Wing break after Fenestraz contact, then battery problem: "Frustrating" Formula E start for Vergne & DS
The DS Penske team had traveled to Mexico as the top favorite for the 2023 Formula E start. On the one hand because of its strong Valencia pace, on the other because of the reportedly strongest driver duo. At the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, however, almost nothing went according to plan. Especially Jean-Eric Vergne experienced an eventful season opener.
Already in qualifying, the new alliance between DS Automobiles and Penske Autosport suffered a disappointment. "Mainly because of the traffic," justifies reigning Formula E champion Stoffel Vandoorne. "We didn't manage to optimize every aspect. I knew it would be a difficult race from 14th on the grid." Teammate Vergne still managed to finish eleventh in qualifying.
The race was unremarkable for both DS drivers over long stretches. The race pace and efficiency were right for the DS duo, so Vergne and Vandoorne gradually worked their way forward. On lap 31, however, there was contact between Vergne and Nissan competitor Sacha Fenestraz. The DS driver attacked the youngster, misjudged his position and ultimately lost part of his front wing in the double right-hand turn 5/6 as a result of the contact.
We may not have had the results we wanted from this first race but we learned a lot and we are confident that our next race will be better! @svandoorne finished at P10 & @jeanericvergne finished at P12.- DS PENSKE FORMULA E TEAM (@ds_penske_fe) January 15, 2023
Mexico City it is always a pleasure!?? Next up Riyadh! pic.twitter.com/x6ws39AeOh
He admits his guilt, explaining, "It was my mistake, but I didn't do it on purpose. He made quite a wide turn, and I thought to myself: try it on the inside lane. The only problem was that the front wing is much further away (from the cockpit) compared to last year. That surprised me," Vergne explained to 'The Race.' "I didn't expect to hit it. Now I know for the future that the nose is much longer than on last year's car."
Although the Gen3 car is 200 mm shorter overall than its predecessor and has a shorter wheelbase, the driver still sits further back in proportion. Incidentally, the race organizers - who are generally very merciful in Mexico - did not issue a penalty.
Battery failure for Vergne in the last corner
It wasn't the only scary moment for Vergne, however. Running ninth, the Frenchman was on his way to the points without a front wing when he suddenly lost propulsion in the final corner of the last lap. "I actually finished the race with 2 kWh or so and could have done a few more laps, but the battery just died."
Colleagues, however, assume that there was a discrepancy between the model on Vergne's steering wheel and the actual figures, and that the battery was in fact discharged. So Vergne rolled toward the finish line and still dropped to 12th position.
"I fought really hard to still get into the points, but unfortunately I had a battery problem just before the finish. That's frustrating when you've given everything for those points, which could tip the scales at the end of the championship. It's certainly not the result we wanted," Vergne said.
Vandoorne: "1 point better than nothing"
Team colleague Vandoorne came at least as tenth in the points and took countable from Mexico. Nevertheless, the champion of the preseason also has mixed feelings: "That was clearly not an optimal weekend. Still, one point is better than nothing. It was a very eventful race with three safety car phases and we learned a lot. It was very difficult to overtake, though, so I didn't get any further ahead than 10th."
DS Performance boss Eugenio Franzetti also wants to focus more on the positive things at the Mexico City E-Prix: "We have learned an extremely large amount from this start to the season. All the information will help us for the future. And one thing is certain: The cars are absolutely competitive! Now it's up to us to tap into that potential and shine in the next races."
The next opportunity DS Penske already has in less than two weeks at the "double-header" in Saudi Arabia (27/28 January). Whether Vergne and Vandoorne can live up to their role as favorites in the Diriyya night races will certainly depend on better qualifying.