When the first race of the season kicked off in Saudi Arabia a couple of months ago Porsche looked pretty strong, particularly with the experienced Formula E racer André Lotterer at the wheel. With a well-earned podium place, the team hoped to build from that strength to get better throughout the season. Showing up in Santiago, Chile, was a dismal display. The team suffered a double failure during Saturday's E-Prix, as Neel Jani retired after contact in the first handful of laps, and Lotterer spent several laps in the pits affecting repairs before he was disqualified for exceeding electric power limits.
At the front the race was really raging, however as Jaguar's MItch Evans, DS Techeetah's António Félix da Costa, and BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Maximilian Guenther fought for the lead, taking the fight down to the final lap with exquisite strategy and dicey racing. Ultimately it would be BMW coming out on top. Could Porsche have fought for the win if it hadn't fallen apart for the team so early on? The world will never know.
Neel Jani started the race from 12th on the grid and was forced to retire with suspension damage. Just shortly after the race started the other BMW of Alexander Sims chucked his car down the inside at the penultimate hairpin corner, which can only really accept cars in a lead-follow situation, shoving Jani into the sidepod of one of the gold and black DS Techeetah cars, before pinballing into a couple other racers. Jani did manage to return to the track, but ultimately decided to retire as the damage was too severe. His race was immediately scuppered through no fault of his own.
Lotterer qualified a couple positions behind in 14th, and quickly made moves through the grid, getting ahead of his teammate before long. Following the incident which saw Sims take out Jani, Lotterer later misjudged a braking distance and bonked the back of Sims' car with his Porsche 99x Electric. He pitted for repairs and returned several laps later to get log more race miles and help the team test a bit in race conditions. Because he had more electricity to play with, Lotterer ended up with energy spikes higher than the race regulations allow, but possibly that is something the team was testing to see how close to the edge they could play.
With Lotterer's disqualification, he's now placed 9th in the drivers' championship standings. Jani, meanwhile, is ranked 23rd of 24 drivers, one of five drivers yet to score a single point in FIA Formula E. Hopefully the Porsche team's luck turns around as the season heats up. The next round is in Mexico City on February 15th.
Comments from the team
Amiel Lindesay (Head of Operations Formula E): “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.”
Neel Jani (Porsche 99X Electric, #18): “We certainly had the potential to score some points. 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.”
André Lotterer (Porsche 99X Electric, #36): “Unfortunately, the race finished early for me and Neel after our collisions. 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.”