TAG Heuer Porsche’s Andre Lotterer believes the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship’s new qualifying format has enhanced the spectacle for fans, but admits frustrations in his own race performance.
The 40-year-old was speaking ahead of this weekend’s Mexico City E-Prix, in which the Net Zero Carbon Championship returns to the iconic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit after a two-year absence.
Formula E’s new ‘Champions League style’ qualifying format sees two groups of 11 drivers, ordered based on their Championship position, set lap times in a 12-minute session. The fastest four from each group then progress into the knockout stage where the winning driver takes pole.
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Lotterer, a vastly experienced racer whose portfolio includes three victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship Driver’s Championship, reached the knockout stage for both races of the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix double header.
“It is a really entertaining format,” said Lotterer, who qualified fourth and fifth over the opening weekend. “It is more representative of everyone’s individual performance, with less randomness due to the group effect and track conditions which we tried to eliminate when we had discussions about changing this.
“With the first group, you have the option to bank a lap and test the conditions and to find more rhythm, and it seemed to work for me in the duels. The duels are entertaining for everyone I think – especially the spectators – with the elimination process. I think it’s a success.
“Once you’re into the duels your tyres have a bit more time to cool off – in some tracks that will be a disadvantage but in some it will be an advantage. For example, if it is cold, it is better to be in group B and then first in the duels so you still have a bit of temperature in the tyres but, in Mexico, you could want cool tyres so you want to be in group A.”
Despite finishing fourth in the second race, it was a frustrating opener for Lotterer as he slipped down from a provisional podium position to finish 13th as his usable energy became ever more marginal as the race drew on.
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The German – in his fifth season in the Championship – has an extraordinary six runner-up finishes but is yet to stand atop the podium following a Formula E race despite a formidable reputation and even the odd suggestion of a title challenge. After three eighth-placed Drivers’ Championship finishes in a row to begin the first three years of his Formula E career, last year’s second season with Porsche proved a chastening experience with Lotterer pointless after five races.
He still managed to turn things around significantly with another second place in his sixth race of the season in Valencia, but a 17th-placed finish overall will have hurt. But Lotterer sees this season as a different prospect despite the difficulties in Diriyah.
“When you’re fighting for the podium in P3 or P4 and things go wrong it is disappointing,” added Lotterer. “But there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the performance as we showed in the second race. Looking at that it is just factual mistakes with the strategy and energy management, we made two mistakes and paid the price heavily.
“For sure it is frustrating as this year I think we will see a Championship that will be a bit more consistent and scoring points regularly will be more important. Even P4, P5 would have been valuable points for the Championship.”
The stage at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodríguez, one of the few traditional motorsport circuits Formula E races on, represents a fantastic chance for Lotterer to break his duck in front of one of the world’s most passionate motorsport supporter bases.
“I’m really looking forward to Mexico,” he said. “The special thing about Mexico is the fans – they are very enthusiastic, and you can actually hear them scream sometimes when there is a bit of action through our helmets. That’s something you can only experience there. It’s fantastic to race there.”
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship’s most extensive calendar to date continues in Mexico City this Saturday 12 February live on Eurosport 2 from 21.30 GMT.
Catch-up on all the information as the series builds up to the 2022 London E-Prix, which returns this year on 30 & 31 July: https://www.fiaformulae.com/en/championship/race-calendar/2021-2022/london
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