After a whirlwind 18 months of development, and with just 15 days of allowable track testing, Porsche’s maiden campaign in Formula E began with a bang last weekend in Saudi Arabia.
Three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer qualified in seventh position on the 2.5 km Diriyah street circuit, a superb effort for the 99X’s first ever competitive outing. Teammate Neel Jani had less luck, being pegged back by a yellow flag phase at the end of the qualifying session that left him starting the race from 20th.
Lotterer, in the No. 36 Porsche, underlined his experience in the complex world of fully-electric racing, making a series of high pressure passes to work his way through the tightly packed field of front runners. He was reeling in the leader when the flag fell on lap 30, presenting Porsche with an unexpected podium on debut. Jani, for whom this first ever E-Prix was something of a trial by fire, made some positive moves of his own, finishing the race in 17th in the No. 18 sister car.
There was more to come, however. The format in Riyadh saw two races spread across the weekend and in the second race, Lotterer initially crossed the line in sixth, finishing just over three seconds behind the race-winner. But he had missed the yellow flags as he passed a backmarker during the race, and was later awarded a drive-through penalty for overtaking during a safety car period. So having started the race from tenth and made up four places, the German driver was demoted to a frustrating 14th.
“All in all, a great start to the season with the second place on Friday,” said Lotterer. “We could have scored another eight points by finishing sixth today. Unfortunately, I was demoted after the race finished. I was just overtaking Pascal Wehrlein as the safety car appeared on the circuit. That was just really unlucky in terms of timing."
Teammate Jani had another encouraging race, however, gaining an impressive five places to finish 13th overall. “It was a challenging second race,” the Swiss driver commented afterwards, “but our pace was better than on Friday and it represents a big step forward for me personally. We all gained a lot of experience here, and now we have to continue the hard work to ensure that we can benefit from that for the upcoming races.”
The Formula E Fanboost, which allows fans to vote for their favourite driver in a bid to award them extra power for the race, saw the popular Lotterer in the top five on both days. This presented him with a useful 100 kJ of additional energy in each race, making Jani’s first ever weekend in the series look all the more impressive.
With 12 races left to run in the 2019/20 season, Lotterer is sixth in the drivers’ championship with 18 points, while the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team is also in sixth place in the team standings.
‘Even though we did not manage to score any points at the end of the second race, it was a positive weekend for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team,’ said Amiel Lindesay, Head of Operations Formula E. ‘We have gathered some valuable information and now we have to do our homework. I am happy for the whole team. The results give us confidence for the next races of the season.’
The next third race of the season is scheduled to take place on 18 January in Santiago de Chile.