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Formula E Jakarta ePrix I

How Porsche is working to correct course to fight for Formula E title

The Porsche Formula E team and Pascal Wehrlein looked likely to dominate the championship at one stage of the season, but a string of poor results has meant they've lost the lead in both standings. Despite the setback, the team is confident it can still take the title fight down to the wire

Antonio Felix da Costa, Porsche, Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche

The 27-day wait between the last Formula E round and this weekend's Jakarta E-Prix double-header has been a long one for Porsche following its worst event of the season.

Neither Pascal Wehrlein nor Antonio Felix da Costa finished in the points on the road in Monte Carlo, and although the former was promoted to 10th after a post-race penalty for Sam Bird, the one point was scant consolation. Of even more significance, the poor result coincided with Wehrlein and Porsche losing the lead in both championships, something which they'd headed since January.

It seems a long time ago that the German manufacturer hit the ground running with the new-for-2023 Gen3 machines, Wehrlein taking back-to-back wins in Diriyah after finishing as runner-up in the Mexico City opener. Despite some rough opening races for team-mate da Costa, primarily due to struggling with confidence on the brakes over one lap, he took to the podium in Hyderabad before a last-lap pass on Jean-Eric Vergne handed him victory in Cape Town.

It all served to mark Porsche out as the dominant force in Formula E and, even at that early stage, the favourites for the championship with strong showings coming from Jake Dennis in the customer Andretti Autosport machine as well.

But since da Costa's win in South Africa in February, neither he nor Wehrlein has stood on the podium let alone taken another victory. Yes, there have been strong points finishes as well as some unfortunate collisions along the way which have hindered results, but there has also noticeably been a stark shift in the hierarchy of performance.

"Regarding the performance we have to work hard and improve because as you see the Formula E grid is very close," says Porsche Formula E team principal Florian Modlinger. "Everything is tight, and you need to perform and find the last tenths to be in the front and that's the target for the second part of the season."

Wehrlein won both races in Diriyah to lead the championship by a healthy margin back in January

Wehrlein won both races in Diriyah to lead the championship by a healthy margin back in January

Photo by: Andreas Beil

As well as signifying the start to the second half of the year, Monaco marked the low point of the season for Porsche, not only because of the poor result but because of that apparent lack of pace.

Modlinger points out, though, that this was due to losing half of the first session with a car issue which put the team and drivers on the back foot throughout the rest of the day. And unlike other schedules on the calendar, the opening free practice session took place on Saturday morning as opposed to Friday evening, meaning less time before FP2 to sort out any gremlins.

"It was already from the beginning very tight, and we were in the first races on the correct side and always this bit better than others" Florian Modlinger

From the outside it might seem like Porsche's drop-off in performance since the start of the season has been a sharp one, but Modlinger believes that on pure pace it was not as far ahead of its rivals as the results suggested. Merely that better race optimisation was helping the manufacturer get stronger results compared with other teams.

"I was surprised that the field is so close together [at the start of the season] because, with a completely new car, I expected maybe a bit more variation, that you have bigger gaps," he says. "But it was already from the beginning very tight, and we were in the first races on the correct side and always this bit better than others."

There's no denying that the performance spread across the field is one of the closest in the championship's history, with teams learning and improving the new machines race-by-race and less than one-tenth usually making all the difference.

The tyres as well are a new variable for this year, with Hankook rubber replacing Michelin which has been criticised by some for being too hard a compound and lacking in grip. Modlinger suggests that the cooler conditions of the last few rounds have impacted Porsche in particular with regard to the tyres. If that is the case, then that will be truly put to the test this weekend in Jakarta, the most demanding circuit on the calendar when it comes to heat and humidity.

Victory in Monaco handed Cassidy and Envision the lead in both championships

Victory in Monaco handed Cassidy and Envision the lead in both championships

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

While Modlinger is confident the Porsche team still has the goods to fight and beat the in-form Jaguar and Envision teams over the remainder of the season, he's quick to point out that the Big Cat manufacturer has been a threat since the opening round.

"You could see how the energy distribution was, how much energy they had left at the last quarter of the race and so on," he says. "They were competitive, but they did not bring the points home. There were several incidents and in the last races they collected the points and now they are there."

'There' they most certainly are, Envision's Nick Cassidy now 20 points clear at the top of the standings with himself and fellow New Zealander Mitch Evans each winning two of the last four races.
Jaguar's Evans sits just 27 points behind Cassidy, having been some 66 points adrift of championship leader Wehrlein prior to his first win of the season in Sao Paulo, which he followed up on in Berlin.

It's proof that things can quickly turn around in the world of Formula E and that hope is not lost for Porsche with seven races remaining, but it needs to hit back immediately this weekend.

"When you look only on the standings it's a picture of the moment and we are dedicated to our sport," adds Modlinger. "We have a professional team and we know the season is long but as we said already when we were leading the championship, we have to improve every race.

"We have to make the steps and we have to fight through the whole championship. And now in both standings we are P2, we have a lot of races to come and there are enough chances to catch up again and to take the lead again. Everybody is fully motivated and if we are now P2 or would be P1, from the motivation point of view there's no big difference because we have one clear target.

"We want to fight for the championship until the end of the season and until the last race and therefore we are giving our maximum."

One thing that is clear is that the Porsche can ill-afford to lose any more ground and momentum in a title race it once looked destined to dominate.

Can Porsche beat Jaguar and Envision over the remaining seven races?

Can Porsche beat Jaguar and Envision over the remaining seven races?

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

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