André Lotterer drives his last races as a Porsche Formula E works driver in the South Korean capital of Seoul. In an interview, the 40-year-old explains how he got rid of his skepticism, why he doesn't mourn the lack of victories and whether he could still have a future in the series.
Three challenging but not unsuccessful years in the Porsche Formula E team will end next weekend. Do you already feel some melancholy?
Lotterer: As usual, I'm totally focused on the races, but I still try to enjoy the time on the track and with my squad. I like every single one of my mechanics very much. They are up for any fun. This also applies to my race engineer and friend Fabrice Roussel, who transferred with me from DS-Techeetah at the time. It has been an exciting challenge so far, but I had to choose between Formula E and endurance racing.
You originally came from endurance racing and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times – albeit with sister company Audi. So do you have a score to settle with your new employer?
Lotterer: That was not an easy decision, because both programs would have been good for me. It's not like I decided against anything. I wanted to go back to Le Mans and take on the challenge with the new LMDh prototypes. That doesn't mean that I don't think Formula E is great anymore or that I don't feel like it anymore.
Were you allowed to choose between the two programs yourself?
Lotterer: We decided it together. At first there was the idea of doing both, but then we realized that it was getting complicated. Of course, Porsche left the final decision to me.
You were originally planned as a Porsche LMP1 driver, but the project ended after just one appearance from you. So did your Formula E career come about by accident?
Lotterer: I did my homework back then and immediately switched to Formula E to gain the necessary experience. I knew she was on the agenda at Porsche. It was my wish to continue our story together. The fact that I had a great team with DS-Techeetah at the beginning was an extra. I was able to learn a lot there and in this way later help Porsche get started.
Porsche also has several long-distance projects apart from prototypes. Have you always hoped for a return in the long term?
Lotterer: The current developments were not foreseeable at the beginning of my Formula E time, and it would have been too early because my focus was fully on the new project. There was a brief question about staying with DS-Techeetah. But for me, Porsche came first. When the LMDh platform came up, however, there were discussions relatively early on.
Before you got into Formula E, you were considered more of a skeptic. Over the past five seasons you have now developed into a specialist for sometimes tough racing. How do you look back on your development?
Lotterer: It's difficult for rookies to get into Formula E. I drove my first races in season four and immediately noticed that the tone of the competition has changed here because of the experience. My debut in Hong Kong was tough, I caught a lot of penalties. For example, I forgot to turn off the car. After all the chaos in the race and because of the lack of sound, I just got out (laughs).
In Formula E, you can hardly do any relevant testing and you have to try to work your way up to classic test tracks like Valencia beforehand. If you then arrive at the typical city circuits and brake a little later, you're right on the wall. As a rider, you have to build your confidence bit by bit.
After the difficult start in Hong Kong, things quickly picked up.
Lotterer: I already had the opportunity to win at the third race weekend in Chile and ended up in second place. The learning process continued despite the new routes and mechanics such as energy saving.
Over time, you got the reputation of being a sometimes overly tough racer. Can you live with that?
Lotterer: I always try to be fair. Of course, my competitors don't like it when I get close and sometimes touch them. But this is never done with the intention of shooting them down. I then have to listen to myself: If André is behind me, I get a 100 percent push. I think it got better (smiles).
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time for some scenes last season. And in the end we're all pretty crass on the road. But what else should you expect on such tight street circuits with only one real line? It's part of the show!
You like this kind of racing in contrast to various colleagues, don't you?
Lotterer: Definitely! I like the challenge and the formula of Formula E. As a driver, you can make out a lot here because the car is looser and wants to be driven more than in other circuit series. It's probably the most stressful thing I've ever done in my career. I always say that looking back, the time before that almost feels like a vacation. Talent alone isn't enough in Formula E, you have to do your homework and have a number of scenarios in mind. Here you drive a racing car and at the same time play chess in your head.
You finished on the podium several times but failed to win for various reasons. Do you feel you have been beaten, also with regard to the Porsche time?
Lotterer: It didn't go ideally because of the pandemic.For example, we couldn't learn many routes due to the cancellations. We definitely paid our dues. From the target expectation everything went according to plan. We got podiums in the first year, in the second we were able to win. This season we wanted to fight for the championship, which was looking good until Monaco.
In the second half we had bad luck and small mistakes. In many races something was just missing compared to the beginning. While a year or two ago 99 percent would have been enough for a win, this season you need 100 percent. Someone always manages it, even if sometimes by accident. Of course, my goal was and is to win races. Sure, there's a big difference between having and not having, but I'm not walking through the paddock now and thinking: crap, I didn't win a race.
Your time as a Porsche driver is coming to an end, but there are rumors that you could still compete for the new Porsche customer team Andretti Autosport. You are also currently running tests with the forthcoming third generation of cars. Aren't we saying goodbye to you too soon?
Lotterer: In some way I will pass on my Formula E experience to Porsche. It is also in my own interest for Porsche to be successful in series production in the future. What my support will look like is not yet clearly defined. My focus is on the LMDh.
At the age of 40 you are much closer to the racing pension than to the rookie. Are you already tinkering with the career after the career?
Lotterer: I think it has nothing to do with age but with performance. As long as it's there, I'll keep driving. At the moment I don't feel a lack of motivation or the desire to do something different. Thanks to Porsche, I want to continue my career at this high level, but I won't compulsively prolong it if the performance is no longer right.