I’ve always wanted to do Formula E as it’s something that I’ve always been fascinated by, and the growth of it is really interesting to me. So, myself and my management were really pushing to try and find a seat. Being British, the talks started with Jaguar and yeah, since then we’ve done a few tests with the car and I’ve proven that I’ve got the speed to get the deal.”

“I vaguely remember that I was on the first list of drivers to do it [take part in Formula E], but I never had the opportunity to do it. At first I was sceptical [of the series], I think everyone was, but that’s normal for any new championship, not just e-racing.

I think season three really rung a bell, maybe season four, it just kind of sky-rocketed and I ended up watching Formula E on TV and not Formula One. We always found it more exciting because things happen that you don’t expect, and now I’m part of it so I’m over the moon.”

Having admitted to watching on from the sidelines for a couple of seasons, we asked Calado who he thought would be his toughest rival this year. That, however, isn’t quite in line with the 30 year-old’s outlook on racing.

“There’s no one in particular, obviously everyone’s strong.” he said. “The previous winners are experienced in that aspect, so obviously they’re going to be ones to watch. But I can’t think about other people, I just need to think about doing the best job I can and try to improve before I can really look at that.”

Despite being a rookie in Formula E, Calado is no stranger to many of the other drivers on the grid this year however, having raced with them in the past. When asked about reigniting old rivalries, the Brit was excited to go wheel to wheel again with some of his old sparring partners.

“Yeah absolutely” he said. “You know, I’ve been out of single seaters for six years and I’ve kept in touch with all of them. Sam Bird was obviously my team-mate at Ferrari, so I’ve got all the info on Formula E from him, so yeah I’m really looking forward to being back with them.

Obviously Mitch [Evans] is very good, he’s such a fast driver and always has been, so for me it’s really important coming into this team that I take as much information as possible from him and just try and get up to speed as quick as I can.”

Although he’ll be giving his all for Jaguar, the British team’s project isn’t the only one that he’ll be a part of over the course of the next year. Alongside Formula E, Calado has retained his seat with the AF Corse Ferrari team in the World Endurance Championship. This means that he’ll have to adapt to two very different ways of racing throughout the season. As a racing driver, it’s certainly a nice problem to have, but which does he prefer?

“I think both cars are very different.” he began. “One’s a lot heavier than the other one, and one’s got two seats indirectly. The approach of the racing is also completely different; it’s like chalk and cheese difference.

I’m looking forward to the competitiveness of Formula E and the fact that it’s just such an amazing championship to be in as a driver. I can’t wait to get to Saudi and hopefully show what we’re capable of, but at the same time I still enjoy driving in the WEC and racing for AF Corse. I can’t really answer which is better or worse but I’ve got a great opportunity to do both.”

Indeed, Formula E is back on track in Saudi Arabia tomorrow (22nd November). This year, the grid is bigger and stacked full of even more talent than ever before, so as a rookie, what are James Calado’s expectations once the lights go out on the start line in Diriyah?

“I’m a racing driver and I want to win, but at the same time a racing driver needs to be realistic.” he explained. “Like I said, the speed is there, I just need to get on top of this energy management but I’m sure we’ll slowly get better and better. From there on, I’m sure we’ll see some really good results and it’s just important for the team that we score points. I think they were a bit unlucky last year with Alex [Lynn] having his DNFs and things; there was plenty more points available. The effort that has gone into it so far is huge and I feel like I’m in a really good place.

Adam Carroll, Nelson Piquet Jr. and the aforementioned Alex Lynn have all gone before him in Jaguar’s quest to find a suitable team-mate for Mitch Evans. Naturally, Calado will hope that the merry-go-round stops here, but is that Jaguar’s plan too?

“Honestly, I just need to concentrate on this year and then we’ll see what happens going forward.” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure to perform in such a high level championship, but as long as that happens, I can see a great future with the team.”

So there we are, at long last have Jaguar finally found their perfect pairing? Well, time will tell, but you can keep up with this story right here on The Checkered Flag all throughout the season.

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