In continuation of Speedway Media’s column titled “Locked-Down,” we caught up with ABB FIA Formula E and Pansonic Jaguar Racing driver Mitch Evans. While some sporting leagues are back, the Formula E Series and its drivers continue to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this edition of “Locked-Down,” Evans talks about what he has been up to during this break from racing, the sim-races he has competed in, what he misses about being at the track and what he plans on doing once quarantine is lifted.
SM: It has been a while since you have been on track. How have you been during this downtime? What have you done to keep yourself busy?
ME: “I’ve been well thank you,” Evans said. “I’ve stayed in Europe, in Monaco, in this lockdown period rather than going home to New Zealand. The restrictions have started to lift now which is good. I’ve been working on my coffee art with my espresso machine, as I’m really into my coffee, and I’ve also been trying to learn French. We’ve been competing in the ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge each weekend, which has kept me pretty busy. It’s been nice to have a routine, but I definitely can’t wait to get back racing when it’s safe to do so.”
SM: Sim-racing has really taken off by storm the last few weeks and you, yourself have been participating in the “Stay At Home Challenge” hosted by hosted by Formula E. Have you kind of exceeded your expectations in sim-racing by participating in the virtual series?
ME: “Yes – the Race at Home Challenge, hosted by ABB Formula E, in support of UNICEF has been great to be involved in,” Evans said. “Formula E kindly provided us with simulators and we’ve been competing for points every weekend. I, unfortunately, haven’t had a great deal of luck so far in the races but I’ve qualified in good positions each week. Last weekend, I scored my first set of virtual points on the Berlin track. Sim racing is very different to driving a real race car and not something I’ve had much experience in before, but I have a lot of respect for the professional sim drivers as this is extremely competitive.”
SM: On a scale of 1-10, how good of a sim racer do you think you are compared to the rest of the field? And, do you feel like it is helping you keep yourself prepared on tracks that you race at in real-life?
ME: “I’d say, I’m probably a 6 out of 10 – with 10 being good,” he said. “I feel that I’m pretty average within the pack of drivers. On a good day, I’m starting on the grid in around seventh. It’s hard to say if it’s helping me at the moment, as the sim can teach you bad habits too, so you have to be careful of that. It’s probably not helping in terms of track performance for when we go back racing, but it is keeping the awareness of Formula E out there while we can’t race in real life. The Race at Home challenge is a great way to stay competitive too and interacting with Formula E, and the other drivers, has been good fun.”
SM: Shifting to real racing, the 2019-20 season started out with a 10th place finish at Riyadh. Up until the hiatus, your performance has gradually improved, especially with getting a win at Mexico City. Can you talk about what this season has been like so far for you compared to last season?
ME: “This season has been great so far,” Evans said. “In Santiago, I was feeling pretty good after qualifying P1 and my second Super Pole visit this season, but unfortunately we couldn’t convert this during the race. We faced some challenges, however, the main objective was points and podiums, and we’ve achieved this. We then went on to win the race in Mexico City, which was amazing – the result was a huge testament to the team and their hard work. It was great to show the pace the Jaguar I-TYPE 4 has, not just over one lap, but a whole race.”
“In Marrakesh I had a really great race. I managed to gain 18 places to finish P6 from the back of the grid and achieve fastest lap, so I will take that result with open arms. After an unfortunate qualifying the priority in the race was damage limitation during the E-Prix and we did exactly that. I’m now second in the driver standings and can’t wait to get back racing.”
SM: With the season halted due to the virus, has this downtime altered your expectations at all? Would it be disappointing to you should this season never get restarted?
ME: “I’d definitely be disappointed if we didn’t go racing again as I’m currently fighting for the Season Six Championship title,” he said. “We need more races for this season to complete the Championship, but we can only go racing again when it’s safe for us, the team, the partners and the fans to do so. At Panasonic Jaguar Racing, we have a really quick package this year and I want to show that pace again on the track.”
SM: When the racing season is in full bloom, it seems as though you are almost always on the go. Was it ever difficult for you knowing that you would not be racing for a while, despite being on the go?
ME: “Yes that’s correct,” Evans said. “I’m often on the go and I’m used to travelling to different cities and countries around the world each month, so it’s difficult to stay in one place for a while. Having said that, I’m getting the chance to have a routine every day and create a new normal which is quite nice too.”
SM: If the season resumes, do you have any tracks that you have your eye on that you can think you can perform well at?
ME: “Rome is a particularly good track for us and it’s where I got my first win last season,” Evans said. “It’s a real shame that we won’t be going there this season but I look forward to going back there next year. At the moment, if there is an opportunity for us to go racing, I don’t really mind which track, country or city it’s hosted in.”
SM: These current situations can prove to be a little difficult for everyone. How have you been able to stay positive?
ME: “It’s not been easy and I definitely go through waves,” he said. “Sometimes I feel really good and then there are other times where I feel more agitated. Especially as it’s mid-season, it’s been quite tough. At the moment, I’m just staying optimistic and hoping that we will be able to go back racing and finish the Championship. I have to keep open minded, as I know it’s nothing we can control right now. We were in good form before the lockdown period, so I want to keep that energy there. So when we go back racing we can hit the ground running.”
SM: Are you a driver that goes back and watches old races? If so, have you done that during this break? If so, which ones have you enjoyed watching?
ME: “I do like to go back and watch previous races – normally the ones I’ve done quite well in as it gives you great motivation and good buzz,” Evans said. “Reminding yourself of the feeling of winning is amazing, but also those races where I’ve done quite well – Pole position for example. It brings back emotions and feelings, which is very powerful and important. It’s also good to go back and look at races where you haven’t done so well, but I don’t like to dwell on those too much. Once you’ve re-watched the race and learnt from the mistake you can move on from that. In this time where we have big gaps between races, it’s good to get that motivational feeling again.”
SM: What is one thing you miss about being at the track?
ME: “To narrow it down to one thing is really quite difficult, as there are so many things I miss about being at the track and you appreciate that in this current situation,” he said. “Driving the car and feeling the car is the main thing that I wish I could do right now. I also really miss the team environment, going away to different cities and countries which in turn brings different cultures. The Jaguar Racing team are 100 per cent behind me and we’ve worked so hard to try and come away with the most amount of points, so it’s a shame that we can’t do that right now. There are many things I miss, but hopefully we’ll be back racing when it’s safe for everyone to do so.”
SM: Wrapping it up, what are you going to do when you are done quarantining and what do you hope to accomplish in Formula E this season, if racing resumes?
ME: “This season we’re hungry for more points, podiums and wins and that’s what I hope to achieve,” Evans said. “We’re in a really strong position at the moment, so I hope I can keep that momentum going forward.”
Currently, in Evans FIA Formula E career, he has made a total of 42 starts, earned two career wins (Rome, Mexico City), six podiums, two poles, and a best points finish of fifth in the championship standings that occurred in 2018.
Special thanks to Jaguar Racing’s Adrian Atkinson and Emily Hogg for making the interview happen.