Where drivers, teams and Formula E itself must improve across a milestone season 10 in 2024


Every year, every sport, it’s the same. The first week of action rolls around and the feeling increases: this time it’s going to be better. This time, we’ve got the plan and the people to make the difference. Even for those who impressed, triumphed or progressed the previous season, there’s more to aim for, higher performance levels to reach, different targets to exceed.

For those who didn’t taste success, that’s usually the whole focus: here’s why we are in the game, here’s what we’re aiming for, this is how we can do it. In 2024, almost everyone in Formula E will be thinking that way, from those who missed out on tickets to watch to the individuals who missed out on honours across the final race weekend.

A new beginning isn’t just for the fans and teams involved, though. Especially for one still growing, it’s also an opportunity to be seized by the championship itself.

If you didn’t know the new season was starting before now or didn’t indeed know there was a season or a championship, perhaps that’s an indication of one job which needs to be better done, to be more focused on. Where there’s still scope for improvement. A hierarchy change midway through season nine spoke of the need for year-round awareness and presence; that hasn’t yet manifested into a regular, widespread enough reality, even in a city which hosts the season’s finale, let alone to the masses elsewhere who watch from afar. And this time it’s a milestone: season 10 of the championship.

But when it comes to the racing, it’s open season once more and optimism will run riot before the electric vehicles do.

And why not? Lessons from last season will at this moment be keenest, the determination to find improvements – incremental or enormous – most obvious before the lights go green. Among the drivers with not just ambition to improve but reason to believe he’ll do so is Jake Hughes.

A fantastic start last term showed McLaren were right to take the plunge with him, though later struggles underlined the difficulty of the championship and of keeping pace with the best in the Gen3 car. He ended the campaign 12th, Neom McLaren eighth of 11 teams, and this year he has a new teammate in experienced campaigner Sam Bird.

Jake Hughes driving for McLaren

(Getty)

He also happens to be a Guinness World Record holder, after setting a new speed mark last season in a specially adapted version of the current FE Gen3 car. He’s far from only about the cars, though.

“Sometimes I don’t know if people notice that I’m a football fan! I won’t miss out on any opportunity to talk about Aston Villa,” he tells The Independent. “I’ve been on this planet since 1994 and I haven’t seen any success, I was only two for the ’96 League Cup. This is the closest we look to achieving something.”

He’s animated talking about his other pursuit – on the day we speak, it happens to be after a ridiculous penalty decision is awarded about which he has plenty to say – but it’s full focus on the day job as season 10 approaches. And he’s fully ready for the challenge too, after an unusually long break after the conclusion of season nine on home soil.

“We sat down numerous times and a lot of analysis has been done since London to identify two or three main areas that we’re all in agreement on, things which are in our control to fix for season 10,” he says.

“The season is so intense, race weekends and days are intense so you’re not blessed with time to act on the fly or react as much as you want. The race can unravel within one or two laps without you realising it – that’s the nature of the championship.

“I had a good seven or eight weeks off and I needed that. In my youth career, I rarely had that, in 2021-22 I had 70 or 80 simulator days, 24 or 25 race weekends to attend to, and it takes a lot out of you. This was the first time in five or six years I can truthfully say I had even a month to reset physically and mentally.

“I was so excited to be back in the car in Valencia and I’m so motivated to improve on last year – I owe a lot to that period.”

Hughes, and other drivers spoken to since preseason, praised Formula E for a “seamless” and “well-managed” couple of days when testing was disrupted by a fire, switching around drivers’ media days so there was little waiting around and still the opportunity to get plenty of kilometres in on the track once the matter was cleared.

A few more private testing sessions down the line and he’s ready for raceday one: Mexico City, along with an extra day of acclimatisation.

Last season’s Mexico City E-Prix round one in January

(Jaguar Racing/Getty)

Like many of the drivers, it’s Tokyo that Hughes already has his eye on. FE debuts there this season, a street race which has caught the imagination of those on the grid and those watching on alike. But Shanghai, Hyderabad, Portland and more are all on the agenda too, highlighting the “intense” nature of not just the race weekends but the build-up, the planning and travel involved.

So for a driver aiming for the top tier, where will the improvements come from?

“I’m not one for setting hard targets and goals. Probably fear of not underselling myself but also not expecting too much if it’s not possible on the day. Two goals are to enjoy it on the day – remember you love it and why you got involved in the first place – and just to do my best. If the result doesn’t come but you left it all out on the track, then you’re giving yourself the best chance of getting it. As a minimum, I’d like to improve on last year: podium or top 10 of the drivers’ championship. A natural progression on last year would be the goal.”

Only one question really gives Hughes pause for thought, the answer ultimately perhaps giving the best insight of all into an elite athlete. And it has nothing to do with Formula E. Would he take Aston Villa to finish fourth this season, or win the Europa Conference League?

“I think winning the Europa Conference. You’re into the Europa and you’ve won your trophy. Football’s about winning, the same as racing.”

That, indeed, is what he’ll be aiming for, in Mexico and beyond.

He, and McLaren, will not be the only ones. Porsche came so close to a double victory last year, out of the blocks rapidly and with Pascal Wehrlein leading the way in the driver standings, only to fall short both there and in the team title race.

Pascal Wehrlein had a frustrating end to the 2023 season

(Porsche Formula E)

“Clearly, we have to say season nine was a very strong season, a great year for Porsche as a make and a team,” team boss Florian Modlinger tells The Independent. But the pride is tinged with frustration at the season’s ending.

“Four wins for us, two for the customer [Andretti] and a total of 18 podiums – we can be really proud. We were leading the team championship nearly the whole year so it’s disappointing to go home with a P4 – we expected more but that’s racing and when you fight the last races for the title, a lot can happen.

“You could see how the season started off and we worked together and then you could also see that some tension came.

“We had a big meeting with both teams and for me, it’s the attitude, the mindset and the level of cooperation which is important for success in season 10. We don’t look back.”

For a team boss, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a little more structure to the question of where improvement needs to arise from. And for Porsche specifically, it means starting weekends much better.

“We look at team operation, manufacturer reliability, technical issues where we’ve been mega strong – no DNF due to any technical problem, no penalty for any setting. That means the package we have is a high level and the challenge is to keep that,” he said.

“Performance-wise, our race pace is mega strong and our qualifying is a bit the weakness. This is where we needed to work and come up with ideas – that started in August, really. We’ll see in the first weeks if we’ve succeeded there – I can tell you after the first three or four races.

“We showed we are within the top teams. Now the expectation is clearly to fight until the very end for drivers and teams championships. That is very much the target.”

That’s the objective set for the year as a whole but it all begins in Mexico City. Porsche and all 10 of the other teams will be focused on their own improvements, their own goals, right from the first race – which is also one of the biggest spectacles of the calendar. The waiting is done, and as Modlinger says, there’s no better place to now get underway.

“It’s amazing to start in Mexico. It’s incredible to see people with this passion for motorsport – it’s why we are looking forward to it so much over the whole break.”



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