Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein takes the lead in Diriyah
Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein won both races at the Formula E double-header in Diriyah (Saudi Arabia) at the weekend and thus took the lead in the drivers’ standings of the electric racing series. This means that so far, all three races of the season have been won with a Porsche drive.
The season opener was won by the British driver Jake Dennis in the Porsche customer team Andretti ahead of Wehrlein. In the two races in Diriyah, it was the other way round, with Wehrlein finishing ahead of Dennis in each case – which meant that both drivers were able to pull away a little in the championship standings.
In the second race of the season on Friday evening under floodlights, former Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi started from the pole position. After two difficult years in the Nissan factory team, the Swiss driver is getting back into the swing of things in the Jaguar from Envision Virgin. In the race, Buemi finished fourth, alongside Wehrlein and Dennis, although he had to concede third place to Sam Bird. It was also noticeable that Wehrlein and Dennis had only started from positions 9 and 11, so they first had to fight their way through the field and then still managed to pull away at the front. Two Porsches in front of two Jaguars – that could shape the rest of the season, as the track in Saudi Arabia with its flowing, fast corners has a completely different character to the circuit in Mexico. Both race cars were fast and efficient on both circuits with different set-ups.
In addition to Wehrlein’s race win, another German manufacturer impressed by taking the fifth place with Formula E returnee René Rast. Rast also secured the extra point for the fastest race lap. In addition, it is notable that the new McLaren team (which had taken over large parts of the structure and personnel from the world champion team Mercedes) as a Nissan customer team usually leaves the Nissan factory team well behind.
That the Nissan-powered McLaren is very fast on a lap was shown on Saturday by Rast’s teammate Jake Hughes, who put his orange race car on the first grid position in qualifying – Rast came in third. In the race itself, Rast was able to maintain his position in the final result and finished on the podium in third place. Wehrlein and Dennis (this time starting fifth and sixth) were nevertheless in a different league. Positions 4, 6 and 7 again went to Jaguar-powered cars.
That the early dominance of the Porsche 99X Electric Gen3 is not only due to the car is shown by a look at the teammates of Wehrlein and Dennis: Felix Antonio da Costa (after all former Formula E Champion) has not quite arrived in the Porsche works team yet and came away empty-handed in both races – 18th place after a collision on Friday, eleventh in Saturday’s race. André Lotterer in the second Andretti Porsche, who was fourth in Mexico, only scored two more points in Saudi Arabia, finishing ninth on Friday.
“I’ll never forget this weekend. Two wins are an unbelievable success,” says double winner Wehrlein, but cautions: “When I won on Friday I had to overtake more cars, but today’s race was even more difficult. You could see that our rivals were catching up. That means we can’t rest on our laurels either.”
In the interim championship standings, which are not very meaningful at this early stage, Wehrlein (68 points) and Dennis (62) are unsurprisingly far ahead, Buemi (31) and Bird (28) would not be able to overtake Dennis or even Wehrlein even if they won the race at the next round, for which 25 points are awarded. Among the teams (thanks to Lotterer’s fourth place in Mexico) Andretti leads with 76 points, just ahead of Porsche (74) and McLaren (53 points). The DS team is still having a hard time in its new partnership with Penske: For the team, which has been dominant in previous years, only seven points have been scored so far, and for Stellantis’ sister team Maserati only two. The Abt Cupra team is the only team still without any championship points.
The next Formula E race is the Hyderabad E-Prix on 11 February. It is the first Formula E race in India.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.