Will Porsche dominate Formula E?
Going by the history books, Porsche will bring some serious heat to the Formula E paddock
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Formula E has been filling its garages with more and more big manufacturers for the past few seasons now, and the first round of Season 6 in Saudi Arabia will see an unprecedented six manufacturer teams taking to the track. And ahead of this weekend’s race it’s the new boys that are causing the biggest stir, mostly down to their talent for finding success in every series they throw some engineering at.
Of course, I’m talking about Porsche.
When was the last time Porsche failed in a racing series? The 919 blew the WEC to shreds, the 911 has been the greatest GT racecar since ever, and a Porsche engine helped McLaren gain a few Constructors’ titles in F1 back in the eighties. In fact, if you watch our video on Porsche’s motorsport history, you’ll get an idea of just how prolific the marque has been in the sporting arena.
So will Porsche convert this pedigree into a Formula E championship at the first time of asking? Let’s take a look at what we know and what that could amount to come the season finale in London next year.
Porsche has opted for two ex-919 drivers in its line-up – Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani. Lotterer already has two seasons of Formula E under his belt so will be seen as the main player in the team, but Jani is no rookie, having raced twice for Dragon Racing two seasons ago.
These guys are incredibly experienced in hopping from one racing series to another, be it single seaters, GTs or prototypes, so jumping into a Formula E car while balancing other commitments should be second nature to them. It looks like Jani has been doing the majority of the pre-season testing with the car, allowing him to get some solid seat time to get rid of any inexperience excuses.
I imagine Jani will be playing second fiddle to Lotterer who – if he has the right car under him – could be challenging for the Driver’s title this season, something he never really had the chance to do with Jean-Eric Vergne as his teammate at DS TeCheetah. And considering that they have been teammates at Porsche and Rebellion Racing before, I reckon they’re going to gel extremely well.
Speaking of the car...
The brand new car has one of the coolest names in the paddock: the 99X. Beneath the RSR-esque bodywork you’ll find Porsche’s own powertrain, bespoke software, inverter and electric motor-generator unit.
All of that bespoke kit won’t have been cheap and is one of the main factors that separates the manufacturers from the privateer teams. Audi came along and did a very similar thing, with teams opting to suckle from the German team’s R&D budget by borrowing its powertrains.
Having the cash to make your own propulsion solutions can go either way however – Nissan struggled with its bespoke system last year – but we imagine with the amount of testing, engineering heft and sheer cash that Porsche has supposedly pumped into this new team, the recipe will be an effective one.
Pre-season testing didn’t show an awful lot
In the final practice session at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, the Porsche pair didn’t manage to get themselves into the top ten runners. Lotterer managed to haul the 99X up to 11th but it seems like there’s definitely work to do to get things up to where fans are expecting them to be.
The tagline of Porsche’s launch into the sport has been ‘Start From Zero’, so maybe we should respect the team’s humble approach. But having seen first hand the management and engineers doing their thing in Valencia, I can tell you there are some very serious faces in the Porsche garage; the kind of faces that you can imagine don’t take failure – or losing – well.
Who will Porsche need to beat?
The top two contenders have to be DS TeCheetah and Audi as it stands, with both teams oozing with driving talent as well as having well sorted cars. Although, with Porsche’s old LMP1 budget being shifted towards this electric series, maybe an Audi-esque performance can be pulled out of the bag – they could even end the year with some silverware.
Another unknown commodity in the paddock is Mercedes – has the full power of the German marque changed things after the somewhat sketchy Season 5 for HWA? If Vandoorne and new boy Nyck de Vries can get their Mercs in the right places at the right times, that young driver talent and speed may have a chance to shine through.
Will Porsche do it, then?
I think there’s every chance. Pre-season testing tells you nothing really, so having BMW up the top of the final timesheet won’t have had too many teams worrying. Porsche’s learning curve in Valencia will have been steep, but one that will be priceless for when the cars take to the track in anger for the first time this weekend.
If the engineers back in Stuttgart can find a formula that works, and one that Lotterer and Jani can utilise, the rest of the field should be very, very worried. Porsche almost always finds a way to win when it sets its collective mind to a task. And with a note saying ‘Season 6 title’ probably pinned firmly to the company noticeboard, you better not count against them.