GRR

Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy on winning for New Zealand and Monaco expectations

04th May 2023
Ethan Jupp

Formula E is to return to Monaco this weekend for the ninth race of the 2023 season. The last round, Berlin’s double-header, yielded two winners united by their nationality and a long history of racing together going back two decades. 

New Zealanders, Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy, took winner’s laurels for rounds seven and eight respectively, with Mitch making that two wins on the bounce (after Brazil) and Nick adding to a strong run of form so far this season, which included a Kiwi one-two alongside Mitch in Sao Paulo.

Together in their Jaguar-powered machinery – Evans in the Jaguar and Cassidy in the Jag customer Envision – they also kept championship protagonists Porsche from winning their home round. We got to chat with both about their top-step lockout in Berlin and Brazil, Monaco expectations, reflections on the dramatically different Gen3 car so far and championship prospects.

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On conquering Berlin (and Sao Paulo) for New Zealand

When we asked Nick about his pride in bringing home wins with his fellow New Zealander, Nick was surprised and pleased we’d noticed. It’s evidently a huge point of pride for both:

“Thanks for asking that question because I feel that point’s been kind of missed,” he said. “Mitch and I have been best mates and racing together since we were six years old. 

“I hope Mitch feels the same way, but I’m incredibly proud and I think it’s a massive deal for New Zealand to have a one-two, firstly in a world championship race in Sao Paulo [round six], and now with the last two races, that form continues for us. It’s always a fun and fair fight with Mitch, he’s incredibly strong and talented and it’s always a pleasure to be racing with him.”

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Mitch thoroughly agreed and was filled with pride and praise for Nick, a long-time friend and fellow competitor.

“It’s pretty special to be honest,” Mitch opened. “Nick and I grew up together, we’ve been racing together since we were six and we’re close friends. We raced karts in the same city – we’ve been racing against each other in all categories from every stage in go karts, Formula Toyota back home. We’ve always followed each other.

“We diverged in Europe but we’re both in Formula E together now. Recently we’re both doing pretty good and for anyone from our small country to be at this level is unique, so to have two of us to be up there is great. To have us take both victories is quite incredible.

“We have high standards back home. New Zealand’s a unique nation in that they only notice if we’re doing well. The results are good for us, it puts the championship on the map back home. The All Blacks have the most fame as they’re up there on the world stage and anything else has to be on par. Off the back of Berlin, I like to think we’re up there.

"Nick’s had a great run of form this season, I’ve had two close wins. Just generally it’s quite cool, being friends, growing up together and now winning, it’s pretty wicked.”

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On Monaco

Whether this is a Kiwi trait, racing driver modesty, or whether it speaks to the unpredictability of Formula E, both are hesitant to say for certain that they can carry these winning powers through to Monaco and beyond. What is a tight and technical circuit will present new challenges, but both are proud of the work their teams do and the packages they’ve put together. 

There’s also the added element of tactics, where leading too early can actually reduce your chances of a win, thanks to the draggy new cars and their follow-friendly form. That being said, Cassidy reckons the racing driver red mist still descends.

“I think a lot depends on how we qualify,” Nick says, looking forward to Monaco. “Everyone’s still pushing to move forward. Further back it’s really hard to move forward, until you get to the front six where people aren’t wanting to lead and conserve power. The top five will be the biggest unknown. You’ve got to be fast and you’ve got to have the race craft. Everyone’s still pushing – we all want to win, right?

“I think Monaco’s a bit of a different event for us. FP1 is early in the morning and in terms of learning how the tyre interacts, it’ll be difficult to understand how it will perform when the track is hotter for the race.

“I’ve been lucky certainly but I am also faster, more experienced and more consistent this year. The team is more consistent too. We’re fortunate to have a great package and the team is working well. It’s come together but there’s a long way to go.”

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Evans has shown good form in the past at Monaco, most recently starting from pole last year and just missing out on the win, to bring home second. This year however with the new car and new racing styles, the onus is still on him and the team to approach it correctly and perform.

“In general it’s been a strong track for us but I’ve never won,” Mitch says. “I’ve had the pole at Monaco and we got close the year before. We want to take our learnings so far and try to execute a good race.

"The new car has changed the way we approach it but it’s a track I really love and know what it needs to be fast. So that’s good, but we need to make sure the car works to give us the best shot. We’re coming off the back of a good result, so hopefully we can be strong.”

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On racing Gen3 so far

As above, the new third-generation car has presented some interesting characteristics. It’s far more powerful and far more draggy, in spite of featuring a loss in downforce, so it’s almost preferable to run in someone’s slipstream before lunging for the top step.

It requires more tactics and a more delicate application of the throttle to race it fast, in spite of it being four-wheel-drive. There’s a difference of opinion between the two winning Kiwis on what they do and don’t like about the car but there’s one thing they definitely agree on: it’s very fast.

Nick seemed to be happy with the car’s driving characteristics, which could be as much a complement for his team on the setup.

“It’s easier to drive in some ways. It slides more, but it’s less difficult. The tow is very powerful and we were proved wrong about the downforce and what the tow would be like. I’ve been proven wrong on that. The tow is very powerful and we’re able to follow a lot closer than I expected.”

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Mitch, on the other hand, isn’t as complimentary.

“It’s a lot more powerful and there’s less grip – it’s a handful, especially on the Monaco sim, and it’s hard to put a lap together. You have to find ways to get the most out of the car and it’s down to us to try and control that slip. When it’s wet, it can be very spiky and peaky.

“It can be easier than Gen two in different phases. Overall there’s less grip, but with the front motor, you can control the front better, especially in the braking phase in the wet, it’s a bit more predictable.”

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On their chances for the championship

To condense a lot of back and forth, both Mitch and Nick seemed hesitantly confident that they could at least cause problems for Porsche and continue a run of form into the second half of the season. Their powertrain is strong, their teams are strong and the teamwork between Envision and Jaguar has proven beneficial for both customer and constructor alike. Both were also wary of the looming performance potential of both DS and Maserati.

“I would like to think it’s possible to fight for both championships,” Nick says optimistically. “I have a very strong teammate, I hope I can score points too, so with the teams’ championship we can be strong. In theory, we are there with the drivers’ championship as well at the moment.”

“It’s hard to say, I think,” Mitch says. “The most important thing is we’re now in good shape. I think this year we’ve got an even better shot than last year and a stronger overall package. Our form’s been good, we just need clean races. We’ll have to wait and see.”

As for if it comes down to customer versus constructor?

“I’m not actually sure,” Mitch says. “It’s not really up to me. I assume it’ll be business as usual and whoever gets it right on the days, in the final races, will come out on top. It’ll be a good problem to have.”

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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