The super-steep learning curve of a maiden season in Formula E has thrown its first couple of curves balls at the TAG Heuer Porsche Team. After a positive first outing in Diriyah, including a podium for André Lotterer, Porsche went to Chile confident of a competitive race pace and eager to mix it up once again with the more established teams.
But things rarely go to plan this early in a new motorsport programme and Race 3 in Santiago proved to be a textbook trial of the team’s patience and limited experience. Neel Jani, driving the 18 Porsche 99X Electric, was forced to retire after just a few laps. Having started the race from an impressive twelfth place, the Swiss Le Mans veteran was involved in a racing accident through no fault of his own on the very first lap and had to head for the pits. He was able to return to the 2.3 km street circuit shortly afterwards, but the damage to his car was so severe that it soon became evident he would have to throw in the towel.
“We certainly had the potential to score some points,” Jani said after the race. “However, at the end of the first lap I was hit by another car as I turned in, which pushed me into the car next to me. That broke the front suspension on my car. Now we are looking ahead. If we continue to work hard until the next race we have a good chance of being competitive again. I remain positive despite the result. I only missed out on Super Pole by 0.15 seconds. We want to build on that in Mexico.”
Teammate André Lotterer, meanwhile, fared little better in the #36 car. The experienced Formula E racer had also qualified midfield but, like Jani before him, was involved in an incident during the race and had to make an unscheduled pit stop for emergency repairs. Lotterer did manage to continue, however, and racked up some valuable kilometres for the team, eventually crossing the finishing line in 22nd place. But he was later disqualified for a technical breach, having exceeded the maximum permitted power.
“Unfortunately, the race finished early for me and Neel after our collisions,” Lotterer commented later. “It's a shame but it's part of Formula E sometimes. Starting the race from 14th place means that it can get a bit chaotic in the middle of the field. It was important that we were able to repair the car and return to the track. That allowed us to chalk us some more kilometres, to help us take another step forward in the next race.”
Victory in Santiago went to Maximilian Günther, ahead of António Félix da Costa and Mitch Evans. Lotterer is now in ninth place in the drivers’ standings while Jani is currently in 23rd position. After three races, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team is ninth in the team standings.
Head of Operations Formula E, Amiel Lindesay reflected on a tough weekend with a few important positives: “It was one of those difficult Formula E races with a few incidents. Unfortunately, the opening phase saw one of our cars damaged so severely that we had to make an early stop. Thanks to some great work from our mechanics, André was able to rejoin the race. It was an unlucky day for us, however moments like this are part of motorsport. Despite the result, there are some positive aspects, as the pace was there. We will go back on the attack in Mexico.”
The fourth race of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship 2019/2020 takes place on 15th February 2020 in Mexico City.