Ex-champion Vergne disappointed after London E-Prix despite 5th place in championship: "Never experienced such a humiliation!"
Although he finished the 2023 Formula E season in fifth place in the drivers' standings, Jean-Eric Vergne is disappointed with how his year with DS Penske went. In the final race of the season, his team tested out "undrivable" tire pressures that turned the Frenchman's season finale into a "nightmare". Vergne appeals for next year to make fewer mistakes - and spare him further "humiliations."
There's a first time for everything. Since the mid-race car changes have been abandoned, pit stops in Formula E have been extremely rare. In the races, no team usually plans to change tires, especially since the current, nearly indestructible Hankook-developed tires are likely to be the most robust tires in Formula E history.
During the London E-Prix, Jean-Eric Vergne nevertheless headed to pit lane for a tire change. However, what was possibly the first strategic tire change in Formula E history was by no means due to wear, as the Frenchman revealed to e-Formula.news: "My team decided to test new tire pressures. They were absolutely undriveable."
Tire pressures drive Vergne up a wall: "A f***ing nightmare"
The adjustment to the pressure was made by DS Penske during one of the red flags in Sunday's rainy race. "I was in nowhere and so far off the pace that I became a danger to the other drivers. They were pushing me at the (corner) exits and I couldn't even get back on power. It was a complete, f***ing nightmare."
When switching to tires with pressures better suited to the race, the team replaced only the rear wheels. There was not enough time for a full service - otherwise Vergne would have been lapped by leader Nick Cassidy and would have had no opportunity to make up the lost race lap in the event of a late safety car. "It was like night and day," he says of the change, "I could get out of the corners but the problem is: Since I still had the same front tires, I had massive understeer and it was still undriveable, but the traction was way better."
"At that point, I was just waiting for this suffering to end. I have never lived (through) such a race and such a humiliation. I'm really pissed off and I have no words for that," Vergne said.
Vergne appeals for fewer mistakes from DS Penske
He has no explanation for the tire pressure debacle. "At some point, we cannot make these mistakes as a team. Trying something so out of the window in a race is not something I understand. We win and lose as a team, but the wet was always one of my strengths and to be humiliated like this in the rain, it doesn't sit very well with me. It's very painful and I'm glad it's over", he says referring to the season, which he ends on a disappointed note despite a race win in Hyderabad.
"I have no idea how I still finished fifth in the championship. Clearly we have to make a lot of improvements because this is not good enough. I am going to do everything in my power to find solutions to do a better season next year."
During the season break, Vergne plans to take time for himself. "I will disappear in the south of France for a month and won't exist. It will be good to get a break," he says. However, his preparation for the 2024 season will begin again in September at the latest, when he plans to attack again with DS Penske - at best with correct tire pressures and without unscheduled pit stops.