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Formula E

Porsche's Formula E civil war can cost it the title

by Sam Smith, Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

It’s the Formula E family feud that just won’t die. Like a festering itch, no matter how hard you scratch it seemingly won’t go away.

The parents - Porsche’s Florian Modlinger and Andretti’s Roger Griffiths - are trying their best to collaborate and sooth it but the kids - Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis - can’t stop squabbling.

On the face of it, it could be put down to competitive angst and just not enough racing real estate for the two of them in any given corner of the world it seems.

But the more serious reality is that the frequency of altercations could cost Porsche any hope of achieving its aim of catching Jaguar in the Formula E teams' title race.

The latest episodes - in the week that Porsche and Andretti extended their relationship - took place in the second Berlin E-Prix as the two, almost magnet-like, found each other again. At times it was entertaining, at others it was brutal.

Contact was made several times, and some familiar recriminations - and rehashed solutions - started to brew-up all over again.

What the bosses say

Andretti team principal, Roger Griffiths, joked to The Race that perhaps a Tom Cruise-style approach could be employed.

“They're both [Wehrlein and Dennis] super-competitive guys and sometimes I feel like we need to do the 'Days of Thunder' thing and put them in some rental cars and have it, get it out of their system,” said Griffiths.

“It worked in the movies; I don't know if it'll work for real.

“I try and encourage them to give each other room, I think maybe it can be like with families sometimes, if one starts it then the other one is determined to finish it.”

From Porsche Formula E director Modlinger’s viewpoint the sentiment is broadly the same.

A lot of energy has been put into the problem and so far few solutions appear to stick. Modlinger once again found himself telling The Race he “cannot be happy if I see four Porsche cars in the top 10 at the beginning of the race and then racing each other and wall contact and side contact”.

“I expect and anticipate respectful driving, leaving room for each other and no contact,” he said. “This, we need to discuss and speak about and sort out.

“You can always only remind ourselves and also the drivers and that’s it.”

Looking ahead, the feeling is that peace between the two might not be a lost cause.

Griffiths maintains hope that the friction will not be a key trigger for any title self-sabotage or in handing anything to Jaguar on a plate.

“I’m hopefully we can walk away from this, both with respect for each other and good spirit, and at the end of the day we're both trying to win races for ourselves but also trying to win races for Porsche Motorsport and that's what we've got to focus on,” said Griffiths.

But there were also caveats of an inevitability realisation from Griffiths, who also confessed that “they don't give each other an inch”.

“Sometimes I wish they'd be a bit more respectful but that's who they are, love or hate them, that's how they're going to race,” he said. “It doesn't matter how many times we talk to them; I don't think it's going to make a significant difference.”

What the drivers say

The scrappers have scrapped before, and in all likelihood they will do so again.

It all began way back in January 2021 in Riyadh, where Dennis - then in a BMW-Andretti combination - was introduced to Wehrlein via one of the unforgiving Diriyah walls and immediately retired.

Several flashpoints followed, notably in Jakarta almost 12 months ago when Dennis felt Wehrlein edged him towards the pitwall while getting a sniff of the race lead that the Porsche held onto for victory.

Wehrlein told The Race that jousting with some drivers was different to others, using his own team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa - winner of the second Berlin race - as an example held up against the Andretti drivers.

“I think with Antonio and myself it's working well,” said Wehrlein - who also had contact with Norman Nato.

“I think also with Antonio and them [Dennis and Nato] it's working well. We've tried many times to find common sense, but yeah, it just shows every time it's not working.”

“They've tried to talk to me and I just said my opinion on what happened. Let's see what happens.”

Dennis, for his part, was reasonably philosophical about the nature of the contact and had calmed down post-race after some initial verbals on team radio.

“It's difficult because you obviously can't really communicate with them during the race,” he told The Race. “So, it's very much just like me and Norman communicating and obviously those two guys communicating.

“It's just a lot of rubbing and racing with everyone; it's not just Porsche, it's the whole grid. It's just challenging.”

The strength of the bond

Publicly and privately the relationship between Andretti and Porsche is probably as solid as it has ever been.

The two renewed their relationship earlier this week with the announcement that they would race as manufacturer and customer until the end of the 2025-26 season, covering the Gen3 Evo era, at least.

This, combined with a close technical relationship that manifested in Andretti’s remarkable Berlin turnaround from Saturday also-rans to Sunday qualifying gurus shows that the collaboration on these levels is sound.

That came via assistance that Porsche gave Andretti concerning some systems controls usage on Saturday evening. It transformed both the driveability of Andretti’s customer Porsche 99X Electric cars and the confidence that Dennis and Nato had in them.

The result was pole for Dennis and third for Nato. It also evidenced how a healthy manufacturer/customer relationship can pay dividends.

“Yesterday, for example, they were in the quali and both groups last. We helped them out overnight, they copied nearly the set-up of Pascal, also with the brake settings and the software, and you could see they were P1 and P3 in the qualifying,” said Modlinger. “But then we [still] need to sort the racing.”

But again, the Dennis and Wehrlein contact came up, and how to address it.

“I do not speak about that [how to stop the contact], obviously we have open and transparent communication,” added Modlinger.

“They are doing a stunning job but we need the points for the manufacturer trophy, they need the points for the driver’s championship and we need also both teams for the team championship, this means we cannot compromise each other.”

Andretti and Porsche team members all went out with each other at Valencia last October and, in true marriage guidance style, spent quality time together.

While Dennis and Wehrlein continue to do the same in close quarters on the track, the idea for perhaps some extra fine dining might be the order of the day for the two teams before the world championship's double-header judgement days come thick and fast over the next eight weeks.

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