The past champions are used to success in the world's top electric racing series, but the double-header in Saudi Arabia showed they're some way off the levels TAG Heuer Porsche and Jaguar TCS Racing - as well as their respective customer teams Avalanche Andretti and Envision Racing - which currently head the way.
Race one on Friday saw Vergne score points with seventh, while Vandoorne narrowly missed out on a top-10 finish with 11th spot. But that's as good as it got. Vandoorne did make the Duels for Round 3, but only managed eighth. In the race, progress was hard to come by and a technical problem preventing the Belgian from seeing how much usable energy he had left - and he couldn't radio his team to check, either.
It has left DS' drivers - with three titles between them - frustrated but motivated to set things right.
Vandoorne: 'It was a s*** day"
"After four or five laps, I lost the steering wheel display and radio communications with the team," said the 30-year-old. "I didn't have any information to manage my energy," which was a double frustration as the DS driver did appear to have an advantage on those around him according to the figures shown on broadcast.
"Everything on the steering wheel failed," he added in an interview with Motorsport.com. "I couldn't activate [ATTACK MODE] any more. I tried to start the procedure but I knew I'd be disqualified."
Two activations of the 50kW boost are required in-race and Vandoorne couldn't take them, as much as he wanted to - and he did try, losing ground to Sacha Fenestraz and Dan Ticktum as he jumped through the loop. The stewards had no choice but to slap Vandoorne with a penalty, dropping him from 11th to 20th position.
It’s been a long time we haven’t been in that position, where we lack pure performance and finishing in the points feels like a victory.— Jean-Eric Vergne (@JeanEricVergne) January 29, 2023
It hurts, there is no other word.
But it motivates us more than ever to come back to the top. We won’t give up 👊🏼
"Energy management seems to be good but we haven't been able to use it so far," adds Vandoorne. "Nothing worked for me but I had three to four percent more energy than those around us. It was a s*** day.
"It's been extremely challenging for us so far. We're not where we need to be and we need some big improvements to be back fighting at the sharp end but this team can make it happen."
Vergne: 'It hurts but it motivates us to come back'
Vergne added only 16th spot to his eighth in race one. He echoed his teammates sentiments and knows more is to come.
"It's been a long time since we were in a position where we lack pure performance and points feel like a win," said Vergne. "It hurts, there's no other way of putting it but it motivates us more than ever to come back to the top.
"We won't give up."