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Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein

Formula E: Pascal Wehrlein is ready to take the fight into Season 10

FormulaNerds caught up with Porsche's Pascal Wehrlein at Formula E pre-season testing

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Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein reflects on the season past as he gears up for the tenth season of Formula E.  

Pascal Wehrlein on track at Formula E pre-season testing in Valencia
Wehrlein enjoyed three wins last season with Porsche. (Image: TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team)

For Pascal Wehrlein, Season 9 of the Formula E World Championship started off like a dream. 

A podium in the season opener, hard-fought from sixth on the grid. Back-to-back wins in the following races, in a riveting display of dominance. Hyderabad, the third race of the season, saw Wehrlein continue to fight for points, narrowly missing out on a podium finish.

Cape Town, however, saw Wehrlein suffer from a DNF. And in a racing series as turbulent as Formula E, every point counts. Cape Town, arguably, was when Wehrlein’s championship chances began to pivot. The German driver wouldn’t step foot on the podium again until the first race in Jakarta — which Wehrlein won. The Porsche driver recouped his championship lead, but in that time, Mitch Evans had won two races, and championship winner Jake Dennis had scored two podiums. As the battle began to heat up in Portland, the title lead slipped from Wehrlein’s grasp. With the Jaguar powertrain fiercely competitive, and Jake Dennis proving himself a strong title contender, the tide had begun to turn on Pascal Wehrlein’s championship campaign.

This is a far bleaker write-up than Wehrlein’s 2023 season warrants. The German drove brilliantly from start to finish, and was within mathematical contention of the championship right up until the very end. Wehrlein ended the season fourth in the standings. Across his four years in Formula E, this is his highest season-end result.

Lessons learned

When talking to Pascal Wehrlein at pre-season testing in Valencia, it’s clear that there are meaningful lessons the Porsche driver has taken from Season 9. In Wehrlein’s view, Porsche’s earlier seasons in Formula E were a learning experience; Season 9 was the first instance that the full package was pulled together. 

“I think as a team, we have learned a lot,” Wehrlein said, reflecting on the season past. “Especially not only last season, but also from our years before. Porsche joined Formula E in season six, as as the rules are in Formula E, the cars are always homologated for two years. So I think we were getting our experience in Season 6, 7 and 8.” 

“[Season 9 is] the first time where, with a lot of experience, we put everything together and had a super strong start. And that’s very positive because I think on the hardware side, we did a really good job.” 

“The car is very efficient,” Wehrlein continued. “We led the championship for most of the year. I think there are areas we still can and need to improve, which is especially in qualifying, which strangely has been our strong area in the years before, but then the races were not that strong. So it feels a bit different to what we experienced in Seasons 6, 7 and 8.” 

“But our focus now is to improve the qualifying. We know we are strong in the races and then we just make our lives easier by being more often on the podium and having a good race.”

Qualifying troubles

Pascal Wehrlein’s results last season often weren’t fully representative of all that he and Porsche were capable of. The Porsche powertrain was able to win races, as demonstrated by Wehrlein’s own success and the victories of Jake Dennis, who drove the Porsche-powered Andretti. But where the Porsche team struggled was in qualifying. Often starting from further back on the grid than its powertrain warranted, Wehrlein and teammate Antonio Felix da Costa spent many a race picking their way back to the front of the grid. It was an impressive show, both drivers making up many places. 

Pascal Wehrlein celebrates a win at the Diriyah E-Prix
Wehrlein took victory in Diriyah. (Image: Mark Sutton / Formula E)

But it was a feat dampened by the fact that, really, neither driver should have been in such a position. With the efficiency of the Porsche powertrain, Wehrlein and Da Costa should have been up at the front, fighting for race wins as often as the other championship contenders. 

Qualifying is something that Da Costa pointed to as an area for improvement at the final race weekend in London, ahead of the off-season. “We’re trying to understand what it is in one lap that we have to do to qualify better because you know, I think we are driving well,” Da Costa told FormulaNerds back in July. The off-season, Da Costa added, would be a time for the team to “concentrate our knowledge and try and improve for the future.”

Porsche ups its game

Speaking to Pascal Wehrlein at pre-season testing in Valencia, the Porsche driver gave a reasoned response when asked how Porsche was ironing out its qualifying problems. 

“We try to improve our performance always,” said Wehrlein. “But I think after London, having a couple of weeks without racing, having the ability to go really deep into the data and analyse what and where can we improve the qualifying, what is necessary and then also take action, I think that was the time now after the season to do that.

“Antonio and myself, that we are capable of good qualifying is no secret. I think I’ve been the strongest qualifier twice out of my four seasons, and I’m sure Antonio was really good as well,” he continued. “But also, with the new generation of cars, I’m sure there’s something that Antonio and myself can improve on and work on.

“So it’s just a constant process of trying to improve everything, upping our game.” 

It’s hard to predict how Porsche’s qualifying performance might pan out in Season 10 from only three patchy days of testing. It can, however, be said that testing seemed to go well for the team. Porsche were strong right out of the gate, with Da Costa second fastest after the first session. Wehrlein maintained a steady trend, finishing fifth fastest across all three sessions. 

With Formula E’s homologation rules, limited material changes can be made to the cars, bar for tweaks to software. It’s expected that Porsche will maintain its same strong pace from Season 9. The real question, again, is whether Porsche have been able to up their qualifying game.

Never perfect

Pascal Wehrlein is a driver that, seemingly, is never satisfied with his performance. When asked how he thought Season 9 went, and whether there was anything he’d like to do differently next season, Wehrlein replied:

“I believe there’s always things a driver can do, and I believe I’m not perfect.”

“I think it was a strong season, but I never stop working and I never stop improving,” he continued. “I try to get better, as we all do, and try to beat the others.”

With pre-season testing wrapped up, the wait begins for the opening round of Season 10. Formula E heads to Mexico City first, where the championship battle will start anew.

Featured Image Credit: TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team 

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