Pascal Wehrlein goes into this weekend’s second and third round of the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship full of confidence after a podium in Mexico City, with the German hoping he can replicate his performance at the Diriyah E-Prix.
The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver started the season and the Gen3 era in fine fashion, after storming through the top five late on to claim a second-place finish. Porsche’s powertrain looked exceptional, with three of the top four having been powered by the German manufacturer. It should fill Wehrlein with confidence that he can have a solid weekend at the Riyadh Street Circuit, where the cars will be pushed to their limit.
Reflecting on the opening round in Mexico City, Wehrlein believes the car was “virtually perfect”, with only a “few tweaks” having been made between Free Practice and the race.
“The entire race weekend in Mexico ran flawlessly. As a result, the starting setup for our new car was virtually perfect. We just had to make a few tweaks and so were fully competitive from the first free practice. One can also find room for improvement and even more performance in a new car. We learn something every day and I’m sure we’ll succeed in this.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, Wehrlein will be looking for another top result to really present an early title challenge; however, the German has never finished higher than fifth at the Saudi Arabian venue. With Mexico City having been a “fantastic start”, the Porsche driver is hopeful that his team can “maintain our top ranking” in Diriyah.
“We got off to a fantastic start. I’m very pleased with how things went in Mexico. Before the weekend, no one in the team was completely sure how our performance would stack up against the competition. In Mexico, the squad was rewarded for all the effort they put into the new car and into preparing for the season. There’s definitely still a lot more potential to find in the cars as the season progresses and, during this very normal process, we need to make sure that we maintain our top ranking.”
“It’ll be a big challenge to get the tyres performing optimally” – António Félix da Costa
On the other side of the Porsche garage, it was a solid performance from Porsche’s new signing, António Félix da Costa. The Portuguese driver claimed seventh on his first race for Porsche, but was actually disappointed with his result.
Whilst he wishes he could’ve finished higher, Da Costa was pleased to see “how great the package is”, with the Germans having looked very strong.
“It was certainly a strong race and hugely successful for Porsche. For me personally, I’m not 100% happy. It wasn’t my intention to finish seventh. I want to win. Still, it was a great to see how great the package is that we’ve been given this season. Taking these insights from Mexico was hugely motivating and an incentive to keep working hard and raising the benchmark even higher for our rivals. From that perspective, I’m pleased with how the season kicked off but, obviously, I want to do better at the next races.”
Da Costa will be hoping for a better result this weekend in Diriyah, a venue that he was actually the first ever winner at back in Season Five. He therefore knows exactly what it takes to master the tight and twisty circuit, which he labels as “demanding and technically difficult”.
Looking ahead to the double-header, Da Costa is expecting the tyres to be a real problem, given just how hard the compound is and how cool the track will be. Whilst he believes this could be an issue, he recognises that it’s the “same for everyone”.
“The most important thing for a racing team is that there’s synergy in all areas. That worked in Mexico and we were rewarded for it. We’ve been learning ever since the new car took its first race laps on the track. And it’s not just since Mexico that we’ve known where our focus should lie. Everyone in the team is highly motivated and ready to pick up in Diriyah where we left off in Mexico.
“The circuit is demanding and technically difficult. Driving in the dark means the temperatures will be much lower and it’ll be a big challenge to get the tyres performing optimally, especially in the early stage when grip isn’t great due to sand on the track. Still, at the end of the day, the conditions are the same for everyone.”