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Jaguar signs Nelson Piquet Jr. for Formula E season four

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Jaguar Racing has confirmed the signing of Nelson Piquet Jr. for the fourth FIA Formula E season, partnering Mitch Evans.

Piquet was crowned Formula E’s inaugural champion back in 2015 with Team China Racing, which evolved into NextEV from season two onwards.

Continual struggles caused Piquet to question his future with the team, leading to a deal being struck with Jaguar for season four as it looked to replace Adam Carroll.

Jaguar returned to the international motorsport scene in 2016 by entering Formula E, with Evans leading its charge by scoring 22 of its 27 points as it finished at the foot of the teams’ championship.

Now aiming to move up the field thanks to more time to prepare and plan for season four, the arrival of Piquet looks set to bolster Jaguar’s hopes thanks to his experience and success in Formula E.

“It’s a great honour to join Panasonic Jaguar Racing. Jaguar has such a strong history in motorsport and it’s an exciting time to become part of the team,” Piquet said.

“Their commitment to electric motorsport is inspiring and I’m looking forward to working with the team.”

Jaguar team boss James Barclay added: “We are hugely excited to have Nelson on board for season four. Mitch was one of the outstanding rookies of the season with some great qualifying and race performances.

“With our new driver line-up we are aiming to be a strong challenger on the grid, regularly competing for points. We have taken a lot of learnings from season three and the team have been working extremely hard throughout the off-season, focusing on the design and development of the new Jaguar I-TYPE 2.”

The new Formula E season kicks off in Hong Kong on December 2.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.