It has been a long time since a works Jaguar team has had the chance to compete in a home race. Seventeen years, to be exact, dating back to the 2004 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, when Mark Webber and Christian Klien finished an uninspired eighth and 14th.
A few months later, Jaguar’s owner at the time, Ford, would pull the plug on its overspending yet underachieving Formula 1 squad, selling it to Red Bull. It’s hard to know what would have seemed less likely in 2004: an energy drinks firm turning that middling outfit into a powerhouse or Jaguar’s next home race coming in an all-electric series.
Since 2004, of course, the automotive world has embraced electrification and, in turn, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. So with Jaguar (now owned by Tata) keen to showcase its EV technology to support the launch of the I-Pace in 2016, the single-seater championship was the natural choice. And with the London e-Prix making an overdue return to the calendar this weekend, Jaguar Racing is finally coming home.
“As a proud British manufacturer, it’s going to be a huge event for us,” says team boss James Barclay. “If you look at where Formula E races, London has been conspicuous by its absence. So much happens in this country in terms of motorsport. We’re based in and spend a huge amount on research and development in this country, and to be able to race at home is something that we’re really passionate about.”
In a way, the time it has taken Formula E to return to London (the race in Battersea Park fell off the calendar after season two in 2016) means Jaguar heads into this weekend believing drivers Sam Bird and Mitch Evans can fight for victory.
That certainly wouldn’t have been the case when Jaguar entered Formula E in 2016. It struggled in its first two seasons, and although it took a step forward with wins in 2018/19 and 2019/20, it’s only this year that it has truly become a consistent frontrunner. After taking his second win of the year in New York City recently, Bird leads the drivers’ standings, with Jaguar the third-placed team.