Neel Jani was in the spotlight on Friday in Hong Kong, not just because he would be making his Formula E debut with Dragon Racing, but also batting away questions on why his former employer, Porsche had ultimately decided not to have engineers embedded with Dragon Racing.
Initially it looked like a deal would be struck to integrate some of Weissach’s expertise from Porsche’s LMP1 crew, but a deal fell through at the 11th hour, as Jani explained.
“That whole thing came along because I had a deal with Dragon” said Jani. “That was on a complete private basis. And then they got in contact but they didn’t find an agreement, and that so changed everything. Unfortunate I would say, but I’m sure Jay [Penske] knows what he does. I guess everyone has their reasons”.
“Porsche has nothing against the fact that if we go to drive in other series right now. It’s just experience. If it’s Formula E, it’s beneficial anyway. But it doesn’t mean we are going to drive for Porsche in two years!”
Jani admits that he is still reeling from Porsche’s shock announcement to close it’s LMP1 program, but is still hopeful of a reunion somewhere down the line, but admitted the benefit of hindsight had taught him much about the fickle nature of manufacturers in motor sport.
“We have to see where we end up” explained Jani.. “Two years is so much. Two years back in WEC looked like it has a great future, Porsche will stay until 2022 and all the things. And it all changed! Sure I have a special connection with Porsche after the last four years and I feel at home there. If that brings me with them to Formula E, I think from my point of view it would be nice. But right now most are still heartbroken that this LMP1 [Programme] stopped. It was a nice time and well enjoyed it. Now it’s all different”.
Jani admitted that it felt strange being a rookie again after so many years, but was relishing the opportunity to learn in Formula E.
“That’s kind of a different feeling now” he said. “A lot to learn – steep learning curve clearly. I am ready to learn and having to fight myself through! At the end it’s a car with four wheels, and you have to drive it as fast as possible. You can get quickly into a window but it’s difficult. We haven’t drive on a street course so that would be the big difference, but as rookies we have to get into it. Just the whole feeling of the car – how you put together the lap time is completely different compared to an LMP1”.
Images: Dragon Racing / Peter Leung