Rookie of the Year Oliver Rowland insists he is ready to fight for the 2019/20 Formula E championship title ahead of the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia tomorrow.
The 27-year-old from Penistone finished 10th overall in his first season in the electric car series in 2018/19, picking up two podium places and three pole positions in his Nissan e.Dams car, and going into his second full season he is determined to put together a title challenge this time around.
The 14-round championship begins with a double-header of races tomorrow and Saturday (noon) before visiting 12 cities over five continents and then culminating in two races round London’s Docklands in July.
“I don’t want to say I can win the championship now, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could compete with everybody,” Rowland told The Yorkshire Post. “Who knows, I think we have a great car, great team, so if everything comes together there’s no reason we shouldn’t be fighting for it.”
Among the championship challengers this year will be defending champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Lucas di Grassi, but first and foremost Rowland is focusing on his Nissan team-mate and former Red Bull Formula 1 driver Sebastien Buemi.
“My target this season is to match and beat Seb,” added Rowland. “He’s won in Formula E and has a very good record – the most poles and wins. So, from my side, I just need to focus on maximising the most out of the car and be competitive in comparison to him and see how the rest of it goes after that.”
“Everything has to work at an optimum level to win in Formula E, but it’s not just down to me there’s various other factors.”
Among those other factors was the governing body’s decision to ban Nissan’s innovative dual power unit near the end of last season – which has left the team playing catch-up right through the off-season.
“The FIA banned the twin power unit during last season because they felt there was a bit of inequality,” explained Rowland.
“It wasn’t ideal at the time but the team have done a really good job to get everything ready with the single power unit and although we were worried we might not be fully ready for the first race, we’re there or thereabouts and things are looking good.”
Rowland has experience of the Saudi Arabian Diriyah circuit from last year, but will be much more prepared this time and for the challenge of two races in two days.
“I was called into the team right at the last minute for Saudi Arabia last year,” said Rowland.
“I hadn’t even driven the car when I arrived in Saudi and it was really wet so both free practices got cancelled and then I just jumped straight into the car for qualifying and then in the race I finished seventh – which was a bit of a surprise!”
He added: “In general, we should be okay. I quite like the track. I spent a weekend on the simulator in France and I feel ready, but it is quite tiring to do two full races in two days. You get to learn the first day and then put into practice what you’ve learned on the second day.
“To have two free practices, qualifying, super pole and a race all in one day is pretty taxing mentally, so it’s important to be fully rested and ready for the weekend.”
After this weekend the championship travels to Santiago next month and then to cities such as Rome, Paris and New York before the grand finale in London – something Rowland is particularly relishing.
“I’m really looking forward to coming to London and having family and friends around,” added Rowland. “Hopefully, we can be in the championship mix at the end of the year and it can be a pretty good showdown. The event looks really good where it’s going to be based, so I’m really looking forward to it and it’ll be great to be back in the UK.
“Winning the race in London would certainly be on my bucket list.”