I have contended from the very first E-Prix that Formula E is not only the future of motorsport, but it is among the most exciting racing anywhere in the world. The double-header from Saudi Arabia this weekend was no different, an absolute banger from start to finish in both races. And now that Porsche is in the series, I have a definitive team I can root for! I was absolutely ecstatic to see André Lotterer work so well with the new Porsche 99X Electric race car. Teammate Neel Jani didn't fare quite as well, but André has years of practice in Formula E and this marked Neel's first start in the series. Surely as the season progresses, both drivers and the car will become proper forces to be reckoned with.
Lotterer had a decent race 1 qualifying, starting the race from 7th on the grid. Jani's fast lap had to be aborted late in the run for a yellow flag during qualifying, so he started the race from 20th on the grid, putting him immediately on the back foot. At the start Jani could not see the starting lights from where he was positioned on the grid, so he lost a spot at the green lights to slow reactions as well. Up front meanwhile, Lotterer used excellent ATTACK MODE management to leapfrog through the field. A few drivers were pushed out with crashes and penalties, but Lotterer persevered to come out in second place behind race winner Sam Bird. Jani gained a few positions through the course of the race to finish in 17th.
In race 2 Lotterer had a slightly less good qualifying, starting from 10th. He raced extremely well to end the race in 6th, but there were some issues with a handful of mid-race caution periods. The first was caused by race one winner Bird being taken out. When the race re-started many drivers dove for ATTACK MODE activation zone, while others passed them under safety car conditions. I didn't see it on the race broadcast, and trust me I went back and watched numerous times, but Lotterer was hit with a drive-through penalty post race for passing under yellow. Instead of 6th, he was given a time penalty which demoted him to 14th and out of the points. Jani finished 13th.
Win some, lose some. If Lotterer had been awarded his 8 points for a 6th place finish, he'd be sitting level on third right now with Sam Bird at 26 points. That just proves Porsche has a car and driver ready for the fight this year. I can't wait for the season to continue.
Here are some quotes from the team following race 1.
Michael Steiner (Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development Porsche AG): “What happened today was just crazy. I hadn't expected that. We are proud that we have reached the podium in our first race and we will go on the attack again tomorrow.”
Fritz Enzinger (President Porsche Motorsport and Group Motorsport Volkswagen AG): “What did we learn in Riyadh? Porsche can perform electrically too. Unbelievable – our first race and we made it to the podium. The work we put in over the past year and a half has paid off. André Lotterer was superb and Neel Jani drove well too. A huge thank you to everyone involved in the project and to all our Porsche colleagues who had their fingers crossed for us. Now we are concentrating fully on the second race.”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “That race went like a dream – and we were already feeling positive after qualifying. Reaching the podium on our first attempt, what more could we wish for? We will continue to work hard and attempt to repeat today's success.”
André Lotterer (Porsche 99X Electric, #36): “A great debut for all of us: second place. When I told the team a few weeks back that I wanted to reach the podium, they all looked at me like I was mad. And now we've done it with hard work and a bit of luck. Qualifying went OK and we finished seventh. I started the race quietly enough, paid attention to my energy management and was able to use ‘Attack Mode’ early to get past a few other cars. At the end, I thought we were even in with a chance of winning the race, but I didn’t want to take too many risks. Starting off with a second-place finish isn't too bad.”
Neel Jani (Porsche 99X Electric, #18): “Firstly, congratulations to André and the whole team. Reaching the podium in our first race shows that we have done some good development work. Qualifying was not ideal for me and I had to start the race from way back. However, I had found the right pace and rhythm by the middle of the race. I will build on that tomorrow.”