Pascal Wehrlein has urged the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team to “cancel” their poor qualifying performances in season 10, with him recognising that he needs to be starting in the “top six or top seven” to fight for victories and the title.
Season nine was by far Wehrlein’s and Porsche’s best campaign in Formula E to-date, to the extent that the German driver led the Drivers’ Championship for the majority of the season. After he finished second in Mexico City and then won both races in Diriyah, some wondered if he’d win the crown comfortably.
Wehrlein ended up finishing in fourth despite claiming three wins and a further rostrum, with his title pursuit having collapsed in the second half of the year due to the Stuttgart-based team’s one-lap pace woes. It wasn’t just Wehrlein’s title challenge which suffered as a result of their qualifying struggles, with the team having slipped to fourth in the Teams’ Championship.
The ex-F1 driver admits that himself and the team “expected more than fourth” in both standings, considering how well they started the Gen3 era. He recognises that there are a “couple of things” which need to be worked on ahead of the sport’s 10th campaign, in order to be victorious come the end of 2024.
“I think it was a positive season,” Wehrlein told Formula E when reflecting on season nine.
“It was our best season so far in Formula E. I think after the good start we expected more than fourth in the Drivers’ and Teams’ championship. But nevertheless, it was a strong season. We have to improve a couple of things, and then we should be able to fight for the championship.”
Race pace wasn’t an issue for Porsche last season, it was just their one-lap pace. This weakness was amplified by the fact that the Jaguars were so good when it came to qualifying, as proven by the fact that a Jaguar-powered car started on pole six times in season nine.
On the flip side, a Porsche-powered car only featured on pole twice, both courtesy of the German manufacturer’s customer side Andretti Formula E.
Too often last season, Wehrlein and António Félix da Costa qualified so far down the grid that it was impossible to recover and score big points, which ultimately hurt their title chances. Wehrlein himself recognises that the team’s performance in qualifying last season wasn’t good enough and simply can’t be repeated in season 10.
The big positive for Wehrlein is that it does appear that Porsche have worked on their one-lap pace and have possibly discovered an improvement in the software. The team’s one-lap pace in pre-season testing was very strong, to the point that Da Costa was the second-quickest driver.
If Porsche’s one-lap pace has improved, then this will be a massive boost to the team’s and Wehrlein’s title hopes. All will be discovered in Mexico City in January, where Wehrlein wants to instantly start the new season with a strong qualifying performance and hopefully make a duel appearance.
“I think Mexico will be a good track for us generally, and has always been a good track. It’s clear that we are quite strong in the races, we just need to fix qualifying,” Wehrlein admitted.
“I think our average starting position last season was nine-point-something, whereas the top guys were six-point-something. Already those positions will make your life and your races a lot easier.
“We had some races where we struggled, especially in qualifying and only started from 15th and 17th. Those qualifyings we need to cancel. So somewhere around the top six or top seven, that should be our target. We’ve been working really hard to understand what it means and what it takes to qualify well, and obviously then with our great race pace we should have a good weekend.”