Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to nurse his car’s driveshaft in the second half of the GEOX Rome E-Prix in order to score his and HWA Racelab’s first Formula E podium on Saturday.
HWA team principal Ulrich Fritz revealed to e-racing365 before the race that the team had serious concerns about the part which is sourced via its car provider Venturi.
The driveshaft eventually gave way on the slow-down lap after Vandoorne held on to third, with the failure believed to be a similar issue that also forced Venturi drivers Felipe Massa and Edoardo Mortara to retire from the race.
“After we saw what happened to Felipe [Massa] and Edo [Mortara] we told him [Vandoorne] he should take it easy,” said Fritz.
“We didn’t know how it would turn out or what the life of the driveshaft would be, because there was quite a tight threshold so we just said ‘Stoffel, take the pace away’ and that’s what he did.
“It was very much a controlled race and we got what we needed because we knew that we also had an issue with the driveshaft and finally it collapsed on the in-lap.”
The consequence of this order was Vandoorne losing touch with the leading pair of Mitch Evans and Andre Lotterer, however the Belgian driver managed to maintain third place and score HWA’s best result in Formula E.
Fritz said he and the team felt as though a podium in HWA’s seventh E-Prix felt “like a victory” after a tough start to the season.
Its previous best result had been Paffet’s eighth-place finish on the streets of Hong Kong, where Vandoorne took pole before encountering driveshaft troruble in the race.
“We were lucky this time with the driveshaft but on the other hand I think we’ve had so much bad luck in the first [couple of] races that I’m just happy for the whole team, I’m happy for Stoffel and the first podium feels nearly like a victory.”
Fritz also suggested that Vandoorne’s teammate Gary Paffett would have been well placed for a strong result had the British driver not been forced to retire after getting caught up in a red flag accident on lap two.
“”I have to say, also if you look at Gary [Paffett] he already was on a mission,” he said.
“He could have gained a lot more positions already on the first lap and, unfortunately, he was taken out of the race, not his fault.”