"Sobering" Formula E weekend for Wehrlein, "worst car" for Dennis & low point for Felix da Costa
Porsche experienced a gruelling Saturday at Formula E's Diriyah E-Prix this weekend. After a commanding victory at the season opener in Mexico and another Porsche success for Jake Dennis' Andretti customer car in Saudi Arabia, nothing came together on the second day of racing. Only Pascal Wehrlein managed to finish in the points. The main reason for this was the poor qualifying pace of the Porsche 99X Electric.
As Saturday's race in Saudi Arabia was even one lap shorter than the race on Friday, energy consumption - actually a Porsche strength - played an even smaller role. This made it difficult to overtake, making a good grid position all the more important.
And that was Porsche's biggest weak spot in Diriyah. Wehrlein made the most of it with 10th place on the grid. World champion Jake Dennis and Norman Nato in the customer cars did not make it past grid positions 14 and 19 respectively. Antonio Felix da Costa, for whom things had already not gone well in Mexico and in the first Diriyah race, even finished last in qualifying.
Not much was to go right in the race either. Wehrlein at least made up three positions and ultimately finished seventh. Dennis crossed the finish line in tenth place, but was subsequently penalised. Felix da Costa finished 14th, Nato only 16th after a late braking incident in turn 18.
Wehrlein: "That doesn't meet our expectations"
"Overall, it was a sobering weekend for us," said Wehrlein, who at least made the best of the situation and defended second place in the championship with six points. "When the best Porsche is in 10th place, that's obviously not good enough and doesn't meet our expectations."
"We simply lacked the pace in qualifying," analysed the German. "In the race, the speed wasn't bad and I was able to make up some ground. But we definitely still have a lot of work to do."
?️ Wrapping the 2024 #DiriyahEPrix up with our recap clip. And counting the days until the #SaoPauloEPrix (16 March) already! ?#PorscheFormulaE #Raceborn @PWehrlein @afelixdacosta @FIAFormulaE pic.twitter.com/ZQVaebljNu- TAG Heuer Porsche FE Team (@PorscheFormulaE) January 27, 2024
A positive: "Pascal has always finished in the points in the last 14 races," notes Porsche team principal Florian Modlinger. "In Formula E, that's a very, very strong performance. Pascal scored important points and drove up to seventh place with strong overtaking manoeuvres."
Felix da Costa: "Working hard to understand why things are going like this"
While Wehrlein was doing damage limitation, Felix da Costa experienced an absolute low point at the Diriyah E-Prix, which he once won with BMW. The Portuguese driver had already retired in Mexico - during his team-mate's commanding victory - before only finishing 16th on Friday in Diriyah. Nothing worked for him on Saturday either. In qualifying, he was a remarkable 1.021 seconds off the best time in his group set by Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan).
Felix da Costa made up seven positions from last place on the grid. Nevertheless, he is still one of seven drivers with no points at all in 2024 after three races, and his fellow sufferers are either driving a Mahindra drive, an ERT or are new to Formula E...
"That was a disappointing day," says Felix da Costa. "We're working hard to understand why things are going like this. But I'm not one to give up and will do everything I can to get out of this difficult situation as quickly as possible." In fact, the 2020 champion must gradually deliver in order to live up to the expectations of Porsche and its fans.
Dennis criticises "worst car I've ever had in Formula E"
The two drivers from Porsche customer team Andretti showed that it was not just Felix da Costa's "sudden loss of talent", but also the car. Even world champion Jake Dennis, who had claimed one of the most dominant victories in Formula E history just 24 hours before, was unable to cope with the Porsche 99X Electric.
"This is the worst car I've ever had in Formula E," raged the world champion after a botched qualifying session that only saw him finish 14th on the grid. "We have a great powertrain with amazing efficiency and it's a shame we couldn't capitalise on that in the race," explained Dennis. "I'm looking forward to some time off and getting to the bottom of our qualifying problems."
Norman Nato, Dennis' team-mate, also saw no light after 6th place the previous day. "I felt we had a good race car with good pace, but it's so hard to overtake in races like this. Frustrating, but yes, we continue to learn and focus on improving in qualifying, because that will be even more important this year than last year," said the Frenchman.
"This second race day in Diriyah with only one Porsche in the top 10 was not satisfactory for us," summarised Porsche's Modlinger. "The poor qualifying performance was the main reason for this result. We have to work on that. During the race break until Sao Paulo, we will try to improve further."