Jake Dennis is hands down the left field signing for Season 7 of Formula E.
After Alexander Sims chose to jump ship to Mahindra rather than mess around seeing if he would be re-signed, BMW definitely had to hire a new driver for 2021.
A testing programme ensued with a many drivers being evaluated by the team including BMW stalwart Phillip Eng.
Dennis won over the team and was announced in October.
“It all started just through having one connection to BMW-i Andretti, which allowed me to do a simulator test, just to see how the performance was.” said Dennis.
“That test went well. That then progressed on to a test session on the real racetrack, which went also really well and we had a bit more of an understanding after that, that we have kind of a chance to get a seat. When things aligned, what the team needed and what I wanted, we’ve put together the contract.”
Dennis has been racing around the block for the past few years including taking 2nd place at the Bathurst 12 hour in 2019 and racing for Aston Martin in DTM. His Aston links got him some simulator drives with Red Bull F1 team and he competed for them in rookie tests.
He is very happy to get his foot into Formula E finally.
“It feels great! I wanted to progress over the past couple of years into Formula E as the series has really taken off in the past years. Gaining the World Championship status now is obviously massive. It’s nice to call myself a Formula E driver and to finally put some laps in the car with BMW is a real pleasure.
“I like the team a lot. The combination of BMW and Andretti is very strong. The team is highly professional and it has a good mix of nationalities, which is a great benefit as you get different views and different opinions.”
Dennis has primarily driven on purpose built “normal” circuits his entire career so the unique way Formula E competes is a challenge he is relishing.
“I don’t really have a lot experience on street circuits genuinely. I did the ones at Macau and Pau and places like Norisring, but it’s nothing like Formula E. You just try to build up as much knowledge as you can but Formula E is so unique with the tracks they’ve developed, that you probably never really build up enough knowledge before you go into Formula E.
“I like it that the circuits are so tight and twisty and for the fans it’s great to see the cars so close. All the street races I’ve done so far I really enjoyed so I think there’s no reason to not enjoy the ones where you race in Formula E.
“To race in the locations we drive at. Getting to race in Santiago, in Rome and in all the other great cities is just sensational. The tracks are cool as they are mostly street circuits but at the same time this will also be the biggest challenge for me. Not knowing the circuits is definitely a challenge being a rookie.
“I think you can learn the car to a certain level pretty quickly but learning the tracks against drivers, who have even up to seven years experience will be tough. I think it’s an advantage to have driven there before, but at one point obviously everybody has to be a rookie, so this year it’s my go.”
Signing youth worked for BMW in Season 6 when they leapt at the chance to hire Max Günther when Antonio Felix Da Costa left for DS Techeetah.
Günther took two wins and another second place in his first season with the team and was second in the championship with a few rounds to go.
BMW have followed the same formula with the 25 year old Dennis who is realistic about his talented teammate: “Max and I are both competitive guys and there is no question that we want to beat each other, but I think at the level we are racing at now, you have to be sensible and you have to work together to make the programme work.
“We both want the best for the team and we both want the fastest car underneath at the end of the day. That means working together and developing the programme as quickly as possible is the aim and that’s for sure what we do. It makes no sense to be rivals, that is more when you are 16 or 17 years old and your aim is Formula 1 and you think everybody is your enemy, but now obviously we are older and more matured and you see the bigger picture.”
With the delay to the season, Dennis has been doing a lot of simulator work to get familiar with how to race in Formula E. Being a Red Bull simulator driver, he has a lot of experience in working behind the scenes:
“My experience in simulator driving helped me most likely to get the Formula E seat I’d say, because if I had been slow in the simulator during the evaluation I think I would not be sitting here today for sure. But in terms of driving the actual car it doesn’t make a big difference.
“Some drivers are really fast on simulators and some drivers are rather slow, but on track they are just as fast as you. I think in reality it doesn’t really help me to deliver any more performance on track but it helps just having more experience on simulators to help to develop the BMW simulator at the factory.”
Dennis joined BMW before they announced a month later that they are leaving Formula E. But electric mobility is the future as Dennis says:
“I know how big the electric world is going to be and I’m super excited to be now part of the programme and to get more of an understanding the way the world and the way the project is going. Just from season one until now – the amount of technology and development which has happened in Formula E is sensational.”
Formula E returns on Friday 26th February with the first race of the season under the lights in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The race is at 5pm GMT.