Porsche kicked off its second Formula E season with two night races in the desert of Saudi Arabia. The world’s first fully-electric racing series celebrated its premiere as an official world championship on the demanding street circuit in Diriyah. The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team harvested points from both races. Pascal Wehrlein (GER) achieved a strong fifth place on Friday at his debut race with the Porsche 99X Electric. In race two on Saturday, he finished 10th. His teammate André Lotterer (GER) concluded the race on Saturday on the Arabian Peninsula in 11th place.
First race at Diriyah
After a strong performance and setting the second-fastest time in the Super Pole qualifying, Pascal Wehrlein took up the race on the 2.495-kilometre track close to the capital Riyadh from the front row of the grid. Driving the No. 99 Porsche 99X Electric, he got off the line well and proceeded to chase down the frontrunner. However, on the narrow, twisty street circuit, he was unable to keep the pressure on the leader over the race distance. At the halfway mark of the race over 45 minutes and one lap, he fell back to fifth place after his pursuers called on additional power via the Attack Mode. Two safety car phases towards the end of the session hampered his charge back to the front.
For his teammate André Lotterer, the race ran less smoothly. The seasoned specialist took up the race from the seventh grid spot. A puncture, however, forced his No. 36 Porsche 99X Electric into the pits and cost him positions.
Comments on the Diriyah E-Prix, Race 1
Amiel Lindesay, Head of Operations Formula E: “First and foremost, we’re all thrilled that we’re finally able to race again. It has started well for us. Pascal managed to match the pace of the frontrunners and save energy in the process. However, the settings for our attack mode weren’t correct, which hampered us a bit. We still have to analyze what exactly happened. Pascal could finish the race okay, while André had to pit for a tyre change. We’re now looking ahead and push again tomorrow.”
Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche works driver (#99): “All in all, that was a good first race of the season. But obviously, if you start from the front row you have expectations of winning the race. That’s why I’m not entirely happy because a better result would definitely have been possible. My start was good and initially I had decent speed, but that changed after the first Attack Mode. We don’t yet know why this happened. We’ll take a good look at the data and consider what we can do better on Saturday.”
André Lotterer, Porsche works driver (#36): “That’s not how I imagined my first race of the new season. My Porsche 99X Electric felt good in practice and qualifying, but we have to improve the performance. On top of that, I probably drove over a piece of debris lying on the track and so I had to pit with a puncture. Even though I didn’t earn any points today, I’m still confident about Saturday’s race.”
2nd race at Diriyah
Claiming second in the Super Pole Qualifying, Pascal Wehrlein laid the foundation for his top-five finish in race one. The positive result meant that he took up race two on Saturday among the first qualifying group and therefore had less than favourable grip on the track. At the wheel of his Porsche 99X Electric, he headed into the race from P16. The fact that the narrow and twisty track near the capital Riyadh offers very few chances to overtake and the competition among the strong Formula E line-up is very well balanced made it impossible for him to finish further up the field. Due to subsequent time penalties given to competitors who finished in front of him, he ultimately inherited tenth place, which is worth one point.
A puncture in race one hampered his teammate André Lotterer, and bad luck plagued him again in race two: An accident on a fast stretch of the track during free practice resulted in his Porsche 99X Electric having to undergo an overhaul. It proved impossible to get the car back on its wheels in time for the qualifying, hence he had to start the race over 45 minutes (plus one lap) from the pit lane. Lotterer managed to gain five positions – and also benefited retrospectively from the time penalties imposed by the race director. With debris lying on the track from accidents, the race was red-flagged shortly before the end.
Comments on the Diriyah E-Prix, Race 2
Amiel Lindesay, Head of Operations Formula E: “We took a bit of a risk when we let André start from the pit lane so that we could save some energy. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work. Two full course yellows and the premature termination of the race didn’t help either. Still, there are many positives that we can take from this season-opening round, and some important insights that can help us progress. After a fantastic qualifying performance, Pascal started Friday’s race from the first grid row, and André Lotterer from the fourth grid row – that was a great team effort. Today didn’t go smoothly. The team did an outstanding job, and they rebuilt André’s car in time for the race. Such a race is like a puzzle, and for us today some of the pieces didn’t quite fit. Still, that doesn’t faze us. We know what we can do and we remain confident.“
Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche works driver (#99): “All in all, that was a good start to the season for us. Above all, Friday’s great qualifying, a top-five placing in the race and the top-ten result today make me optimistic. Today was more difficult. When you drive among a bunch of cars that were strong in the first race, it’s not easy to get ahead. I tried everything and was a little too optimistic at one point – I was handed a drive-through penalty for the manoeuvre, and a better result wasn’t possible. Now we have to see how we can improve for the next race in Rome. I’m confident that we’ll return stronger.”
André Lotterer, Porsche works driver (#36): “It’s a pity that we couldn’t demonstrate how much progress we’ve made compared to the previous season. Unfortunately, this was a weekend to forget for me. Yesterday a screw in the tyre, today an accident during free practice, so that I missed out on qualifying. A huge thank you to my crew for repairing my car in time for the race. Things can only get better in Rome.”
The next race for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team is round 3 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship: the Rome E-Prix on 10 April. Here, you can find the provisional calendar of the 2021 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
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Edited Porsche Factory press release.
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG.