McLaren rookie Jake Hughes grateful for Formula E opportunity: "Everything I did was about arriving here"
For years, Jake Hughes prepared for his debut in Formula E before his dream became a reality in the spring of 2023. In an interview with e-Formula.news the McLaren rookie looks back at his beginnings in the electric championship, talks about his path there and reveals his hope of still achieving a podium result this season.
It was supposed to be too late for him already. As with the vast majority of professional racers, Jake Hughes' motorsport career began in karting. But the Briton was a real late bloomer: He didn't get into a kart for the first time until he was 16. Some of his current Formula E competitors were already racing in a formula series at that time. Via the "classic route" of Formula 3 and Formula 2, Hughes nevertheless achieved the same goal as them: Since 2023, he has been taking the wheel for McLaren in the electric championship.
What remains hidden from the public eye in this career, however, is the years of preparation for his involvement in Formula E. Since 2019, Hughes has supported the team Venturi (now known as Maserati MSG), which later became a powertrain customer of Mercedes. He also contested a test for HWA, the direct predecessor of the "Silver Arrows." And when the Mercedes team completed its metamorphosis into the McLaren team late last year, the charismatic Jake Hughes, who had performed well in the simulator and in test sessions, had long since secured the support of racing team boss Ian James.
"I couldn't have hoped for a better outcome," the 28-year-old told e-Formula.news. "McLaren was the team that started my interest in Formula 1 back then with Lewis (Hamilton) coming onto the scene. "So to be a British driver in McLaren in Formula E, which was my goal for a number of years, is great. It's special that I also get to do it with this and not any other team after all the preparation that I did with them."
Sacrificing an F2 career for Formula E opportunity
Hughes has made no secret of his interest in a Formula E program at any point in recent years, even sacrificing his Formula 2 career in 2022 to focus on Formula E preparation. "I've been around for a good three or four years now. Ever since season five, it's been my goal to be here (in Formula E). Everything that I did in my junior career was all about arriving here. So here I am."
On his championship debut, Hughes showed that James was spot on with his decision. At the Mexico City E-Prix, the Briton crossed the finish line in fifth position and secured his first ten championship points. By the time of the Portland E-Prix, he had added another 36 points and also took part seven times in the knockout qualifying of the best time trialists. Twice, he even made it to pole position.
"In qualifying I already expected this performance. In the end, it's still a racecar. The difficult part in Formula E is the race. The goal is to save energy in a certain period. But how do you save energy? There's loads of ways! It's a tricky tightrope to walk when, you know, there's 21 drivers on the track trying to do the same thing and have different ideas about it. So that's been the challenging part. The popular analogy of having to learn a recipe is quite valid, I think."
Podium in debut season "not impossible"
But just how close is Hughes to unlocking this recipe and taking a podium in his debut season? "From a personal performance point of view, it's not far, I feel I am very close now. But in terms of actually achieving it and getting that trophy, it's not that simple. It's safe to say we have a strong car but not the strongest so far. But that's not to say that we won't be able to do it at any given weekend."
The good performances in the 2023 season are also likely to cast their shadows ahead for next year. While neither Hughes nor his German teammate Rene Rast officially have a contract confirmed for 2024, both drivers' individual performances are likely to have long put them in the running for a McLaren stay next year. They still have two opportunities to make their mark this season: On July 15/16, the Formula E circus travels to Italy for the Rome E-Prix, and on July 29/30, the season finale takes place in London.