until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Five things we learned from Formula E's 2024 Mexico opener

by Sam Smith
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The 2024 Formula E season opener in Mexico City was one of the series' tamer affairs, but it nevertheless confirmed some expectations for the year ahead - as well as throwing up some surprises.

Here's Sam Smith's pick of the five main takeaways from the first of this year's 16 races.

Porsche and Jaguar are still firmly on top

It felt inevitable, such is the quality of their respective packages, that Jaguar and Porsche would be heading the field in Mexico and the form book was not unduly shaken up.

Pascal Wehrlein’s pace in the middle phase of the race was relentless as he pushed “like a quali lap, trying to always maximise the corners speeds”.

That pace, combined with the knowledge that cars trying to follow each other around the Peraltada right-hander onto the main straight start to slowly cook the rear Hankooks, meant that Wehrlein was always in control of the race.

“This track is one of the tracks where it’s not so easy to overtake,” said Wehrlein. It's one where he prefers to call the shots, whereas at tracks including Berlin and Portland, “it’s quite a bit of a mess in the beginning of the race until the pace picks up”.

“So it’s also good on the other hand that we have a couple of other races where actually qualifying matters and where you really want to start in the top five,” he added.

One-lap pace has been the Achilles' Heel for the Porsche 99X Electric but in Mexico that appeared to be licked by Wehrlein’s stellar laps in the knockout stages. Was this the completion of a deadly package for the season ahead?

“I think so,” said Wehrlein. “I have a good feeling and already during testing and the end of last season it was clear that we made steps forward. Mexico is somehow a special track for us, it’s why I’m a bit cautious, but hopefully we can confirm that good performance in qualifying also on other tracks.”

His team boss Florian Modlinger described the performance as “a focused, well-conducted job by the whole team and Pascal”.

“You saw in qualifying how close and how high the competition now is. In Pascal’s group we had the top four in seven hundredths of a second, and I think this shows how close and tight it is,” he told The Race. “Today, qualifying was key for the success. This was our main job to work on during the break.”

Jaguar may feel that is an ominous statement but it too has reasons to believe it has made key improvements to what was arguably 2023’s most consistently quick package.

But while Nick Cassidy had what he called “probably my most complete day I’ve ever put together in Formula E”, his team-mate Mitch Evans went into defensive mode in fifth after a curious range of pace-crushing symptoms manifested themselves reasonably early in the race.

“It was fine at the start but with a good 25 laps to go I just seemed to struggle with the rears,” Evans told The Race.

“It just got worse. It was a bit of overheating and actually a bit with the steering weight as well. We didn’t make some adjustments to make it easier my side and I was really struggling to actually turn the wheel. I’ve never experienced that in my life.”

Evans was strong on energy at the start compared to the other Jaguars but then had to use it to defend from Vergne’s DS Penske. It left him with an uncomfortable and facing a “really tough slog”, though he still walked away with 10 points.

But the best run by a Jaguar-powered driver went to Sebastien Buemi who, despite not really being able to sustain a serious challenge to Wehrlein’s all-conquering Porsche, was comfortable in second.

“I think I got a bit unlucky with the attack mode and didn’t manage to take both very quickly,” said Buemi.

He also lost a small gap in the lead when his team-mate Robin Frijns’s safety-car-triggering shunt occurred, after which Buemi took attack mode for a second time.

With Porsches and Jaguars occupying four of the top five positions, little in the overall hierarchy appears to have changed. With the same two manufacturers tearing up Diriyah last season there appears to be little that their Formula E opponents can do next time out that will disrupt the order in the short-term.

Andretti overcomplicated its race

Andretti dominated last year’s Mexico City E-Prix but never really got going this time.

Jake Dennis felt that fifth place was possible after making strong progress from a lowly 14th on the grid but a late second attack mode call ultimately made that ambition impossible.

The root of that poor qualifying performance was attributed to some changes made by the team, which were then ditched for the race set-up.

“We tried something coming into this weekend which ultimately didn’t quite work,” Dennis told The Race. “We reverted for the race and we were competitive in the race, it’s just impossible to pass.

“We finished the race with, I think, 2% more than everyone but when you can’t pass it’s pretty frustrating. Not too much we can do. We were expecting overtaking to plateau here, that’s why I went aggressive on lap one and I think it worked.”

Team principal Roger Griffiths added that Andretti experienced “a little bit of a challenge” with traction.

“We certainly made improvements to the car between qualifying and the race but we’ve still got a bit to go,” he said. “It’s given us a lot to work on, and I think there’s a couple of things we need to change procedurally around the information flow, the work flow, particularly during the race, and when calls need to be made - that kind of stuff.

“It’s nothing major, it’s not like we’ve had a catastrophe, it’s just we came off such a strong season last year. Anything other than being on the podium we’re going to view as a disappointment.

“It’s good once in a while to have that wake-up call; it keeps us focused, keeps us honest.”

On a positive note for Andretti, it is now a two-car team after Norman Nato tailed Dennis home for 10th.

Last season it was effectively a single-car effort from the point of view of points collation - Andre Lotterer scored just 11 points in 15 races after the season opener - but any fightback in Diriyah should be a two-pronged affair.

Maserati still has resolve after off-season disruption

Maserati MSG arrived in Mexico City a little battered and bruised after a disruptive off-season in which several senior personnel, including team principal James Rossiter, exited the team.

But through it all, Maximilian Guenther remained upbeat and positive, exuding a controlled swagger that mirrored some of his heroic performances in 2023.

After the two works Jaguar cars were penalised in free practice for not being parked in their boxes, Guenther was promoted to third on the starting grid and ran there for a large chunk of the race. He ultimately lost out to Nick Cassidy and effectively got knobbled on the second attack mode strategy, but still he was consistently the only non-Porsche/Jaguar to mix it at the front.

“I really feel we maximised our opportunities,” Guenther told The Race. “It would have been nice to be on the podium but we lost one place with the second attack mode.

“I’m not sure if we could have done any better but we really gave it everything out there. Great job from the team, really pleased for all of them for the hard work in the off season.”

Jehan Daruvala, while never in contention for points, did exactly what he needed to do and got strong mileage and experience under his belt without getting caught in unnecessary skirmishes.

His 15th position was low-key but he will have gained valuable knowledge in his maiden race without making a significant mistake.

Da Costa's renaissance is on hold

Antonio Felix da Costa told The Race prior to Mexico City that he was confident he would be able to conquer his single-lap demons. But that seemed far from the case as he never really looked like getting on top of his Porsche 99X Electric, especially when held up against Wehrlein’s imperious performance.

After lining up 16th, da Costa made a rash move on Nico Mueller’s Abt-run Mahindra and was adjudged to have caused the altercation, meaning that he will take a three place grid drop at the first Diriyah E-Prix later this month.

It’s a worse start for him than last season when at least he was able to salvage a few points. There was no such consolation this season.

“At the moment I’m going through a little bit of a character-building situation,” he conceded to The Race. “Part of me is happy to see that Pascal [Wehrlein] won the race, that we still have a very strong package, but on the other hand all this work, all the off season, all these days in the sim, you fly all the way out here and you DNF in lap four or five, [and it's] a really bad feeling.

“We go back to work in two days, doing simulator work already for Saudi Arabia. I know where we lacked on executing today, because obviously the package is good.

“There were times during free practice that we showed that as well, but essentially we weren’t good enough at putting everything together and as a consequence I’m not sitting in the car for qualifying thinking, ‘Let’s smash a lap out of this thing’, I’m already on the defensive side.”

The assumption by many, some of The Race’s predictions contributors included, was that da Costa would be a real force again this season. That may well still be the case but it feels right now that something fundamental to the Gen3 car and the way da Costa tackles it is really proving tough to conquer.

Da Costa refuted that it was the Hankook tyres, but he also had a less than ideal relationship with Hankooks in the DTM when he was competing there. It's unlikely this is the sole reason but perhaps one that is having at least some impact on his usually bulletproof confidence.

ERT is back to tailender status

The newly named ERT squad had a dreadful start to the season, with Sergio Sette Camara failing to take the start with a suspected cooked inverter.

Dan Ticktum, meanwhile, dropped to the tail of the field after gambling on banking energy should there have been a second safety car.

Any rays of light are hard to see emerging immediately for the team, which needs extra funding and more resources quickly if it is to avoid returning to its once traditional place at the foot of the points table.

It feels like the team has stood still compared to its rivals and the assumption is that a hankering for a clean slate in the first Gen3 Evo season in 2025 will come sooner rather than later as the season wears on.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks