The Techeetah Formula E team ended last year on a high.
A run of podium finishes culminated in the teams and Jean-Eric Vergne’s first victory in Formula E and gave them a massive boost of confidence heading into the off-season. Yet, the question on everyone’s lips is this: Can they finally take the fight to Audi, Renault (and perhaps Mahindra) to fight for the Formula E title?
— Jean-Eric Vergne (@JeanEricVergne) October 28, 2017
If you were to take your answer based around the end of the year then you would probably say yes. Techeetah were fast throughout 2016-17 – but being a new team, there were operational errors and mistakes from Vergne that perhaps saw opportunities slip away early on in the year, most notably Marrakesh qualifying which saw Vergne not get out in time.
But these problems were slowly eradicated and the team’s form took off and the year entered the final stages. A double podium in New York with Vergne and Stephane Sarrazin and a podium alongside the win in Montreal marked an incredible upturn in both form and luck, something that the team desperately needed and it looks like 2017-18 could be a big year for them.
“It is like going to a war with knives when the others have rifles.
Nevertheless, I still believe in our chances and I believe highly in the capability of my team, to perform well against giants like Audi and Renault.” – Jean-Eric Vergne
And it will have to be. Because being the only customer team on the grid is not going to be easy. Already limited to just three days of pre-season testing, they will have to face Audi and Renault as well as teams such as Jaguar and Dragon Racing looking for big leaps forward in terms of performance after struggling last year.
The fact that Techeetah have only had three days of testing is reason enough to think they may struggle initially – as everyone else is entitled to 15 days of private testing. It is perhaps a rather unfair rule, as being a customer team doesn’t help in the first place and could well keep another team and a great pair of drivers out of contention early on. But if they can overcome that, they can overcome anything – they have already proven they can be race winners.
— TECHEETAH (@TecheetahFE) October 27, 2017
Perhaps the ace up their sleeve is the driver line up. Vergne is incredibly rapid out on track and matured a lot throughout last season, which enabled him to seize victory. But they had several other drivers to call on in that second car: Ma Qinghua, Sarrazin and Esteban Gutierrez.
For 2017-18 Andre Lotterer has joined the outfit, and he really needs no introduction. Several endurance titles, Super Formula titles and Le Mans wins prove that he has got the credentials and he is regarded as one of the best all-round racing drivers there is. He did initially snub Formula E but seems to be enjoying life in the series so far, and could well become one of the big contenders this year.
Techeetah do have a lot of work to do to stay at the front and challenge for both titles this year, but the progress they made last year shows they have what it takes. Watch out for them, as they can prove to be a real Dark Horse – er, Cheetah.