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EXCLUSIVE: Mitch Evans Targeting Season Nine Glory After Feeling “like I’ve been a bridesmaid”

9 Mins read
Credit: Suberashi Auto Photo

Mitch Evans will be hoping it’s third-time lucky for his ABB FIA Formula E World Championship hopes, with the New Zealander having come close to glory for two consecutive years. Season Eight was by far the best of Evans’ Formula E career to date, with the Jaguar TCS Racing driver having fought reigning Champion Stoffel Vandoorne for the entirety of the season.

Ultimately, Evans fell short, with his retirement from the second race at the London E-Prix having put a huge dent in his title hopes last year. Nevertheless, it’s time to put Gen2 in the past, with the all-electric series preparing to enter a whole new era of the sport, Gen3.

The cars are faster, lighter, more powerful, more efficient, lighter, and drastically different visually, partly due to the new 470bhp cars boasting front and rear powertrains. With all that in mind, Evans sat down with The Checkered Flag at the team’s launch of the I-TYPE 6, the team’s first Gen3 challenger. Evans is “recharged” and “ready” to get the new generation of the sport underway, one that sets to be enthralling.

“I’ve had a few months off so recharged, excuse the pun!” Evans exclusively told The Checkered Flag.

“Yes, I’m feeling good and I’m ready to get back into another season.”

Evans driving the I-TYPE 6 at the launch event – Credit: Suberashi Auto Photo

Whilst the majority of TCF’s discussion with Evans was about the upcoming season, the conversation did slightly delve into the previous era of the sport, one that was massively successful for one of Britain’s most famous manufacturers. In Gen2, Jaguar achieved their first win and their best result in both Championships, with Evans having finished second in the Season Eight Drivers’ Championship, with the team also claiming second in the Constructors’ just behind the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team.

Evans does have some “great memories” of the recent era of the sport, with the driver having cemented his place as a regular frontrunner and crucially a consistent title challenger. When there are good memories, though, there are usually some bad, something Evans does have a few of.

Based on that, the ‘King of Rome’ (Evans claimed both wins at the Season Nine Rome double-header) does see Gen3 as a fresh start, with quite literally “everything” about the upcoming season being brand new.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Evans, in response to whether Gen3 is a fresh start for himself and the team.

“I look back at Gen2 with great memories. Personally, I think as a team as well, we hit a lot of our key milestones as a team within Gen2. Our first win and off the back of that, multiple wins, almost winning the championship on a few occasions. So yeah, to be honest, I look back, good memories, but obviously there’s a few moments where it could have been better and I think as a team we know that, but yeah, I think we do see it as a fresh out.

“I think we see it as an opportunity. I got a great team behind us to try and produce a really strong Gen3 package and go out and try and achieve some of the targets we set ourselves. So yeah, I’m looking forward to that. I’m excited to see how it’s all going to play out, how this new car will behave on Formula E tracks, etc. There’s so many things that to uncover yet, but so far just looking forward to the new challenge and fresh look for the team, fresh everything. So yeah, it’s definitely a fresh start in many aspects.”

“You really feel that the new chapter has started”

With 2023 set to be such a big year for the sport and hopefully for Evans, just when does a driver start to get excited for a new season? Is it the launch? The first round? Or the first time speaking about the new car?

Well, for Evans, his excitement for Season Nine and Gen3 began when he “first drove the Gen3” car, a completely understandable reason for excitement!

“Probably starts when you start the testing programme which started a few months ago just for me, straight after the season,” revealed the New Zealander, when asked if the launch of the I-TYPE 6 is when the excitement begins to build for him.

“It started when I first drove the Gen3. You feel it’s a new chapter and it sort of builds throughout the testing programme. Talking about the new car and obviously events like this, you really feel the new that the new chapter has started. But it does kind of start when you first drive the car a bit and you start that phase of testing and that would just continue between now and Mexico, but even in Valencia as well because you’ll start to see other cars and you start to see where you stack up.”

“But around now you start to anticipate, small amounts of tension and stress start to start to creep in just because Everest is coming, you know. But of course, it’s a great feeling.”

Credit: Suberashi Auto Photo

Despite the new cars being lighter, a common comment amongst the drivers during pre-season so far is that the Gen3 machines are “really heavy” to steer. This is as a result of the front powertrain, something that Evans is intrigued to see “how it’s going to behave”. With the cars being tougher to steer, Evans was asked if he’s had to adjust his training routine in preparation for the increased demands that the drivers will have to face, with the Season Eight runner-up revealing that he has done more weight training.

“I’ve done a little bit more weight training than I’m sort of used to,” Evans told TCF.

“The steering is really heavy. It’s really heavy. It’s a different sensation because of the front power train. It’s a different type of torque you get through the steering column, which isn’t good or bad, it’s just different. Every car is different so it’s not like it’s completely unusual. But I think the biggest thing is how it’s going to behave.”

Transitioning to Gen3 a “bigger challenge” than Gen2

Delving more into the huge step up Gen3 is from Gen2, a generation of Formula E car that was both incredibly exciting to watch both in terms of racing and on the eye, there is huge pressure on the new era of the sport to be a success. As well as the cars, the tyres are also changing drastically, with Hankook having replaced Michelin as the sport’s official tyre manufacturer.

Evans, who is also a Gen1 podium finisher, is expecting the newest cars to be the most challenging for the drivers to deal with due to the “big speed increase”. The Gen3 cars will be capable of speeds up to 200mph, whilst Gen2 was only capable of 174mph. With more power at the drivers disposal as well, the Jaguar driver does believe the change for the drivers from Gen2 to Gen3 will be a “bigger challenge”, than it was from Gen1 to Gen2.

Credit: Suberashi Auto Photo

“I would say so because it’s obviously quite a big speed increase, not a huge grip increase because different tyre, sort of road tyre, obviously, but also we haven’t got a load more downforce or anything,” added the Season Eight Vice-Champion, when asked by TCF if Gen3 will be the hardest Formula E car to drive.

“We’ve got a lot more power and the same tracks. The tracks are the same, so we’re travelling faster, but we’ve still got the same amount of tarmac to deal with. So, yeah, I think on top of that energy saving in the races might change a bit; the car to get the power down is more difficult. So I do think it’s going to be a bigger challenge for the transition between the last generation of cars.

“But yet again, it’s a little early to say, but I think we’re all intrigued to see how this car behaves once we get to a proper street track, because these tracks are quite demanding. They throw a lot at the car and the car is very technical now. So I think we just need to just basically wait and see and get to those. Because the tracks we’re testing on right now they’re bumpy and stuff, but you can’t really replicate a street track.”

New rules, regulations, and format giving the teams a “lot to consider”

It’s not just the cars that are changing for Gen3, with a whole heap of format changes also set to be introduced at the season opener in Mexico City. For Season Nine, FanBoost has been dropped and the races will be done on a lap counter rather than a forty-five minutes-and-a-lap timer, with the latter set to make the races much easier to follow for both existing and new fans to the sport.

As well as these two changes, Attack Mode is set to be changed and the sport has introduced mandatory rookie Free Practice One sessions, identical to the rule used in Formula 1. From Season Nine, all the teams will need to use a rookie driver in two Free Practice One sessions during the season.

Given how big the step from Gen2 to Gen3 already is for the teams, the new rules and format is “a lot” for the drivers and the teams to get a gauge of. Perhaps the sport has attempted to introduce too much too soon, with Evans commenting how “compressed” a Formula E race day already is based on the previous format.

The new tyres as well are set to result in the teams treating Free Practice differently, with Evans revealing to TCF that they take a “bit longer” to get into the “window”. With everything taken into consideration, Evans does think the championship has “thrown” a lot at the teams.

“Yeah, it’s a lot thrown at us, a lot,” admitted Evans, in regard to the new regulations, rules and format.

“Obviously, the team are trying to manage all that. As drivers, we’re trying to manage it as well. It does seem a lot at one time, especially when you get to the race events, because Formula E race days are so compressed and they happen so quick. In practice, we’ve got to try and cover off a lot of different parts of the day.

“We got to try and cover off, like, qualifying power then the duel power, which has increased, and in the race management, and also attack modes and stuff. So to try and fit that in, plus with the new reg changes, a new car, the new tyres behaving a bit differently to the Michelin. It takes us quite a bit longer to get them into the window, so we’re going to have probably more laps on track, but more maybe useful laps.

“Yeah, there’s a lot to consider. So, yeah, I’ve got full confidence in the team that will be on top of it, but it is a big shift at one time.”

Sam Bird (left) and Mitch Evans (right) – Credit: Suberashi Auto Photo

There is one other change that is set to be introduced for Season Nine but not at the start of the season. Following issues in testing, the sport are considering introducing fast charging pit-stops mid-season, something that hasn’t pleased Evans. The fast charging pit-stops will make an ‘Attack Charge’ race, where the drivers will need to complete a quick thirty-second pit-stop to access additional power.

These races are set to occur at double-headers, with one race to use the traditional Attack Mode, whilst the other will use Attack Charge.

The twenty-eight year old is actually really pleased to see pit-stops returning to the championship, with them having not been seen since the Gen1 driver-swap days. Evans is surprised that the sport are considering introducing them midway through the season, with the Jaguar star admitting he “would have waited until Season Ten” to introduce them if he was in charge.

“I would have expected them to wait [until Season Ten],” Evans revealed.

“I guess they would have liked for it to come in earlier but it’s just the way that it’s just evolved. I mean, it’s exciting though, it’s really exciting to have pit stops again. That’s going to be great.

“But to introduce a halfway through a season is unusual to say, but as a team we want to try and be prepared because again, it’s just another massive variable that’s been thrown in there, especially throughout a season, which we’ve not really been able to practice much. If it was me making the call, I would have waited until Season Ten, just let us do this [season].

“I feel like I’ve been a bridesmaid”

With so much success in Formula E to his name, it really is just the Drivers’ Championship that eludes him. Having come fourth in Season Seven following a failure at the finale, and then having finished second last season, Evans is done feeling “like I’ve been a bridesmaid”. Evans wants that title and is tired of “walking away” without the Formula E crown.

Jaguar have enjoyed a solid pre-season compared to some teams, with a real sense of optimism seemingly visible amongst the outfit. Based on that, Season Nine could potentially be Evans and Jaguar’s year, with the team being “so hungry for a championship”.

“Obviously, that’s the plan off the back of the last two seasons,” said Evans, when asked if Season Nine will finally be his and the team’s defining season.

“Just from a personal point of view, I feel like I’ve been a bridesmaid. I missed out in Berlin Season Seven with the failure at the start, and then obviously last year we took it down to the wire. It was a really strong, solid year for the team and myself. So, yeah, I walked away from Seoul feeling I’ve had enough of not walking away with the championship.

“It’s definitely firmly in our sights and I feel good, but obviously it’s a complete reset this year. It’s a whole fresh start. It’s a lot more opportunity, potentially, but, look, I’ve got a great team behind me that’s going to give me the best opportunity possible. But maybe other teams have cracked it. Once we change regulations with cars, some teams get on top of it earlier than others. But I’ve got a great team behind me.

“They’ve been working on this car for a long time, and it’s a lot of things to try and get on top of. I’ve got full confidence that I’ve got the right team to give me the best package to try and go out there and win and you have to believe that, otherwise it’s no point. I think the team, they’re so hungry for a championship as well, so hopefully hopefully it’s our year. But, yeah, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

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