Formula E interview with Porsche motorsport boss Laudenbach: "There is no fundamental no to a 2nd customer team"
Thomas Laudenbach has been head of Porsche Motorsport since October 2021, when he took over from Fritz Enzinger. Born in Santiago de Chile, the engineering graduate had worked for Porsche since 1998 and was responsible for the development of motorsport powertrains until 2013. After a stopover at Audi, he returned to Porsche in 2020. e-Formula.news had the exclusive opportunity to speak with Thomas Laudenbach during the London E-Prix 2023.
Mr. Laudenbach, Porsche announced a few days before the season finale in London to remain in Formula E until the end of the 2026 season. How did this decision come about?
There are many factors to consider: Is it the right series? Where is it going? We're talking about a series that definitely carries good messages, but of which we also say that it should still develop further. In order to clarify all this, we needed to have talks - whether with Formula E, with the FIA or in-house.
Why was the decision made at this time?
We were constantly asked about it, but next year we would still have competed anyway. Therefore, we had no time pressure. But we have noticed that the points in question for us so far clear and we are able to decide. So we thought it was good to communicate it before the last race.
It is now clear, after all, that Porsche will homologate a new powertrain for the second half of the Gen3 era. What is the timetable for season 11?
I hope we will be ready in time (laughs). It's not such an easy decision where to put the money. We have a budget cap, after all. Therefore, some things are not yet decided. But we are still well on track. Even if not all decisions are finalized, you have to be sure that you have the capacities and also the raw materials. That has become a problem these days. If I make a decision too late, then I might still develop everything, but maybe I can't get my raw material in time.
Is the new powertrain a completely new development with Porsche starting with a blank sheet of paper?
I can't imagine that. We have a good car. So further development is probably quite reasonable. This is a series that has limited development freedom - also for cost reasons. But I was very pleased to see that as a manufacturer you can differentiate yourself through the car. If you do a statistic of the results this year, you can see which manufactureres are obviously more likely to be found in the front field. That's a clear sign that you can differentiate yourself as a manufacturer. That was also an important aspect in the decision to continue.
Does the decision to continue until the end of the Gen3 era also influence the Gen4 talks that are already underway?
If we had decided now to exit after next season, we probably would not have been so involved in the Gen4 talks. By the fact that we have now decided to compete until the end of the Gen3 era, and we will decide a Gen4 commitment at a later date, it makes a lot of sense that we are involved. Also with our experience. It makes sense for us to be involved, because a decision to continue could be made at a later date. And then we would have made a huge mistake if we hadn't been involved now.
How is the cooperation with the Porsche customer team Andretti going?
Completely positive. After all, we are not just a racing team, but a car manufacturer. Therefore, we always have the philosophy, which was also confirmed to us by Andretti once again internally: If four Porsches are racing, they should be as strong as they can be. Close cooperation helps anyway because we have a broader database. We have a very close exchange, we work together.
In London, there were definitely heated discussions between Porsche and Andretti.
Naturally, a situation has now arisen in which both teams have fought for victories. Of course, this also creates stronger competition. But I don't want to see that in a negative light. There is perhaps also sometimes the situation that you have to sit down together. But that is quite normal and simply arises from the fact that we have a good package and have taken a path that obviously moves both teams forward. That's why, for me, this is a complete success and a very clear confirmation that our philosophy is right.
The main development during the season relates to the software. Are the four Porsche cars always on the same level?
Yes, that is so. There are also rules on place in Formula E. We could not say we continue to develop and do not give Andretti the software. But that has never been up for discussion for us. The very fact that we want to have four strong cars means that progress has to be made. So in this respect we have a very clear philosophy: Of course Andretti will also get the new software. But it may be that new things we try out are not rolled out to all the cars right away. But if we have something that we think is an improvement, all four cars will get that.
There are also customer teams in Formula E that may not be entirely happy with their current powertrain partner. Would Porsche have the capacity for a second customer team?
In principle, I can build capacity. But I think in the short term, it is not feasible. Because it's not just about capacity. I also need the materials. And we have a philosophy, as I said, about how we do customer racing. I would never want to just give someone a car and say: Look for it yourself. Then there's a risk that a Porsche will look bad. It's my job as head of motorsport to prevent that. There is no fundamental no to a second customer team, but there is also no decision yet. Just looking at it realistically: For next year, I can hardly imagine how that would work. It could be built up for later. But that would first require a fundamental decision that we want to have two more cars. And that doesn't exist at the moment.