Susie Wolff admits she’s been hugely disappointed by Venturi’s performance since the Formula E season resumed in Berlin last week, but maintains that the enforced break and hectic schedule that followed are not to blame.
Venturi had a solid start to the season, accumulating 34 points as one of the only teams to score in each of the first five rounds, but since returning to action in Berlin, Wolff has seen her team collect just five further points after a string of poor performances.
“I’m hugely disappointed by our performances in Berlin,” Wolff told selected media yesterday via Zoom. “We’re a team that were fighting for top six finishes at the beginning of the season. We were a team that did score in every race and a team that were very much seen and regarded as very competitive.
“Suddenly we’ve come to Berlin and it seems like it’s a stretch to even finish into the top 10, which for us is alarming because in the end we had a very productive off season. We felt that we were coming to Berlin very well prepared and certainly what we’ve seen, the challenge is very different here. When you have half a season condensed into six days, you’ve seen that it’s massively reduced the deficits between the teams.
In the opening four of six races in Berlin, Venturi have finished in the points just twice – a solitary top 10 apiece for drivers Edo Mortara and Felipe Massa – while fellow midfielder teams like Porsche and Mahindra have each averaged more than that per race during the same period.
Wolff believes the margins between success and failure are now closer than ever due to the increased track time the teams have had in such a short space of time
“There’s certainly a much finer line between hero and zero because the drivers are now hugely aware that if they don’t get a good qualifying lap in, it’s practically over for them in the race, which means they’re taking higher risks in qualifying – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Wolff said.
“We’ve seen even on a good lap from Edo or Felipe, one-tenth has moved them up around six positions, so I think it’s got a lot more competitive in terms of the fact that people are having so much track team here, that there isn’t as many mistakes getting made, setups are getting much closer to being in the window than they normally would if you suddenly turn up and have a condensed one race day on a weekend.”
Venturi aren’t the only team to have seen their performance slip in Berlin, as Wolff is quick to point out, but as she goes on to explain, gaining a full understanding of why takes time – something the teams aren’t exactly blessed with at the moment.
“It’s obviously very difficult now, being in the middle of the finale, to understand why the performance has slipped away. But we’re certainly not the only team that seems to be in that position, and it’s quite difficult to comprehend what you’ve done right, and what you’ve done wrong,” said Wolff.
“We don’t feel that we’ve done anything massively wrong in any areas. It’s not one area we’re lacking. We’re simply very close, but not close enough to turn it into a top point scoring finish but certainly something that we’re aware of and going to try and rectify as quickly as possible.”
“Motorsport is all about data, and when the cars run, they create a huge amount of data, which can then be analysed very deeply to get understandings from. If you imagine a normal race weekend, where we have one race day, we can spend nearly a fortnight analysing the data that’s created from one race.
“Here, we’ve had four races in the span of six days, seven days maybe, so of course there’s not the opportunity to dive as deep into the data as one would have liked to, but we were well aware of that before we arrived here and we know what are the most important priorities to pick out that have the biggest effect on performance.
“So yes, that has been a challenge, but it’s been the same for everybody and it’s not the reason why we’re struggling.”
One person in the team who has been struggling this season is Felipe Massa. The former Ferrari and Williams F1 driver has scored just three points at the time of writing, compared to his team-mate’s tally of 36.
Wolff was keen to praise Massa for his efforts this season, but added that a decision on his future will need to be made soon before preparations for the 2020-21 season begin.
“I’ve got huge respect for Felipe and obviously we’re all aware of what he’s capable of. He’s an incredibly fast driver and with his track records, there’s absolutely no doubt from my side that when he gets in the car, he’s giving it everything and he’s very capable,” said Wolff.
“Of course, Formula E is a different challenge because being quick is one thing, but managing the energy and the race to get yourself into a points finish is a completely different challenge. Edo has scored most of the team’s points [this season] and that has certainly hurt us slightly in the teams’ championship.
“But in the end, it’s a decision that we’ll sit down together and discuss and see whether he [Massa] wants to continue in Formula E or not. I’m pretty sure that’s a discussion that will happen very close to the end of season six because we’re already ending the season later than originally planned – and for us, season seven preparation is just around the corner.
“We’ve got two races left. I know that both drivers are truly motivated and focused on trying to turn things around and get some points to finish the season on the high.”