DS Penske no longer a top team after Formula E race in Diriyya: "Are not where we need to be".
Disillusionment at DS Penske: The former top Formula E team concluded its annual tour of duty to Saudi Arabia with a meager six points from two races. In Diriyya, it was once again evident that the powertrain of the Stellantis brand, which is used to success, is not yet on a par with Porsche and Jaguar. The two drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne - the supposedly strongest line-up in Formula E.- were correspondingly frustrated.
For DS Penske, Friday was the more successful day of the weekend despite an early exit in qualifying: Jean-Eric Vergne finished the race in seventh place, Stoffel Vandoorne just missed the points as eleventh. They were to remain the only points for the racing team.
In qualifying on Saturday, there were actually signs of an upward trend: With Vandoorne, a driver of the team reached the duel stage for the first time this season. In a direct comparison with Sebastien Buemi, however, the Belgian was clearly defeated, so that he had to start the race from eighth place on the grid.
The reigning Formula E world champion lost a position to Jaguar driver Sam Bird right at the start. When his first attack mode was activated, Vandoorne initially had to let Max Günther pass. When Günther drove through the attack zone, the opposite picture emerged: Vandoorne passed the German again. At this point, however, the Belgian was already struggling with problems.
Vandoorne: "Today was a shit day"
"Unfortunately, after four or five laps, I lost the steering wheel display and the radio link to the team," Vandoorne described after the race. "So I had no information to manage my energy." Although Vandoorne had an energy advantage over his direct competitors, according to the overlay on the TV signal, he was not aware of it, nor could the team inform him.
"All the functions of the steering wheel failed," the Belgian described to 'Motorsport.com'. "I just couldn't activate them anymore. I tried to start the (attack mode) procedure, but I knew I would be disqualified."
On lap 37, he finally drove through the attack zone and lost two positions to Sacha Fenestraz and Dan Ticktum, but the attack mode could not be activated. Not only was Vandoorne unable to use the higher power of 350 kW - he also committed a breach of the rules: two uses of Attack Mode are mandatory this season. The race stewards subsequently gave him a drive-through penalty, which dropped Vandoorne from eleventh to 20th and last place.
"Our energy management seems to be good," Vandoorne said, seeing a glimmer of hope. "But we haven't been able to capitalize on that so far. Nothing worked for me today. But apparently I still had three to four percent more energy than everyone else. Don't ask me how that worked. Today was a crap day."
Looking ahead to the first three races of 2023, he says, "It's been an extremely challenging start to the season for us so far. We're not where we need to be and need some big improvements to get back in front. We have a long road ahead of us, but this team, DS Penske, can do it."
It's been an extremely challenging start of our season so far. We're not where we need to be and we'll need some big improvements in order to be back fighting at the sharp end. A long road ahead but this team @ds_penske_fe can make it happen! pic.twitter.com/Ek9B9Q41yt- Stoffel Vandoorne (@svandoorne) January 29, 2023
Vergne: "It hurts - there's no other way to put it"
It didn't go much better for Jean-Eric Vergne either: the two-time Formula E champion didn't manage a good qualifying lap. 8th place in the group stage meant only 16th on the grid in the end. In the race, the Frenchman dueled with his former teammates Antonio Felix da Costa and Andre Lotterer. However, he had to let the two Porsche-powered drivers go.
In the battle for position 16, Vergne clashed with his compatriot Norman Nato and lost significant ground after contact with the Nissan in the final corner. As a result, it was only enough for 16th place at the finish, with Vergne still benefiting from the penalty against his teammate and the energy problems of Maximilian Günther, who rolled out just before the finish line.
"It's been a long time since we've been in a position where we lack pure performance and a points result feels like a win," Vergne wrote in a Twitter post. "It hurts - there's no other way to put it. But it also motivates us more than ever to return to the top. We will not give up."
It's been a long time we haven't been in that position, where we lack pure performance and finishing in the points feels like a victory.- Jean-Eric Vergne (@JeanEricVergne) January 29, 2023
It hurts, there is no other word.
But it motivates us more than ever to come back to the top. We won't give up ??
"Today I just didn't have the pace - neither in qualifying nor in the race," Vergne states. "We tried a lot of things and we need to develop the car further to make progress. I'm very happy with the work the team did all weekend. And I think I drove well. But we just weren't fast enough. I hope we can improve things in the near future."
There's not much time for DS Penske to do so: the next round of the 2023 Formula E World Championship, the Hyderabad E-Prix, is just under two weeks away.