It's been obvious for a while Jaguar TCS Racing has a car and driver line-up fit for competing at the front of the pack at the start of this GEN3 era.
Bad luck and ambitions dented
We've seen both Mitch Evans and Sam Bird struggle to convert that pace and efficiency inherent in the I-TYPE 6, though, as shown at the hands of Envision Racing drivers Nick Cassidy and Sebastien Buemi - the former alone matches the factory Jaguar pair's podium tally.
Bad luck and racing incidents have been hiding the team's potential, said Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls ahead of the trip to Brazil. The friendly fire collision with Bird hitting Evans in Hyderabad, taking both out of contention for a potential double podium, if not the race win, and Bird's practice shunt in Cape Town removing him from weekend contention had severely dented the collective's title ambitions.
Getting it just right in São Paulo
However, the team and its drivers managed to assemble a just about perfect weekend in São Paulo with Evans and Bird qualifying third and fifth, respectively - in the mix and far ahead of standings leader Pascal Wehrlein in the currently-benchmark TAG Heuer Porsche. Bird would finally serve a five-place penalty for causing that Hyderabad shunt so would start 10th, but the team were able to showcase their powertrain's efficiency and assemble a strategic masterclass to match - allowing both Evans and Bird to outstrip those around them to an energy advantage by hanging back early on.
Evans was one of the first to begin to push in the second half of the encounter, such was his advantage in usable energy, having conserved early on. The Kiwi had garnered around a two-three percent cushion to the early leaders as polesitter Stoffel Vandoorne (DS PENSKE) had gone to early and slipped down to the lower reaches of the top six and couldn't live with the Jaguar-powered cars' pace - some three-four km/h down over the second half of the race, per lap on average.
Come Lap 19, at the end of a Safety Car restart, the pack put their foot to the floor but it was Evans that had really bolted. His average speeds from then were over the 130km/h mark, and, from the data, that looked to be two laps earlier than someone like Drivers' table topper Wehrlein in the Porsche could manage - some feat given the 99X Electric's prowess so far this season.
A consistent run of pace with his averages at 133km/h from Lap 21 until the very end of the encounter was unmatched, with only Cassidy, also wielding a Jaguar I-TYPE 6, and teammate Bird able to live with Evans' mixture of front-running pace and mastery of his remaining usable energy.
Bird, in fact, did manage to push yet further than Evans, having sat slipstreaming in the pack for longer than the sister factory Jaguar from that starting berth of 10th position on the grid. His speeds hit a hot-streak with half a dozen laps to run but he maybe left it too late to convert - getting caught behind the lead duo with energy in-hand, and admitting himself he'd rather play it safe than see a repeat or similar of what happened in Hyderabad.
So Evans led Cassidy home with Bird in tow - all split by just half a second. Only the second time a manufacturer had locked out the podium with its powertrain in Formula E history, after Mercedes managed a 1-2-3-4 in Berlin, Season 8.
"It's a bit of a blur, so it's kind of hard to actually recall but it was a massive win and a massive strategic race," said Evans.
"I wanted to be in the pack at the start and try and make my way and choose my moment to get to the front. Both Nick (Cassidy) and I had similar, very similar pace. So, it was just going to be about who had the right energy balance at the right time.
"It was stressful at the end. I think I timed it right but it could have been Nick’s day as well, he deserved to win. But I think just as a team with a Jaguar one-two-three and a Jaguar TCS Racing one-three, it was a really special day for the team.
"I needed this victory, to be honest – I needed a good result to kickstart my season. Things happen and we need to just keep pushing forward. There are some really fast cars out there, obviously. The DS’ and now we're starting to put the pressure on Porsche who have been strong from the start – it’s really wide open."