"Didn't know if my energy would be enough" - Rene Rast gives McLaren first podium in Formula E
Rene Rast gave his new Formula E team McLaren in Saturday's race of the Diriyya E-Prix in Saudi Arabia the first podium in its still young history. In third place, he fended off Sam Bird's attacks until the very end to claim the third trophy of his Formula E career. After the race, the 36-year-old German spoke about his initially difficult electric comeback, his feelings and how the safety car affected his luck.
"I'm overwhelmed," Rast showed exuberantly in the TV world signal shortly after the end of the race and added later on 'ProSieben': "I would not have expected the result. On Thursday (in 1st free practice) I had no pace at all. Then we put in a huge learning curve and executed the race perfectly today. Now standing here on the podium feels like a victory. First the pole position (from teammate Jake Hughes), then the podium - we can be really happy with the day."
"I'm just very happy," Rast continued, "especially when you look at where I was in Mexico in particular (retirement). It took me quite a while to understand the car and check out what I had to do. But in the end it clicked. That's happened to me many times in my career, that I needed quite a long time to get into it at the beginning. Normally I'm always at my strongest towards the end of a season. Let's hope we can keep that momentum going and get even better."
WE MADE IT, and it's all down to your support, McLaren fans. ? pic.twitter.com/7pfvNcHZVz- NEOM McLaren FE (@McLarenFE) January 28, 2023
Even in qualifying for the third round of the season Rast was able to shine with 3rd place on the grid. In the race, it initially went rather to the back for the native of Minden. Through a clever use of attack mode, however, he even advanced to 1st place in the meantime, but had an energy disadvantage against the competitors around him. He had no chance against the Porsche cars of Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis. In the final laps he faced numerous attacks from Sam Bird, but managed to keep the Jaguar behind him with all his might until the end of the race.
"The safety car suddenly changed everything"
"Actually, before the safety car period, I wasn't really in a position to fight him. Then the safety car suddenly changed everything, and I thought to myself: maybe we have a chance at the podium. So I started to fight against him. It wasn't easy at the end to defend myself against Sam because he had extremely more energy. Of course we were a bit lucky with the safety car, but that's part of it. In the end, the plan worked out."
Rast reveals interesting details about how neutralization played into his cards: "By making the race a bit longer with the safety car, we had more and more energy available (in relation) towards the end. Our lift-off points, i.e. where we went off the gas, became later and later. At the end we had almost a full-throttle race, and so it was then difficult for him to still overtake me."
"Nevertheless, I didn't know until the last corner whether my energy was enough," Rast admits. "I already had the first red caution on the long back straight. So I wasn't sure if I wouldn't coast before that. But it all worked out."
Pole-sitter Hughes lets himself be pushed to the finish line in fifth.
Just as it worked out for Jake Hughes, although Rast's teammate actually ran out of power in the final corner. His car just rolled out, but then curiously he was pushed by Mitch Evans, who was right behind him and hit the rear of the McLaren. Sebastien Buemi pulled to the right to avoid the two and as a result even crossed the finish line ahead of Evans. But not ahead of Hughes, who finished fifth without power and still 78 thousandths of a second ahead!
"It was a successful day for me and McLaren," Hughes feels. "We achieved our first pole position in our third race. We went into the race with the expectation that we wouldn't be able to compete with the Porsche cars, but our goal was to fight the Jaguar cars on a good day. In the end, we were even able to place both McLaren cars ahead of one Jaguar each. I'm really looking forward to going to Hyderabad in a couple of weeks."
"A phenomenal result, I couldn't be prouder of the team," praised McLaren team principal Ian James. "Today we saw a great battle that once again underlines how entertaining Formula E can be right up to the last minute. The fact that both the team and the drivers withstood this pressure is a testament to their strong character."
After a mixed start to the season in Mexico, the Briton is consistently optimistic: "I feel like things have clicked, which really gives me hope for the future. I'm happy for Rene, of course, but also for Jake - his pole today was really outstanding." Hughes had already secured McLaren's first pole position in Formula E earlier in the afternoon, with Rast eventually getting the first trophy.