Neel Jani says driving for the Faraday Future Dragon Racing team is not about guaranteeing him a seat with LMP1 employer Porsche when it joins Formula E in 2019.
Porsche’s 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours winner and FIA World Endurance champion was announced as Loic Duval’s replacement at Dragon on Thursday evening.
Two outings for Rebellion in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the start of this year has been Jani’s only extracurricular activity during Porsche’s four-season LMP1 campaign.
But Porsche’s withdrawal from the LMP1 ranks at the end of this season, ahead of the 2019/20 arrival of its works FE entry, has allowed Jani to make a move he had “prepared” himself for earlier this year.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he would drive for Dragon until Porsche enters FE, Jani said: “A lot is possible, isn't it?
“I'm contracted to Porsche next year anyway. For now, we're finishing the WEC season, then everything will fall into place.
“It is an advantage that I can have my first steps at Dragon, because they had a difficult season last year and expectations are not that high.
“So I am not learning for Porsche at Dragon, I am learning about Formula E for myself.
“I am happy to be with Dragon, it is a great team to learn FE and it puts me into a good situation in this booming series for the coming years.”
Feeling at home
Jani tested the team’s second FE powertrain at the Spanish track Calafat earlier this month. He admitted the quiet, low-power electric single-seater left a “strange” first impression.
“You miss the sound, but the car is a real race car,” he said. “It's what you're looking for as a driver. It's wonderful to drive. The car is agile, the steering is great. I was feeling at home very fast."
Several past and present LMP1 drivers race in FE, and Jani predicts his experience of that formula will be a benefit.
“You have to coast and recover energy – this is what we do in LMP1, too,” he said. “However, the systems in the FE car are much more simple than in the Porsche 919.
“During qualifying you don't coast. That's different to LMP1. And if you're going full throttle in a FE car the drivability is totally different. Qualifying and races are going to be two different worlds."
Jani said Dragon’s poor 2016/17 season, in which it finished eighth of the 10 teams and scored a best finish of fifth, meant an immediate title challenge was unlikely.
"I don't think I can take the fight from the word go, considering how things went for Dragon last season,” said Jani. “The aim is to improve the team.
“I want to be on the podium a couple of times, even though this will prove to be difficult.”
Jani has not ruled out competing in other categories once Porsche’s final LMP1 season has finished.
Interview by Roman Wittemeier