Can anything stop Porsche?
At the start of the Hyderabad weekend, it seemed like we got an answer to that question. Pascal Wehrlein hit the wall at high speed during Free Practice 1. As a precaution, all Porsche powered cars were brought back to the pits until Porsche could figure out what caused the collision.
That investigation is still ongoing, but the cause is believed to be conflicting software causing issues.
The four Porsche cars were out again in Free Practice 2 – despite a hospital trip for Wehrlein – but the limited practice seemed to hinder them in qualifying.
The highest placed driver in qualifying was actually Wehrlein, who placed ninth overall. He would start three places further back for impeding during qualifying. Jake Dennis in the Andretti was the next best Porsche in 12th. Antonio Felix Da Costa was 13th while Andre Lotterer finished 20th.
If Porsche were going to keep up the domination they had enjoyed in the first three races of the season, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Jean-Eric Vergne made it so it wasn’t another Porsche powered car taking the win, but Wehrlein and Da Costa were able to cut through the field to finish fourth and third respectively. It was Da Costa’s first podium as a works Porsche driver.
The Andretti duo had a harder time. Lotterer managed to climb up to ninth. Dennis was hit from behind late in the race, dropping him to the back of the order.
That meant Porsche moved to the top of the championship standings. So it would appear not even a software problem could stop Porsche.
It’s been years since we’ve had this level of domination in Formula E. The last comparable performance by a manufacturer would be Renault back in 2016-17, when Sebastien Buemi won the first three races of the season. Team-mate Nico Prost had three fourth place finishes in that time. However, customer team Techeetah wasn’t nearly as competitive as Renault. In that sense Porsche, with the highly competitive Andretti close behind, are a step up from that early Renault domination.
Buemi famously did not win the 2016-17 season, with the title going the way of Lucas Di Grassi. After four rounds, Di Grassi was five points behind Buemi in the standings. Today, the first non-Porsche powered driver is Jean-Eric Vergne, who is 49 points behind Wehrlein.
In the past four seasons, the driver leading the championship after round four has not won the title. In three of the last four seasons, the manufacturer leading the championship after round four has not won the title. But given none of those manufacturer have been anywhere near as dominant as Porsche, it’s hard to read much into that statistic.
Looking back to 2016-17, Renault did go on to win the manufacturers’ title. They also led the standings in 2014-15 and 2015-16 after four rounds, and went on to win the title in both seasons. In that sense, the history makes the future look promising for Porsche.
At the moment, Porsche seem to be on top of everything – with the possible exception of whatever caused the FP1 crash. The first two tracks were very different, Porsche has both the speed and the energy efficiency, and the overtaking difficulties don’t seem to be impacting their drivers’ ability to cut through the field.
So, can anything stop Porsche?
It’s still possible, but at the moment, Porsche looks better placed than any other manufacturer to take that title.