It was firmly among the many pre-season Components E 2023 favourites. However DS Penske got here away from the primary spherical at Mexico Metropolis with merely Stoffel Vandoorne’s single level to its identify and a race filled with frustration to mirror on.
There are a number of confusions across the American-owned, French-based workforce this season, not least of which is that it’s on the far finish of the pitlane location-wise.
That’s as a result of the licence of the workforce is Penske’s and the position of groups goes on final season’s standings, through which the then Dragon Penske workforce was on the backside.
Plainly that has little bearing on something vital within the normal scheme of issues however offers a slight sense of disorientation for a workforce that – on the DS aspect that dominates the brand new organisation – has at all times been on the sharper finish.
Confusion would have been an emotion felt keenly within the DS Penske storage on Saturday night because it picked the bones from a depressing race.
Vandoorne’s level was arduous gained from 14th in a race that featured seven retirements, all however considered one of which was behind the reigning champion.
In that sense he had a robust race, and as his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne attested, a mix of the contemporary Gen3 pattern of overtaking being tougher and the quirks of the ultra-hard Hankook tyre could possibly be maddening in the event you have been within the midfield.
“It’s the primary race with this automotive and clearly it’s very arduous to race it in the best way that you simply don’t have any grip, you’ve gotten just a little little bit of downforce however the drag is so enormous that once you’re making an attempt to comply with you’re dropping numerous grip,” Vergne informed The Race after ending twelfth with no entrance wing and following a sudden last-lap lack of vitality.
“Plus, the tyres, being a really arduous compound, are overheating right here, which makes it unimaginable to overhaul.
“It doesn’t matter in case you have extra vitality than the man in entrance. You have been hanging on for all times, driving on a very skinny line and making an attempt to overhaul means making an attempt to hold extra entry pace, making an attempt to brake later, and that was unimaginable.”
In fact, being within the midfield within the first place doesn’t assist, and fairly why the DS Penske vehicles weren’t in a position to construct on their spectacular apply tempo continues to be one thing of a thriller.
What was clear in qualifying was that some have been unable to unpick the lock of the brand new Hankooks and suffered from with the ability to carry the temperatures down sufficiently.
Plainly DS Penske didn’t fairly get its homework proper on this subject but it surely wasn’t too far off. However that isn’t ok when, in Vergne’s group, the highest eight have been separated by simply 0.23s!
Vergne himself was inside 0.061s of constructing it via to the duels and he was sixth! Former team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa – now at Porsche – was 0.002s away from usurping Sacha Fenestraz’s Nissan e-4ORCE 04.
“I believe to be quick in that automotive it’s only a mixture of little issues, however primarily making an attempt to place [together] a lap with no mistake could be very arduous,” opined Vergne.
“Relying on the grip stage, it makes it very tough to be on the restrict of the automotive.
“That’s one thing I’ll enhance, that’s one thing we are going to enhance; perhaps I used to be making an attempt an excessive amount of, perhaps… I don’t know.
“We had a unique run plan [in qualifying] as effectively, perhaps the tyres weren’t of their finest home windows.
“I’m not placing the blame on anyone – it was only some hundredths off the duel section so it’s not prefer it was dangerous. However clearly it may have been higher.”
Curiously DS has at all times appeared to begin the season off slowly.
Within the 2021 season da Costa’s third place was the one factors it received from two begins in Diriyah, and final season da Costa was turfed off there after a lap (whereas on the again) and Vergne scrambled an eighth and a sixth guaranteeing the black and golds left Riyadh solely seventh within the groups’ standings.
Vergne has solely stood on the rostrum as soon as in seven begins when Diriyah has been the opening occasion, his second place in 2018 his solely actual spotlight.
Diriyah’s the place the collection heads subsequent, in below a fortnight, and it’s a monitor that may go well with these assured of their vehicles. For the time being Vergne and Vandoorne don’t fairly look like on prime of the Gen3 as a lot because the Porsche quartet.
The workforce itself is settled. There was little integration wanted with Penske as solely a handful of mechanics and Nicholas Mauduit got here throughout in a sensible sense.
The workforce was prepared at Mexico Metropolis from an operational standpoint, so maybe like stablemate Maserati did, it underperformed car dynamically. The training course of is very large proper now in Components E and DS Penske will probably be ‘consuming from the hose’ as a lot as anybody on the grid.
And what of the reigning champion, Vandoorne? He was as pissed off as Vergne bottled up behind first Nick Cassidy after which his team-mate for a lot of the race.
Come the ultimate laps he was in an honest place vitality clever in comparison with these round him, exhibiting that the DS E-TENSE FE23 is among the many finest, at the least, by way of effectivity.
However getting caught within the midfield rut – as Vergne had – was in the end what informed, and whereas 2022-spec Components E racing may need supplied extra alternatives for progress, 2023 simply isn’t so malleable.
The factors will probably be unfold in 2023 greater than in 2022, besides this time with 4 unknown venues – Hyderabad, Cape City, Sao Paulo and Portland, versus two (Seoul and Jakarta) final yr – it’s going to profit the boldly constant.
That ought to embody DS, which has largely had each boldness and consistency lined earlier than, however as we noticed from Valencia testing to Mexico race day, there simply aren’t any ensures anymore.