Friday, July 19, 2024

René Rast endures miserable home E-Prix after being ‘just not quick enough’

René Rast won’t be remembering his home E-Prix anytime soon, after the German endured a miserable weekend at the Berlin E-Prix.

The NEOM McLaren Formula E Team driver struggled for pace all weekend at the Tempelhof Airport Circuit, with Nissan’s powertrain in general having been underwhelming. Rast endured a disastrous race on Saturday after finishing seventeenth, due to being awarded a five-second time penalty for hitting Sérgio Sette Câmara at the opening corner.

“It was a very difficult race, particularly in the first 10 laps,” Rast admitted on Saturday. “The whole field was close together with a mixture of slow and fast, so it was all about trying to avoid contact. I then unfortunately hit Sergio [Sette Camara], picking up damage and a five-second time penalty. By pushing to the end of the race, we learned more about how these Gen3 cars run on the track, which will be helpful ahead of the second race. We’ll debrief and analyse the data to work out how we can maximise our car for tomorrow.” 

Sunday’s race was no better for Rast after he was eliminated in the group stage of qualifying for the fourth race in a row, leaving him with a mountain to climb. The German struggled in the wet qualifying session and could only make up four places during the race, to finish thirteenth. Overall, it was a woeful weekend in his home country, with Rast openly admitting that himself and the team “were just not quick enough”.

“It’s been a very difficult weekend, particularly today,” Rast said on Sunday. “I missed FP3 and then went straight into a wet qualifying session without any laps done to prepare, so I was on the back foot. Whilst I moved forward during the race as our conservative strategy paid off, we were just not quick enough this weekend. We now just need to keep working and come back stronger in Monaco.” 

“We know the limitation we have at the moment” – Jake Hughes

Credit: Sam Bagnall courtesy of FIA Formula E

On the other side of the McLaren garage and Jake Hughes endured a similarly disappointing weekend, with the Briton having also failed to score any points. Hughes could only manage twelfth in qualifying on Saturday before retiring from the race, through no fault of his own.

Hughes was looking much stronger in Saturday’s race until he went into the back of Dan Ticktum, who had crashed into Stoffel Vandoorne. Hughes simply had nowhere to go except into the back of the NIO 333 Racing driver, with it having not been the only time a McLaren and NIO driver clashed in the race. To make matters worse for Hughes, he was then hit from behind, in what was a bit of a concertina effect.

The rookie was disappointed with the crash but also admitted like Rast that “the pace isn’t where we wanted it to be”.

“This wasn’t how we wanted the race to go,” Hughes said on Saturday. “With the amount of energy these cars save in a slipstream, often the leader doesn’t want to be in the lead which pushes the pack together, making contact extremely likely. Unfortunately, I was caught up in the back of someone else’s accident, resulting in another car hitting the back of me. This caused a lot of damage and ended my race.

“Despite the incident, the pace isn’t where we want it to be. With the double header weekend, we’ll look at the data and see where we can make improvements. Thanks to the team in the garage for the work they’re putting in to turn my car around ahead of Round 8.” 

Sunday’s race was no better really for Hughes, with the Briton having qualified fourteenth, only to finish the race in eighteenth. It was by far Hughes’ most disappointing performance in the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with the rookie stating after the race that the team “know” where their issues are.

“It’s been a tricky day and weekend overall,” Hughes said on Sunday. “We came into the weekend with a bit of a handicap and the track provides a certain style of racing which doesn’t suit us. I think I was also guilty of trying to race faster cars today which I ended up paying for massively in energy. Not trying to race them felt a bit defeatist, so I tried, but sadly it didn’t pay off. 

“We know the limitation we have at the moment and we’re trying to solve it. I’m proud of all the team in the garage, in Bicester and in Woking for all the work they’re doing. We now go to a few tracks which should be a bit better for us so hopefully we can get back to scoring points.”