Points for Porsche as Formula E returns
A positive start to 2021 as the 99X rejoins battle in the all-electric single-seater series
The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team arrived in Saudi Arabia last week for the start of its second full season in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Porsche’s engineers at Weissach had made extensive improvements to the 99X Electric powertrain over the winter, while the team had also recruited Pascal Wehrlein to race alongside established works driver André Lotterer.
Deputising for Santiago in Chile due to current travel restrictions, Riyadh was chosen to host the first two night races in Formula E history, its tricky 2.4km street circuit dramatically floodlit for the occasion.
In a promising start for Wehrlein, the young German claimed second in the Super Pole Qualifying. Starting the race from the front row in the No. 99 entry, he got off the line well and proceeded to chase down the leader. But by the halfway mark he had fallen back to fifth, and two late safety car phases hampered a final charge up the field.
Starting race two from 16th position, Wehrlein was hampered by the limited overtaking opportunities of the narrow and twisty circuit and was unable to gain ground before the final flag. But following numerous time penalties for competitors who had finished ahead of him, Wehrlein ultimately placed tenth and earned a single extra point.
There was less luck for Lotterer, however, who qualified a strong seventh for the first round, only to see his race ruined by puncture caused by debris on the circuit. There was more to come too, when an accident during free practice for the second race resulted in his 99X having to undergo last minute repairs. It proved impossible to get the car back on its wheels in time for the qualifying, and the Formula E veteran was forced to start the race from the pit lane. Lotterer nevertheless managed to make up five places during the race and also benefited retrospectively from the same time penalties that had promoted Wehrlein.
“We took a bit of a risk when we let André start from the pit lane so that we could save some energy,” reflected Amiel Lindesay, Head of Operations Formula E. “Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work. Still, there are many positives that we can take from this season-opening round, and some important insights that can help us progress. After a fantastic qualifying performance, Pascal started Friday’s race from the first grid row, and André Lotterer from the fourth grid row – that was a great team effort. Today didn’t go smoothly. The team did an outstanding job, and they rebuilt André’s car in time for the race. Such a race is like a puzzle, and for us today some of the pieces didn’t quite fit. Still, that doesn’t faze us. We know what we can do and we remain confident.”
Round three of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship takes place in Rome on 10 April.