"P4 in both championships disappointing" - Porsche loses bronze in Formula E to own customer team Andretti
A year that was outstanding in phases for the German Porsche team came to an end on Sunday in London with a bitter disappointment. After Pascal Wehrlein had practically lost the drivers' title in Rome, his team even lost out on third place in the teams' standings at the Formula E season finale instead of battling for the title with Envision and Jaguar - to its own customer team Andretti, of all people. Wehrlein and Antonio Felix da Costa explain what ultimately tipped the scales.
"We had as many wins as never before (4) and have never been so successful. The world looked very different five races ago," Wehrlein told e-Formula.news. "Of course, we had set ourselves higher goals because we led both championships for a long time. That's why 4th place in both championships is a bit disappointing."
Porsche had already traveled to London with a points deficit on the two Jaguar teams, but harbored hopes of still being able to fight for the teams' championship. In fact, the Porsche 99X Electric ran flawlessly in the race, as Antonio Felix da Costa in particular proved on Saturday with a furious chase to second place - before he was subsequently penalized. However, it was never due to race pace in 2023.
The key difference with Jaguar and Envision in Season 9 was once again evident in London: the qualifying performance. Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy faced each other in both final duels and thus started from the front. Their teammates Sam Bird and Sebastien Buemi also started from inside the top 10 on the grid in both races. Wehrlein (grid positions 7 & 10) and Felix da Costa (17 & 20), on the other hand, had to fight their way forward, which especially in the rain race on Sunday was almost impossible.
Qualifying weakness became title-deciding factor
"We need to improve our qualifying performance because we gave away a lot of points due to this in the races," Wehrlein knows. "When we started at the front, we finished even further ahead. I will work hard with the team so that next year we can eliminate our weaknesses and have an even better year."
Wehrlein probably still got the most out of the Porsche factory team's lack of qualifying pace. Felix da Costa, on the other hand, often started much further back in 2023. "We saw again today that we need to continue working on our qualifying," the Portuguese is also aware. "That will be our big task in the off-season. In the race, we have a very competitive car."
The remarkable thing, however, is that Andretti driver Jake Dennis showed over almost the entire course of the season that it is also possible to qualify at the front with the Porsche 99X Electric. The new Formula E champion started from the front row six times and took two pole positions. In the end, he scored 80 more championship points than his former title rival Wehrlein. So what did Andretti find in the identical customer Porsche that remained hidden from the works team?
World champion Dennis showed what was possible in the Porsche
Since the manufacturer and customer team - at least officially - share all collected data with each other and try to collaborate the best way possible, it can hardly be down to the software. That leaves two other possible factors: setup and driver. One potential solution for Porsche could thus be to hire new personnel with regard to the car setup for one quick lap.
Or is Dennis really that much better than Wehrlein and Felix da Costa? Actually unlikely, although the Briton was in a league of his own even when compared to his Andretti teammate Andre Lotterer. The fact remains that Porsche has one major weakness - not more. If the manufacturer had been able to fix it earlier, it maybe would have been able to win at least one title because it has two race winners in its line-up.
On Sunday, not even the strategy games between Porsche and Andretti could help. Dennis took another podium, while Porsche secured a single point thanks to Wehrlein's 10th place. Consequently, customer team Andretti pulled past its own powertrain partner in the final meters to take "bronze" in the 2023 Formula E World Championship with a ten-point lead.
Laudenbach: "The result of a very open & constructive collaboration"
"I am very happy that the team has achieved third place in the teams' standings," says Andretti driver Andre Lotterer, of all people, who contributed a measly 23 points to the US team's tally (252 points) and will probably focus on his WEC commitment as a Porsche works driver in the future. In what was probably his last Formula E year, Lotterer finished 18th in the drivers' championship and was rarely able to convince.
Thomas Laudenbach, Head of Porsche Motorsport, comes off as a fair loser: "We congratulate Jake Dennis on winning the drivers' world championship and are delighted that our customer team Avalanche Andretti has clinched this title with the Porsche 99X Electric that we developed. This success is the result of a very open and constructive collaboration in our first season together." His last statement certainly leaves room for interpretation, even if it was made in connection with the drivers' title.
? A remarkable #LondonEPix weekend comes to an end - and our most successful @FIAFormulaE season to date as well. Here is our recap video for Rounds 15 and 16. Please enjoy! ❤️?#MakeItMatter #PorscheFormulaE pic.twitter.com/rJ13pEgZDH- TAG Heuer Porsche FE Team (@PorscheFormulaE) July 30, 2023
So - happy end? Not at all. Behind the scenes at Porsche, the mood is likely to be much more negative. Especially in view of the recently communicated long-term commitment to Formula E, the manufacturer from Swabia will do everything in its power to win the title next year - and, above all, to beat its own customer team.