They’ve been involved in Formula E since day one, Dragon Racing – now Faraday Future Dragon Racing, has become one of the most iconic teams within the series. Our editor Andrea Perilli caught up with Team Owner and Team Principal Jay Penske, a key figure in the team’s success in the fully-electric championship to find out the driving force behind the American team.
“I love the competition. I love the pursuit of excellence across each weekend. There is a scorecard each weekend which we love to see – you know how you did, the results are clear if you perform and succeed, so I love it!” affirms Penske, when asked about what he enjoys most about racing.
He’s clearly no stranger to the racing world. The youngest son of the legendary Roger Penske, owner and team boss of the illustrious Team Penske, Jay himself has a vast experience in the motorsports world, having run his own IndyCar team for seven years before making the move to the all-electric Formula E championship, where his team has been one of the most successful on the grid so far.
“We joke and say that we grew up with oil in our veins, now I guess we have to change it to electricity with Formula E, but certainly visiting the tracks since I was three or four years-old with my father across the States and some international facilities. The DNA of racing goes deep in the family heritage.” the American entrepreneur comments.
Dragon Racing was one of the first teams to join the series. Belgian driver Jérôme d’Ambrosio and Spain’s Oriol Serviá took part in the first four races, while Frenchman Loïc Duval came in replacement of Serviá ahead of the Miami ePrix, in March 2015. The lineup has remained the same since then, obtaining two victories, two wins, and an important number of podiums.
“We finished second in Season 1. In Season 2, we had another great race win in Mexico. I think we’re chasing the title, we still want to be at the top of the standings, so it’s been a great journey so far. We’re just excited to continue the tradition here for the next many years.“
If any racing fan got asked at the beginning of Season 1 which teams would end up on the top three, they would have said that the likes of Renault, Audi, or Andretti would be on the title fight. However, what many supporters of the new series did not expect to see was Dragon Racing finishing the season in second place, scoring a total of 171 points in the first eleven rounds.
Seeing the Californian team coming second was hardly a surprise, it was the team’s consistency throughout the entire season that led them to successful results. In Season 2, the team proved to be solid and delivered some brilliant performances, scoring valuable points.
A wide smile appears on Penske’s face whenever he speaks proudly of his team: “We’re one of the few teams, outside of Renault [Editor’s Note: and ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport], that’s kept the same pilots each year, so the continuity of our drivers, the continuity of the key personnel on the engineering side, and Nigel [Beresford, the team’s Technical Director]’s leadership; I think those things have all made for a successful team”.
The team’s first victory came in the 2015 Berlin ePrix. After Lucas di Grassi’s disqualification, Jérôme d’Ambrosio was awarded with the win. The story repeated itself one year later as the Brazilian got disqualified on Mexican soil, and d’Ambrosio, who had finished second thanks to a brilliant performance, inherited the win.
“Those moments, both the big win in Berlin, as well as the win in Mexico City, were incredible moments for the team, incredible journeys. It was the first time we were racing in those cities, which made it special. And when you look around the field, you see the quality of the teams, the quality of drivers. To be able to achieve that top position is really thrilling and also you know that there’s going to be a race the following weekend that you have to get ready for, so you celebrate it that evening, maybe on Sunday and then you get back to work, focusing on the next weekend”.
Every team in Formula E has its own characteristics, making the series even more special. A strong unity among all team members, characterises the American team. Whether you’re down in the pit lane or watching on TV, it’s not difficult to realise how the team works and functions all together.
“Our team’s slogan is ‘e pluribus unum’ which is ‘out of many, comes one’. Our philosophy is that it takes an entire team and everyone working together, in order to achieve the results. I think that, even in Formula E and with all the ecosystem here, it takes a lot of manufacturers, a lot of very talented people, all of the local promoters, to set these kind of events up in the city. And I think that kind of philosophy and vision holds very true still today.” He explains.
Jay’s figure among the team goes beyond the typical role one might think of a Team Principal. He communicates with the drivers through the team radios during races, not only providing them the needed data and information to race, but also motivating the ones behind the wheel as seen in the 2016 Mexico City ePrix.
Duval and d’Ambrosio are a recognisable pair in the paddock. Protagonists of intense battles on track, they get on fantastically well off track. This had raised many questions on whether the team does allow its drivers to fight each other on track. Penske is true to his word on letting the drivers race each other.
“I always say I let the drivers race hard and clean, even with each other. We don’t have orders like putting one driver behind the other, as long as they take care of the equipment, we want them to run as hard as they can and race. That’s our strategy and we’ll see how it plays out on track. But the drivers are working well together and there is no internal bickering or fighting, it’s just hard racing, which we like.“
Having scored a total of 333 points in the series so far, the team is eager to continue growing and succeeding steadily in Formula E. Penske’s leadership has been key, and he is certain the team’s presence in the all-electric championship is here to stay.
“We’re very focused on this championship, we think this is the championship for the future and our focus is here, continuing to develop our powertrain, continuing to work with our partners, and hoping to see this championship grow and flourish.” He explains when asked about his plans for the future.
As a big number of motor racing’s devoted fans would recognise and admire Roger Penske’s team’s legacy in many racing series, Jay Penske is building his team’s legacy in Formula E. The series approaches its fourth season and so does the team, with the same motivation and determination as always, continuing to trace the path of electric racing for the good of the future.
Image courtesy of FIA Formula E Media