Jake Dennis slammed Pascal Wehrlein’s defensive move in the Jakarta E-Prix as “ridiculous” after coming off second-best in their battle for victory, and expressed his frustration that his Andretti team feels it can’t protest its supplier Porsche.
Avalanche Andretti driver Dennis made his move for the lead with 12 laps to go when he got a run on Porsche’s Wehrlein into Turn 1.
Dennis darted to the inside but Wehrlein covered it with an aggressive move to the right, leaving Dennis on the outside at Turn 1 and briefly vulnerable to Maximilian Guenther behind.
This drew ire from Dennis after the race as he felt Wehrlein’s defence was far too aggressive.
“The manoeuvre with Pascal was ridiculous,” Dennis said.
“I had to hit so much [brake] pressure to avoid hitting the back of him.
“I don’t know how he got away with that to be honest. It’s ridiculous.
“The other two guys did it perfectly [Stoffel Vandoorne and Guenther who he passed at Turn 1], left just enough space for one car which is the rule.
“And then Pascal just completely swerved up to the wall and I had to slam on the brakes halfway up the straight.
“He’d already committed to lifting and at that point you have to leave space and he didn’t.
“We can’t protest against them because they also have a Porsche powertrain so yeah…bit ridiculous.”
When asked about the incident in the press conference afterwards Wehrlein simply replied “I don’t have a lot to say there”. Wehrlein’s victory moved him to within two points of the championship lead with Dennis now 12 points adrift of Wehrlein and 14 off leader Cassidy.
Andretti linked up with Porsche for the Gen3 era, having previously been the factory partner of BMW prior to the German manufacturer’s exit from the series.
Perhaps uniquely to Formula E, customers and suppliers are more or less evenly matched across the field with some customers (like McLaren) comfortably beating their suppliers (Nissan). Both Porsche and Andretti are fighting for both titles as are Jaguar and its customer Envision.
It’s that close level of competition that’s creating these tense scenarios where some drivers and teams are in the awkward position of racing hard with their supplier that they work closely with away from the track to improve the powertrain.
Having no to little supplier/customer disparity is great for Formula E, it means genuine independent customers can take on manufacturers for the title, but it does raise questions over their true autonomy – and makes the FE grid in terms of decision-making more of a 4-4-4-4-4-2 car split (with every manufacturer supplying a customer outside of NIO 333).
Thankfully that’s more or less an even balance right now but what happens if the picture changes in the future? Any potential manufacturer withdrawal could tip that balance towards one particular supplier.
The best safeguarding against this – in terms of questionable on-track tussles – is of course consistent and thorough stewarding so that customer/supplier tie-ups are irrelevant to decisions over incidents because penalty-worthy incidents are spotted and tackled without protests needing to be lodged.
In the case of the Wehrlein-Dennis incident no formal investigation was made but it also hardly felt like it would make the top 30 most aggressive defences of a lead in a Formula E race.
It was borderline but it was for the lead of the race and was ultimately an on-the-limit kind of judgement that won Wehrlein that race as the peloton-style racing was replaced by a more traditional racing affair where overtaking was tough.
Brushing it off as a racing incident feels like a fairly reasonable take – but it’s a stark reminder of the potential jeopardy and future test of Formula E’s stewarding that any future customer/supplier incident will be if the customer is essentially unable to properly complain about it or downplays it for the sake of their supplier.