Pascal Wehrlein has been the team for three seasons now.
Pascal Wehrlein has been the team for three seasons now.Twitter: Pascal Wehrlein

“The main area where we need to improve is qualifying,” Pascal Wehrlein on season 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

We sat down with Pascal Wehrlein of the Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E team to talk about season nine and how is he preparing for season 10. We also talk about the new tracks in Formula E, fast charging and the Gen3 cars

The Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E team started the previous season with a bang and looked ready to take the fight for the championship but ultimately couldn’t win it. We sat down with their lead driver Pascal Wehrlein to talk about the last season, the season ahead and what are the areas of improvement. We also talked about new tracks in Formula E and fast charging.

As told to Mohit Vashisth

Wehrlein finished last season in the fourth place with a total of 149 points in the drivers’ standings.
Wehrlein finished last season in the fourth place with a total of 149 points in the drivers’

Q: In Diriyah, you charged from 9th on the grid to a win. Tell us about the emotions that you felt.

A: Until that win in Riyadh, we've always had some highlights during the seasons before but winning races and fighting for the championship is something very different and I have to say that the start of last season and let's say testing for the new Gen3 cars didn't go that well I would say so we were kind of around the top 10 in Valencia which is the first official test where every driver is there with his team but also with his car. Usually during testing you share one car between the drivers and in Valencia everyone has their car, there are all 22 cars or 20 cars on track. We were just around the top 10 so actually starting the season we had a bit of doubt how we would be in terms of performance and how it turned out in Mexico we already started very well with a P2 but we started at P5 or P6 that race and then in Riyadh yeah i qualified P9  but actually going into that race I would never have believed I would be able to win the race and that for me was a let's say a very special moment – that first race win last season in Riyadh because it was such a cool race I mean winning from P9. The next day I won the race again but I was starting at P5 and, in that race, I said okay if yesterday I won from P9 I can do it again today and yeah the second race was also very special.

Q: Last season, of course, was a roller-coaster of a season for you. You started strong. But after that, you struggled to be on the podium. So going into season 10, have you identified the areas that you need to work on? 

A: Yeah, I think the main area where we need to improve is qualifying. So we had a very strong race car last season. And one of our strengths from the past was qualifying. And yeah, we kind of lost that last season. So our focus is really to try and improve our one-lap performance. For next season, because I think that's what overall cost us the championship. If you look at our beginning of the season, I think, first of all, our qualifying was probably a bit better. Still not great starting in the top 10. But I think we had the advantage of having a very strong race car. And we could still manage to finish at the front or to win races. I think kind of mid or end of the season, we also had a couple of qualifiers where we only were in P15, and P18. And then obviously everyone was learning as well about the Gen3 car and it was not that easy anymore in the races to drive to the front. Still, we always improved our position. Compared to qualifying, from P15 or P18, you cannot win or very likely you're not going to win the race anymore. And then there were a few, let's say, outstanding qualifiers like Jakarta, which was, yeah, kind of between mid and end of the season. We qualified P3 there and, or P5, and we won the race. So it shows that, yes, we have a strong race car. We need to get on top of qualifying and then we, yeah, I'm sure we will have strong results. But that's how it feels like where our season, yeah, was falling apart a bit. 

Q: What are your opinions and are there any improvements and changes you would want in the Gen 3 cars?

A: I like the Gen 3 cars. I like racing. We saw very interesting and very different types of racing last season, for example, the slipstream was very important on some tracks and some tracks a bit less, which implemented a different style of racing a bit on some tracks. So, there were races where you didn't want to lead the race and where you just kind of in the last third or the last quarter of the race attacked and made your way to the front. So I like the variation of the Gen 3 car. I like the challenge with it because in general, it's a very difficult car to drive. It doesn't have a lot of grip. It doesn't have a lot of downforce. But yeah, in qualifying, we have 350 kilowatts, so we have a lot of power in those cars. Meaning that driving it fast or driving it on the limit feels super fast, especially on the narrow tracks and street circuits we are racing on. So, yeah, like I said, in general. I really, really like cars. I enjoy racing them. And also it helps to be successful that you, yeah, that you like them.

Q: From a driver's perspective, how do you feel about that change in the kind of personality of the tracks in Formula E? And also how do you see the fact that there are more permanent tracks?

A: Not very easy to answer because I think it always depends a bit on the track. So I think the DNA of Formula E is street circuits. I mean, which also makes a lot of sense, we are bringing electric cars into the city to show the people what we can do on track. And therefore I think the DNA of Formula E are street circuits. But then obviously, yes, the cars are getting faster. So it also makes sense to switch to permanent tracks because with the Gen1 or with the Gen2 cars, probably the cars were too slow for a lot of permanent tracks and, and now, and I think even more in the future, it will make sense to, to be also on, on permanent tracks. I think permanent tracks have shown very interesting races just as a driver in general. It is also fun. It depends obviously on the track, which track it is and how it suits the car. But we've seen some very cool permanent tracks for Formula E cars. I mean, to be honest, for example, Mexico is a permanent track. It still kind of feels like a hybrid track. What would you rate Sao Paulo for example, because it's kind of a permanent track, but then it's designed as it would be a street circuit. So it depends on the car. On the concept of the track, but then racing, for example, in Valencia, I remember we've been there in 2020 or 2021, can't remember, the exact year, but then, for example, this track doesn't make so much sense, it doesn't feel natural to be there with a Formula E car and do the race there. And so, yeah, it depends. It depends on the design of the track and everything. Let's see how next season would be. I would say that it should be street circuits and let's say, I would hope that it stays like that because I enjoy racing on street circuits. I think the challenge with a Formula E car is huge on those tracks.

Q: You talked about the troubles that you guys had last year with qualifying and like every team knows at this point what you need to get better for this year. But there are no big changes, no effective changes in the car so how do you assess the need for changes?

A: The hardware of the car will be the same so it's always frozen for two years, meaning as we are going into the second season now, season 11 will be with the Gen3.5 cars but next year is going to be the same. But still there's a lot you can do on the cars and a lot you can improve. I think for our main focus where we want to improve which is qualifying, we can do setup changes, then software which is super important in Formula E and brings probably even more performance than the setup, and there's a lot with the tyres to understand also. We switched tyre manufacturers last season from the years before and that is a very different tyre and in general getting overall a better compromise and a better package out of your car that's what we want to do. And like I said last year has been the first season with the Gen3 cars and there was a lot of new things on the cars and I think there are a lot of areas where obviously everyone is understanding better and getting a better idea and therefore also improving their performance.

Q: It's still not clear where we get to see the fast charger next season. How's that for preparation within the team

A: It's true, next year we are going to implement fast charging. It's been tested quite a lot this year, especially in recent weeks but we don't know on which tracks it's going to be used I can imagine seeing it probably more on double headers than on single events but we also don't have information yet on when-and-where. Still, there are some open questions for it going into next season but I think overall it could make sense to use it more on doubleheaders using it for one race and not the other just to bring a bit of variation into the races it could make sense and let's see.

Note: Later we got to know that the fast charging will be implemented in the official testing, but we still don't have confirmation about its implementation in the races.

Q: What are you looking forward to most for the new season?

Q: I'm looking forward to every weekend. Let's say if there's a special weekend I have to pick, that would probably be Tokyo. I think a lot of us are looking forward to Tokyo. But just in general I don't have a favourite race or even a favourite track – I get a lot of questions about it. So I'm just looking forward to every race, to be in the car, to be there with my team and trying to do a better job than the others.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Evo India