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Formula E Jakarta ePrix I

Hughes: First FE podium "not too far" as McLaren targets race pace gains

Jake Hughes feels his maiden podium finish in Formula E is “not too far” after a strong first half of the season with McLaren.

Rene Rast, NEOM McLaren Formula E Team Jake Hughes, McLaren

Former Formula 2 racer Hughes moved to Formula E this year with McLaren, having previously acted as a reserve driver for the British-based team in 2021-22 when it was owned and operated by Mercedes.

He made an immediate impression in the championship by qualifying third on his debut in Mexico City and finishing fifth in the race, with his stock rising further when he took pole in only his third attempt in Diriyah.

Hughes added a second pole position to his tally at Monaco last month and his consistent run of top 10 finishes in races has placed him a strong ninth in the championship heading to Jakarta, one place and five points ahead of team-mate Rene Rast.

With McLaren working on software updates with powertrain supplier Nissan to address the team's relative lack of performance in race trim compared to one-lap pace, Hughes said he is now confident he will be able to convert his strong qualifying performances into top-notch race results soon.

Asked how far he is from a first podium in Formula E, Hughes told Motorsport.com: "Not too far. I think.

"I don't think it is untoward to say that we look to be stronger in qualifying than we are in the race. We think we know why or we do know why.  

"Then it's a question of whether we can fix that and we hope that it arrives soon in terms of upgrades from the software point of view. They will be arriving and until then it's about maximising what we think we have, and executing very well, which is what we have been doing so far. 

Jake Hughes, McLaren

Jake Hughes, McLaren

Photo by: Andreas Beil

"I think the minimum [goal] is to stay in the top 10 in the drivers' championship. For sure that will be a challenge. But that's my minimum goal. 

"For the teams' championship, I would like to see if we get one more position, finish in the top five and to get on the podium."

Hughes pointed out powertrain efficiency and traction as two areas that have held back McLaren this season, with Rast also struggling for big results and scoring a podium only once in the first nine races of the season.

"We have a strong powertrain but there are areas we can improve from the efficiency point of view," he explained. "From us as a team, it's how we set up the car and mechanical balance point of view, we always feel like there are areas to improve, and we never get it perfect.

"Traction is a bit of a weak point for us. In qualifying we can overcome it but in the race but it limits us because the way the racing works in Formula E, the fact that you have to lift halfway down the straight…"

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McLaren team principal Ian James downplayed the chances of a major turnaround in pace in this weekend's Jakarta E-Prix but stressed that the team and the Nissan are putting in a lot of effort in to be just as strong as in race trim as over a single lap.

"We have struggled with race pace," admitted James. "I think there is clearly more potential that can be unlocked there and we are working very closely with Nissan as well so we can go forward. 

"We are working on fine-tuning things at the moment. We are able to continue to develop the software perspective as well. 

"I'm not expecting particular significant steps forward in this race. But rest assured the whole team is working hard in that background to translate that qualifying performance into race performance."

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