Porsche is well prepared to start the third Formula E season. After two years with a lot of learning money, the first victory should finally be celebrated in 2022. We looked over the shoulders of the engineers and drivers in the factory.
There are no excuses at Porsche. This becomes immediately clear when you talk to Amiel Lindesay, Operations Manager of the Formula E project, about the factory team's first two seasons. "We had to learn a lot at the beginning. Now it's about turning this experience into success," the quiet New Zealander sums up the years without a win so far.
Porsche entered the electric series in 2019, but has not yet made it to the top step of the podium. "When it came to issues like software development, the competition was ahead of us. You have to fine-tune every detail, no matter how small, to find an advantage. Because in Formula E, all the little things count, because things are incredibly tight at the top."
For Lindesay, who like many of his colleagues comes from the success-spoiled prototype program, the switch brought more motivation than frustration despite the lack of victories. "We have proven that we can win races."
Improved software for 2022
If the team hadn't made an annoying formal error when registering tires at the race weekend in Mexico, the first Formula E winner's trophy could have been included in the trophy exhibition from LMP1 times. But just as there are no excuses, the subjunctive is also strictly avoided in the south of the world-famous development center in Weissach.
According to Lindesay, after the season finale in Berlin in August, the team took a lot of time to work through the season, which was characterized by ups and downs: "We critically examined our performance and asked ourselves what actually brought the team forward and what rather set it back."
In addition, the team worked through many races in the simulator and tested vehicle software that had already been further developed. "Since the hardware, i.e. the standard car and our engine, will remain the same in the coming season, the focus was on the software and the processes."
As in many other areas of life, working from home has increased significantly at Porsche in the last two years. However, the basis for this was already in place due to the international character of racing in terms of staff and events. Amiel Lindesay reports: "Since we have engineers from many different countries in our ranks, the digital connection with the factory was particularly important. So it runs smoothly and we have found a good balance."
Virtual training in Weissach
Even the simulator can be controlled completely from the home office immediately after the entrance to the large, light-flooded hall - if there is a driver in it.The pilots Pascal Wehrlein and André Lotterer regularly travel to Weissach before and after the race weekends to test various simulated vehicle set-ups over countless hours. Classic test days on real, booked routes are rare in Formula E. That's why every minute in the simulator is important for the teams.
Pascal Wehrlein, eleventh last season, was again sitting in the tireless monocoque, which was mounted on a movable frame, for several hours on the morning of our visit. This time, various projectors project the street circuit from Berlin-Tempelhof onto a round screen in front of him. The perspective corresponds 1:1 to that of the pilot.
For example, the characteristic wheel covers of the Formula E car can also be seen. As soon as the simulation starts and Wehrlein takes control of the digital racer, the frame reacts to his steering movements and the pedal work and throws the German vigorously through the darkened room. The narrow course on the former airport apron then flies past the driver on the screen.
At first glance, this spectacle reminds you of a mixture of fairground attraction, video game and astronaut training. But the importance of simulators should not be underestimated. Regardless of whether it's Formula 1, Formula E or the endurance world championship: all professional teams rely on the services of the systems, some of which cost millions.
Differences to Formula 1
"Since the test days in motorsport are often limited to a certain number, simulators are playing an increasingly important role," says Pascal Wehrlein. "We mainly use ours before the races to prepare well for energy management." The strategic elements of Formula E - such as the attack mode with its additional kW - can also be simulated digitally and optimized with improved software. "In a nutshell: The simulator is preparation and development in one."
Wehrlein, who competed in Formula 1 for Manor and Sauber in 2016 and 2017, sees the electric championship as even one step further than the premier class. "The processes here are much more intensive than in Formula 1 - precisely because you have to cover additional challenges such as energy management. In Formula 1, a lot more is optimized for a fast lap and the set-up for the race distance is fine-tuned."
Thanks to the digital homework, the Porsche duo always travel to the track with a basic plan, thus saving valuable time. Because of the city circuits, the days and therefore also the training sessions in Formula E are heavily compressed. And although not every plan and not every strategy survives contact with the enemy, the new form of preparation has become an integral part of everyday racing for the 27-year-old: "We can use the simulator to work out different scenarios, which helps us drivers enormously in the race ."
Freight capacity limited
The 2022 season starts in Saudi Arabia on January 29. All the materials used then have to be transported from Weissach to Ryadh. In contrast to many other championships, a partner of the series, DHL, handles all of the logistics. The typical team transporters, which one knows from other championships, simply could not be parked in the narrow city centers.
For Porsche and its opponents this means a maximum load of seven tons - including the racing cars. Not much, if you consider how are complex modern races. Among other things, the IT infrastructure now takes up a large part of the yellow transport crates.
Head of Operations Amiel Lindesay also sees an appeal of Formula E in these specifications: "Efficiency is not just the focus of the cars. The days at the track, the available staff on site or the space in the temporary pits - all of this is limited. The more we can reduce, the more efficient we are as a team and the more emissions we save."
The experience from Le Mans was also helpful: As with the French long-distance classic, vehicle components are assembled in the factory, converted not to get tangled up in tedious handicraft work on the track.
With the E-Prix in Saudi Arabia, the two formula racers set off on their multi-month world tour. Due to the compact calendar, a return to the Swabian headquarters in the meantime is not worthwhile. This time they should bring home victories and preferably titles as souvenirs