The fairytale ending may have eluded Jake Dennis in Berlin, but the BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver assembled a Season 7 beyond expectations. That final round DNF hasn't taken the sheen off a 'special' third-placed finish in the World Drivers' Championship.
Jake Dennis headed into Rounds 14 & 15 in Berlin as the most successful rookie the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship had yet seen, in terms of trips to the top step.
Victories in Valencia and London meant no driver outside Formula E's first season had won more races than the 26-year-old Brit managed, and nobody in 2020/21 led more laps.
His performance on home soil in the UK captial fired him right into title contention. But for a lock-up due to a technical issue on the restart which saw him sliding into the wall early in the final race of Season 7, he looked set to push eventual World Drivers' Champion Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) all the way to the chequered flag. As it happened, Dennis wound up third and the recipient of World Championship silverware, of which he and the team should be proud, he says.
"None of the Formula E teams even knew who I was this time last year," says Dennis, who beat out competition from drivers already a part of the talented BMW stable when he caught the eye in a successful test to earn his Formula E seat. "I was a guy racing sports cars at a high level, performing well and I have to massively thanks BMW for taking a chance when they had so many other drivers in their pool they could have taken – the safe route.
"They took the chance and for me to even be sat in contention going into that final race is testament to the season we’ve had. The car performed well all year and it’s just a shame the way it ended. To finish third in a World Championship as a rookie is still something special, and we can enjoy that."
"I backed myself to do well but to be breaking records – two wins in my first season and to be third in the championship? I'd be lying if I said I knew I could do it. I'm very pleased with the performances we’ve put in. We've worked hard for it. It's been a difficult year, being away from home and putting in the commitment. I’ve been in Germany all year with the team and in the simulator because of COVID and travel restrictions so I'm glad it's paying off.
"I backed myself to do well but to be breaking records – two wins in my first season and to be third in the championship? I'd be lying if I said I knew I could do it. I'm very pleased with the performances we’ve put in. We've worked hard for it."
"I hadn’t had the time to go back to my flat and see my family or anything like this from April or so. I've been living in Munich in AirBnBs and the like – the guys at the factory are working just as hard. London was really the first proper time I managed to come home. Luckily a lot of the drivers are in the same boat, so we’ve been able to chill and alongside the gym in the evenings there’s been a lot of Call of Duty! "
Speaking ahead of the finale, Dennis was ultra-cool. His victory from the front in Valencia, where no other driver wanted the race lead, alongside the win on home soil attest to just how calm and collected the Brit is when the pressure's been on this season. The exception, maybe, and understandably, being the intense build up to Round 15, where no driver could escape the weight of a shot at a World Championship title bearing down on them.
Couple that measured air of confidence and a strong record with an ever-expanding knowledge bank as to how to earn points and silverware in the unique series, and Dennis has ensured that everybody in Formula E knows exactly who is now. Any prospective title tilt next season would be anything but unexpected.
"Being a rookie took away so much pressure," said Dennis. "Nobody expected me to be in this situation. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how aggressive you can be and having to hold your ground. It can be tough out there, but the cars can take a bit of contact as they’re pretty robust. I got put in the wall in Diriyah and since then we’ve stayed clear of all that and we’ve been in better situations.
"For me to even be sat in contention going into that final race is testament to the season we’ve had. The car performed well all year and it’s just a shame the way it ended. To finish third in a World Championship as a rookie is still something special, and we can enjoy that."
"Just understanding Formula E as a whole and the software side of the car - what works for you and your engineers - that's also been a huge factor in our performance. At the start, you don't really know what you want, and as the cars are so complex with software now there's so many cool things that they can do. If you don't know what you really want from the car, you can't extract the most from it.
"The first three rounds were really rough. We had good pace but I couldn’t deliver on it for some reason – things just weren’t coming together. I was quite unlucky in Rome where I got taken out during practice starts and the car was destroyed. We were unfortunate early on and it eventually flipped on its head with a bit of good luck. I could extract the most of it and we managed two Super Poles in Mexico and then obviously London.
"In Germany, the last two rounds were super impressive from our side. We’ve not always had the luck but it’s always worked out pretty well. We had a strong package – one of the fastest cars of the weekend – we just couldn’t quite exploit it because of Group 1."
After the start-line crash that wiped Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing) and Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) out of title contention, Dennis sat in prime position - seventh, and ahead of standings leader de Vries.
Sensationally, though, before the field had made the first corner after a spell under the red flag while that start line accident was cleared, the Brit locked up into Turn 1 and hit the wall - a heartbreaking technical issue, the team believes.
"We need to look into it but I don’t know if it was possibly linked to being stationary in the pitlane for a long time. As soon as I came out of the last corner, we started to have a weird sound from the gearbox or powertrain and into turn one the rear tyres completely locked and brought me into the wall. It was a disappointment as we were in prime position – we had the upper hand at that point. Nevertheless, there was a long way to go from there and anything could have happened.
"I’m just happy to be third. We could easily have lost more positions with the championship being so close. The best guy won the championship and Nyck (de Vries) has had a great season. We’ve definitely had our moments, ups and downs, but we’ve come a long way."
Published on 19th August 2021