After missing out on both Formula E championships in season nine, the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team must solve their one-lap performance woes before season 10 gets underway, or face another year of having too much work to do.
Following the Diriyah double-header all the way back in January, it would’ve been almost impossible to imagine that Pascal Wehrlein and Porsche would finish fourth in their respected championships, given how dominant the pair looked in the opening rounds.
With Wehrlein having finished no lower than second in the opening three E-Prixs, the German was quickly labelled as the title favourite, whilst Porsche were seen as a likely runaway winner of the Constructors’ Championship. If it weren’t for their miserable qualifying performances, this probably would’ve been the case.
Wehrlein’s and António Félix da Costa’s campaigns were overshadowed somewhat by Porsche’s issues in the group stage of qualifying, which cost both drivers on several occasions.
The side’s disappointing performance over a single lap wasn’t actually too big of a concern in the opening rounds, mostly because the other powertrain suppliers were still figuring out how to extract the most from the Gen3 machinery.
Because of this, Wehrlein and Da Costa were able to qualify badly yet still finish towards the front, due to Porsche’s remarkable energy efficiency right from the get-go in Mexico City. This was seen in Da Costa’s case in Cape Town, where he stormed through the field to claim victory after starting in P13.
Seeing the Porsches cruise through the field with ease in the opening rounds was truly something to behold, given that they’d really been a sleeping giant in Formula E since they joined the series.
However, something changed from Berlin onwards, as neither Da Costa or Wehrlein were suddenly able to finish in the leading places after qualifying in the midfield.
The opening race in London was the only exception, as Da Costa initially finished second after recovering from P17 on the grid. He was later slapped with a three-minute time penalty which is going to the FIA Court of Appeal.
Once the likes of Jaguar and Stellantis had figured out how to be more efficient, Wehrlein and Da Costa struggled to make the same progress. The only way they could storm through the field was by using more energy, something which in itself took away their efficiency advantage, leaving them in no-man’s land.
Porsche all of a sudden were not able to score really big points, with Wehrlein having claimed just won victory – he won from third on the grid in Jakarta R1 – from Diriyah onwards. This seriously hurt the team in both championships, as they quickly went from being comfortable leaders, to desperate chasers.
Despite their best efforts, they just couldn’t get the car to work over one-lap, leaving both drivers with too much work to do. None of the Jaguar powered drivers had this issue, as the I-TYPE 6 was consistently quick and efficient, giving Jaguar TCS Racing and Envision Racing the best of both worlds, significantly helping Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans.
Porsche’s powertrain was by no means bad and was arguably still the best package when it came to the races, as proven by Porsche customer team Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis, who claimed the title thanks to a record-breaking 11 podiums across the 16 rounds.
Dennis was the only Porsche-powered driver able to consistently progress into the duels, something he did 11 times. Of those 11 times Dennis featured in the duels, he progressed to the final on six occasions.
Porsche didn’t even make 11 duel appearances as a team, with Wehrlein managing just seven duel appearances, whilst Da Costa progressed from the group stage just twice. It resulted in several race finishes in the sixth to eighth range, something which saw Wehrlein and Porsche lose the lead of their respected championships as Dennis, Cassidy and Evans were all claiming regular podiums.
Qualifying is clearly what’s stopping the factory outfit from winning the championship, something they probably would’ve done in 2023 had they progressed to the duels more often. They’ll be encouraged by the fact that Dennis made so many duel appearances on his way to the title, proving that the Porsche 99X Electric Gen3 does have the capability to perform over one-lap.
Porsche’s big dilemma is that so little can be changed for next season, with new powertrains not allowed to be introduced until season 11 (2025). The only thing which they can do to try and unlock the same one-lap performance that Dennis boasted all season, is by making changes to their software.
This comes at a cost though, as by making changes to their software, they risk worsening their leading energy efficiency. It gives them something to experiment at least in pre-season testing at the end of next month, as qualifying is really the only area where they’re lacking significant performance to their rivals.
If the Stuttgart-based team can solve their qualifying woes before season 10 gets underway in January, then perhaps they’d even be seen as the title favourites.