24 Feb 21

Porsche eyes title tilt as 99X Electric 'raises expectations'

TAG Heuer Porsche heads to the season-opening Diriyah double-header with fond memories of a podium on its Formula E debut there in 2019, with Andre Lotterer steering his Porsche 99X Electric to second place at the Riyadh Street Circuit. This time around, the team's looking to put its debut campaign education to good use.

TAG Heuer Porsche tackles its second season with a very clear commitment to Formula E. The sports car manufacturer uses the fully electric single-seater sport to feed its development work and expand its expertise in the field of battery-electric drives.

After the successful debut season of the Porsche 99X Electric, the engineers at Weissach have made extensive improvements to the powertrain. The team has also been restructured: Martin Fuchtner takes over the role of Technical Project Leader Formula E. Malte Huneke, who held this position since the launch of the Porsche Formula E programme, is now responsible for the overall vehicle development of all Porsche Motorsport racing vehicles.

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Amiel Lindesay, Head of Operations, Formula E at Porsche feels his team has learned a lot from an up and down Season 6, which should stand the German manufacturer in good stead for a positive 2020/21.

“Our rookie season was a rollercoaster," said Lindesay. "We simply lacked the consistency you need to be among the front-runners at the end but that’s pretty normal in the first year - now we have to take the next step. Taking the experiences from our debut season, we can now focus on our track performance and on making our car faster. If we can achieve this, we’ll also achieve our goals: We want to win races and be World Champions.”

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"This time, we’re much better prepared and we’re also starting with higher expectations compared to last season. Because of the pandemic, the season was very short. For us as a rookie team, that proved to be a major handicap because we didn’t get the critical track experience due to the cancelled races. Now we’re all hoping for a full and, for us, successful 2021 season.”

If not the title, then TAG Heuer Porsche will have its sights set on bragging rights among its long-time motor racing rivals and closing the deficit to fellow rookies Mercedes-EQ, who flew to third in the Teams' Championship and rounded out 2019/20 as best of the German giants.

To try and narrow the gap, it's drafted in Pascal Wehrlein alongside Andre Lotterer. The 26-year-old German has competed in 17 races in Formula E to-date, entering in the 2018/19 season with Mahindra Racing. He has so far picked up 72 points, a pole position and clinched a spot on the podium in his maiden season, when he finished second at the Santiago E-Prix.

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“Porsche is one of the most successful automobile manufacturers in motorsport and it’s a great honour and a great motivation to be part of the Porsche Motorsport family," said Wehrlein. "I’m pretty familiar with Formula E and I know what’s important in this racing series. We tested extensively to prepare for the new season and we’re well equipped for the challenges that lie ahead. We have everything it takes to win races – and that’s precisely our goal.

“I really enjoy driving at night," added Wehrlein on the prospect of racing at night for the very first time in Formula E. "The atmosphere will be very special. Everything seems a lot faster. The track will be brightly lit. Still, as a driver, you have to really concentrate because you have a smaller field of vision and it’s harder to spot the reference points. At least we won’t be blinded by the sun!”

Preparation is key

Preparedness is the key to success, says Lotterer. Making use of last years trials and turning them into useful pointers for the future is vital if the team are to push for consistency and the titles that tend to come with it.

“Formula E is a really difficult championship," says Lotterer. "To be successful, everything has to come together. You have to qualify as far up the field as possible, get through the race without any problems and have a good strategy when it comes to energy management, while you also need a well-balanced car.

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"The big challenge for us will be to be well prepared for every eventuality so that we can respond quickly if something doesn’t go according to plan. That’s the key to success. We grew together as a team with these challenges and we’ve taken major development steps compared to last season. But now we have to implement them, especially in critical situations.

“Of all the teams, we’re facing the steepest learning curve but expect a good performance as we learned a lot during our debut season. During our test drives, as well, we saw that our engineers did a great job in developing the Porsche 99X Electric. So, yes, this has changed our objectives. In our first season, our goal was to finish on the podium, and we achieved that. Now we want to win. Obviously, this increases the pressure, but I’m sure we can handle it.”

Diriyah's demands

“It’s a real driver’s track, very demanding,” adds Lotterer. “In the first 14 corners you go only left, right, uphill, downhill, fast, slow - there's no respite. As a driver, you don’t have the time to check your energy use. Only after Turn 14 can you look at the steering wheel. The difficulty is to set up your car so that it runs well in different situations. It’s also tricky to find a good rhythm, and the wind blows sand from the desert onto the track, which can make it very slippery.”

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