The opening spherical of the 2023-24 Formulation E marketing campaign solely will get underway subsequent week in Mexico Metropolis and already the season has produced its first ‘winner’ – type of.
For a lot of on the Valencia pre-season take a look at final October, the simulation race on the ultimate morning counted for little or no within the grand scheme of issues, save for the prospect to get again on monitor after a garage fire truncated much of the week’s running. That’s until you have been Robin Frijns, who put his name to the top of the leaderboard having overtaken Porsche’s Antonio Felix da Costa within the closing laps on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Spain.
Whereas it meant nothing greater than a bit of non-public pleasure, it marked the primary time that Frijns had completed high of a Formulation E race since 2019, and there’s each purpose to imagine that he may add to his win tally within the all-electric championship when it issues, having moved again to the Envision crew the place he loved his most profitable spell.
“I used to be with the crew for 4 years, the crew has not modified a lot, there are some new guys coming in, another guys left, which is regular,” Frijns instructed Autosport, the 32-year-old having returned to Envision after only one season with Abt Cupra.
“Clearly it feels good to be again, coming again to a crew which I do know is all the time good to have, however I believe the objective is kind of clear that all of us wish to win. The crew is pushing arduous to be aggressive and win races and that’s what we attempt to do.”
The interval between 2018-22 yielded two wins and an extra 10 podiums for the Frijns/Envision partnership, in addition to a tilt on the drivers’ title in 2018-19 and 2020-21 with Frijns ultimately ending fourth and fifth respectively.
Considerably sarcastically, given their prolonged partnership, Envision’s strongest season got here final time period, because the change to the Gen3 machine and a Jaguar powertrain allowed Nick Cassidy and Sebastien Buemi to say the groups’ title, whereas the previous additionally got here near successful the drivers’ crown.
Picture by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images
Frijns’ one season at Abt Cupra was a nightmare which began by breaking his wrist within the opening spherical
As compared, Frijns endured his most troublesome marketing campaign in his seven seasons of Formulation E, scoring simply six factors (his earlier lowest being 24 in his second season with Andretti in 2016-17), not helped by lacking 4 races after breaking his wrist within the season-opening Mexico Metropolis E-Prix.
However even after recovering from his damage, the Mahindra powertrain aboard Abt’s machine was less than the duty of difficult in direction of the entrance because the crew have been additionally a late addition to the grid – returning after dropping Audi manufacturing unit assist on the finish of 2021.
The excessive level of the yr got here in a moist qualifying session in Berlin, the place Abt secured an unlikely entrance row lockout, with Frijns heading team-mate Nico Muller earlier than slipping out of the factors within the race as the remainder of the season remained a wrestle.
“Figuring out that the automobile is ready to win races, clearly the objective for me personally is to battle for the championship. I’m not right here to complete second, third or fourth” Robin Frijns
“This was going into Gen3 and clearly Abt got here again and I knew the crew from my three years of DTM and I actually loved my time,” stated Frijns on his choice to hitch Abt. “It was really nonetheless certainly one of my favorite occasions in DTM, I do know it’s a special class and so on, and I used to be actually anticipating that Abt was performing straight out of the field. I used to be working with the identical actual folks which have been going to work in Formulation E.
“I wouldn’t say I wished to depart Envision or I didn’t wish to go away Envision, one thing else got here up and if I knew all the pieces beforehand, I wouldn’t have carried out it, however then life is simple.”
With Cassidy becoming a member of fellow Kiwi Mitch Evans at Jaguar, a seat alongside Buemi turned obtainable for the upcoming marketing campaign at Envision, with Frijns admitting it was “fairly a fast dialogue” to get the deal carried out.
One other deciding issue was being picked as a BMW works driver forward of the marque’s return to the World Endurance Championship, which might have put him in battle with producer Cupra had he remained with Abt.
Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
The Dutch driver started to settle into life again at Envision throughout winter testing
“I wouldn’t say it didn’t actually work out with Abt, I appreciated being a part of the crew, I do know the blokes, sadly they didn’t have a fantastic automobile as all of us noticed with the Mahindra powertrain however nonetheless, I do know whenever you give the blokes a superb automobile that they’ll win races,” stated Frijns.
“However there was extra behind it than that, clearly earlier than I signed with Abt or someplace on the similar time, I used to be speaking to BMW, and I can not symbolize two manufacturers in order that was a little bit of a difficulty with Cupra coming onboard very late, simply earlier than the start of the season.
“Envision, it’s a model nevertheless it has nothing to do with automobile manufacturers and clearly that places myself in a greater place.”
Jaguar’s dominance over the second half of final season appears to be like prone to proceed into the beginning of the upcoming marketing campaign, Evans and Cassidy having set the quickest occasions throughout the three pre-season take a look at periods that happened. Whereas for buyer crew Envision and following his win within the morning, Frijns completed the ultimate day third quickest as team-mate Buemi accomplished probably the most laps of anybody with 127 – all ominous indicators for Jaguar’s rivals.
However the frenetic nature of Formulation E implies that outright pace is not any assure of success, and Frijns admits to not be overthinking what may probably be a golden alternative, stating “the one strain I’ve put is on myself – I don’t actually care if folks say you have to win the championship now”.
Frijns is absolutely conscious, although, that by rejoining Envision he virtually definitely has the prospect to problem for wins within the upcoming marketing campaign and fairly probably the title. His 88 begins within the championship places him joint seventh on the all-time starters listing and some of the skilled drivers on the grid, in addition to the information and expertise acquired from his time within the DTM and WEC. All of which places him in a superb place to ship on a promising profession which at one stage may have seen him in Formulation 1 however for a scarcity of funds, such was his expertise by way of the junior single-seater ranks.
He added: “Figuring out that the automobile is ready to win races, clearly the objective for me personally is to battle for the championship. I’m not right here to complete second, third or fourth. We’re right here to win, that’s for me fairly clear.”
Picture by: Malcolm Griffiths / Motorsport Images
What can Frijns produce on his return to Envision this season?