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Formula E Jakarta ePrix II

How Porsche bounced back from Formula E "slump" to win in Jakarta

Porsche put its Formula E title challenge back on track with an impressive victory in the opening leg of the Jakarta E-Prix. The result was a combination of the hard work put in by the German manufacturer and the unique nature of the track. And it sets up a thrilling end to the season.

Winner Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche celebrates on the podium

Porsche had marked itself out as a clear favourite for the title at the beginning of Formula E's Gen3 era, when factory driver Pascal Wehrlein and Porsche-powered Andretti ace Jake Dennis locked out the top two spots in Mexico City and Diriyah, with Wehrlein even taking a rare double win in Saudi Arabia. 

A podium and a victory followed for Wehrlein's team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa in Hyderabad and Cape Town respectively, cementing the belief that the Porsche powertrain was the benchmark in FE. After just five races of the season, Porsche was already 40 points clear of its nearest rival in the teams' championship.

But then the factory team's run of results slowed. Wehrlein had already not been able to finish on the podium again since his victories in Saudi Arabia in January and, in the following three races across Sao Paulo and Berlin, he would finish no higher than sixth. Da Costa's results in the other works car also left much to be desired. The following race in Monaco turned out to be Porsche's nadir, with both Wehrlein and da Costa failing to break inside the top 10. 

It left Porsche with a lot of head-scratching to do, especially with Jaguar-powered cars winning four races on the trot and Nick Cassidy and Envision Racing taking the lead in both championships. Even its motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach wasn't shy to admit that the German manufacturer had hit a "bit of a slump" after starting the season in the best way possible.

Porsche needed to turn things around for the second half of the season, which features seven rapid-fire races in a span of just two months, if it was to remain in the title hunt. And it managed exactly that in Indonesia, with a visibly-improved 99X package allowing Wehrlein to take victory in Jakarta and reinstate Porsche to the top of the drivers' and teams' table.

One of the biggest improvements came in one-lap pace, with Wehrlein qualifying a strong third behind pole-sitter Maximilian Guenther and Jake Dennis. This was Wehrlein's best qualifying result of the season, having not started a race higher than fifth prior to Jakarta - not even when he took the double win in Diriyah.

Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche

Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche

Photo by: Andreas Beil

Qualifying has never really been important in FE, and not a single race in 2023 has been won from pole. But Jakarta broke away from the usual pattern, with reduced requirements for energy-saving leading to fewer opportunities for overtaking and putting an increased focus on qualifying. 

Wehrlein also qualified on the cleaner side of the grid, which also gave him a significant advantage at the start of the Saturday race. Nearly every driver that started on the dirty side lost ground at the start and Dennis was no different, allowing Wehrlein to scoop through and snatch a second long before hitting the brakes for Turn 1.

Wehrlein didn't wait beyond lap four to make a pass on Guenther, whose Maserati was no match to the Porsche in race trim, to move into the lead of the race. For the remainder of the 36-lap contest, Wehrlein did come under serious pressure from Dennis' Andretti - and the British driver even attempted a move into Turn 1 on lap 24.  But Wehrlein kept his cool to end a barren run of no podiums stretching back to January.

It was an important result for Porsche, not only in terms of the championship but also for the morale of the team at the track and back at its factory.

In the post-race press conference, Wehrlein explained how Porsche spent the month-long break after Monaco putting itself in a better position for the title run-in.

"Qualifying was a lot better than at the last couple of races," he said. "That was definitely a key area for us to work on in the last couple of weeks.

"I want to thank the whole team. The last couple of races were difficult for us and we didn't get the results we wanted. 

"Actually, the break was good for us. We resettled and analysed what went well in the first couple of races and why it didn't [go well] afterwards. 

"It was a good comeback for us. The car was really good today and thanks for all the hard work."

Porsche was able to pounce on a difficult day for Jaguar, with Sam Bird taking out Mitch Evans while they were running in ninth and eighth places respectively. Envision's Cassidy performed only fractionally better, finishing seventh after lacking pace in both qualifying and race trim.

Porsche team boss Florian Modlinger explained how the form guide in FE can vary track-by-track when asked why Jaguar was so off the pace in comparison to Porsche.

Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche, Porsche 99X Electric Gen3, Nick Cassidy, Envision Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6, Edoardo Mortara, Maserati Racing, Maserati Tipo Folgore

Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche, Porsche 99X Electric Gen3, Nick Cassidy, Envision Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6, Edoardo Mortara, Maserati Racing, Maserati Tipo Folgore

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

"In Formula E, the whole field and the whole grid is very close together and it depends a lot on track characteristics," he told Autosport.

"As you could see in the last races we didn't have our best weekends. We had [them] at the beginning of the season, now again we had a strong one. 

"And due to the fact that it is so close you can see if you are only one tenth quicker than the others, then you reshuffle the complete order of the grid and this happened this weekend. 

"It means Jaguar had a bad weekend but it can be different again on the next races, therefore we have to work hard to always be on the top of the game and be competitive on all kinds of race tracks. That must be the target for the remaining races."

Sunday's race in Jakarta proved slightly trickier for Wehrlein, who finished sixth ahead of team-mate da Costa, but it wasn't a lack of long-run pace that prevented him from adding a podium to his Saturday win, as team boss Modlinger explained.

"On Saturday, Pascal started from P3 and on Sunday we started from P6," he told Autosport. "And as you could see from the even side of the grid there was a lot of dust. Nearly every car on this side lost one position.

"This means he dropped to P7 after the start and it was extremely difficult to overtake on that track. Offline it was very dirty and dusty, and you could not do a lot of moves without taking a lot of risk. 

"Therefore, we could not progress a lot, but overall I'm pleased with the result because P6 and P7 today are valuable points for the championship."

Cassidy scored no points in Sunday's race after sustaining damage to his Envision when he made an ill-judged passing move on Wehrlein, handing the German the lead of the championship. 

Porsche also moved clear of Envision in the teams' standings after Jakarta, with its lead now an impressive 22 points going into the final five races of the season.

Despite moving back to the top of the championship, Modlinger is aware of the challenge Porsche faces to stay in front of the competition, and didn't want to discount teams like DS Penske and Maserati from throwing a spanner in the works in the final part of the season.

"It will be a very close fight in the championship but we should not underestimate other cars and other manufacturers, because as you could see here that DS and Maseratis play a big role and they took away points from different competitors, also from us," he explained.

"So it will depend a lot on the track characteristics, on who will be strong on which track. And there we will have to try our best to clearly beat the other competitors for the championship. We will work as hard as possible." 

Winner Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche, celebrates with his team on the podium as Jake Dennis, Andretti Autosport, 2nd position, celebrates with his team below

Winner Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche, celebrates with his team on the podium as Jake Dennis, Andretti Autosport, 2nd position, celebrates with his team below

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

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