The Debrief: Against all odds in Portland

Maserati MSG Racing’s Deputy Team Principal, Cyril Blais, debriefs the 2024 Portland E-Prix using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The 2024 Portland E-Prix was arguably the toughest race of our Season 10 campaign yet. But in the face of a challenge, we can only respond in one way: by fighting back.

In Portland, Maserati MSG Racing united to overcome obstacles with collective force and recovered to score points in what seemed to be an against all odds situation.

Looking back on the penultimate race weekend of Season 10, our Deputy Team Principal, Cyril Blais, debriefs Portland using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“We’re leaving Portland with some mixed emotions this season but seeing the challenges we faced and the obstacles we overcame, I’m very proud of the team,” says Cyril.

“As soon as we started running in practice, we were aware that we could be in for quite a difficult weekend because our pace wasn’t close to where we wanted to be.

“That remained as a theme across Saturday, and even on Sunday, but we kept working to improve our performance across every session, so scoring points in Race Two is actually a bigger achievement than it might seem at face value.

“I think being able to respond to difficult scenarios in such a way shows our strength and versatility as a team but knowing that we can turn our performances around is also a great source of inspiration.

“Portland was the penultimate race weekend of Season 10, and heading to London, we can be confident.

“We arguably have nothing to lose, but we also have everything to gain, and I think that mentality will put us in a very good position for the finale.”

From practice, the team unfortunately struggled for initial pace, and in Qualifying on Saturday, this became more apparent when neither Maximilian Günther, nor Jehan Daruvala, made it into the duels.

“We didn’t deserve the outcome we faced in Race One, and it wasn’t remotely close to what we set out to achieve after a difficult Qualifying,” continues Cyril.

“In Qualifying, we struggled to put both cars in the right operating window and lined up at the back, and from there, our strategy was to save as much energy as possible at the start.

“By doing that, we were able to build up an energy offset, and then we used that advantage to fight into the top 10.

“Max and Jehan were running close together late in the race, and unfortunately, Jehan had a heavy lockup into Turn One and basically became a passenger in his own car. He ran into the back of Max which forced Max to retire.

“There was a lot for us to debrief and digest after Saturday, but after recovering quite well, I think we were confident that we would be able to make the necessary changes for Sunday.”

Performance refinements overnight improved Maserati MSG Racing’s pace on Sunday, with Jehan matching his second-best performance of the season in Qualifying, with the Indian racer starting from ninth after missing out on the duels by only 0.003 seconds.

“When Jehan qualified inside the top 10, we knew we had turned a corner performance-wise, and even though Max was starting from the back row, I think we were still confident that we could achieve a good result,” explains Deputy Team Principal, Cyril.

“On multiple occasions this season, we’ve pulled together some very strong comeback performances from the rear of the field by using aggressive strategies and that’s what we went for.

“In Race Two, the plan was to again save energy at the start and then fight forward towards the end, and this strategy worked to our advantage.

“With real-time data insights from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, we were able to adjust our energy saving targets to match the race’s pace, while hitting our own energy saving goals which were critical to making our strategy work.

“By lap 15 Max was inside the top 10, and I think we could have achieved more if it wasn’t for the Safety Car.

“In Formula E, having a Safety Car when you are up on energy can be very negative for strategy because it lowers energy saving targets for the entire field. This then means that your own advantage is lower, and because the pace of the race quickens, it becomes more difficult to use the advantage built up from the start.

“Although our competitive edge was minimised, we were still able to come away with eighth with Max, but it was a shame not to have both cars in the top 10, especially after Jehan’s performance in Qualifying.”

With the Portland E-Prix complete, Maserati MSG Racing will resume its season at London’s ExCeL Circuit, which marks the final race weekend of Season 10.

As a circuit which should suit the Maserati Tipo Folgore, hopes are high for the finale.
“We’ve had a difficult run of race weekends recently, but we know that we have the pace and performance to fight at the very front of the grid,” adds Cyril.

“There are positives we can take away from Portland, and there are also significant learnings, but now, we need to debrief and focus on our preparations for London.

“Based on the performances we’ve had this season, we expect the ExCeL Circuit to suit our package, and if we maximise our opportunities, there’s no reason for us to not be towards the front.

“It’s been a long season, and pre-season testing in Valencia feels like a lifetime ago, but we need drive forward with one final push so we can end the year on a high."