Together, Nelson Piquet Jr and Panasonic Jaguar Racing are hoping to forge a championship-winning partnership in Formula E.
Piquet Jr, Formula E’s first-ever champion, has switched from Chinese team NextEV to the British team for the forthcoming season of the all-electric racing series.
“It’s going to be a big challenge winning a championship after racing for three seasons for NextEV but I thought it was time to change my home,” Piquet Jr told CNN.
“There is an amazing technical crew at Jaguar and I’m really looking forward to starting the (season 4) championship with them.”
Jaguar set to roar?
The 32-year-old son of three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet will partner New Zealand’s Mitch Evans on the grid and will hope to revive his fortunes after two uncompetitive seasons — the Brazilian finished 16th in 2015/16 drivers’ championship and 11th last season.
Piquet’s partnership with Jaguar Racing will give the British team a boost after experiencing mixed results in its first Formula E season — the team scored 27 points in 12 races, finishing last in the constructors’ championship.
There were, however, some encouraging signs notably a double-points finish at April’s Mexico ePrix where Evans came home fourth and his former teammate Adam Carroll was eighth.
Piquet Jr concedes that Jaguar Racing are unlikely to challenge the likes of Renault eDams — three-time constructors’ champions — Mahindra Racing and ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport in the coming season, but he sees a bright long-term future for Jaguar.
“There is a little bit of catching up to do,” he said. “We don’t see ourselves winning all the races, but we want to be fighting for wins and championships, but realistically if we are scoring points on a regular basis that would be the most important thing right now.
“Jaguar have made a lot of gains from season three to season four — the car is much lighter, much more efficient, so if we can be constantly in the top six or seven that would be a big accomplishment.”
‘Crazy’ interest in Formula E
Piquet Jr has watched Formula E grow from relatively humble beginnings in 2014 when few people had heard of the series to its current status as on the cusp of becoming a mainstream sport.
“Things have changed quite a bit. The season I won the title people would ask me: ‘What’s Formula E about? Do you really think this is going to take off?’ They wouldn’t give me much credit for what I was doing,” he said.
“But now it’s crazy. It’s the complete opposite. People are doing anything to be part of Formula E. And not only drivers. It’s sponsors, manufacturers, the fans want to be close to Formula E.”
Brazil is also set to host a race on the streets of Sao Paulo in March 2018.
It would be the first time Formula E has visited Brazil, but Piquet Jr admits that initially it might be a tough sell to a country that idolizes its Formula One drivers.
“That’s going to be a tricky one. We’ve have had eight world championships between my dad, Ayrton (Senna) and Emerson (Fittipaldi),” he said.
“There are not many electric cars in Brazil at the moment so it might be a bit hard for the public to understand Formula E right now.
“But out of the three world championships two were Brazilian (himself and 2017 champion Lucas di Grassi) so maybe that’s enough for the country to embrace the series,” he said.