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Vergne: DS Penske 'still not there yet' despite Hyderabad FE win

DS Penske driver Jean-Eric Vergne has warned the team against getting carried away with its victory in Hyderabad, saying the squad is still not up there with the competition in Formula E.

Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Penske, DS E-Tense FE23

Vergne led the new DS Penske partnership to a breakthrough win in the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix in India last weekend, defeating the superior Jaguar-powered Envision car of Nick Cassidy in a tense finish to the race.

It followed a challenging start to the Gen3 era for French manufacturer DS, which has joined forces with Jay Penske’s squad after terminating its title-winning relationship with Techeetah at the end of last season.

While the Frenchman believes the result will boost the motivation of the DS Penske staff, he feels it would be wrong to get complacent when it is evident that E-Tense FE23 is far from the best package on the grid.

Vergne not only benefitted from the pace-setting Jaguars crashing into each other and Porsche starting the race on back foot after a crash for Pascal Wehrlein in practice, but also a well-timed safety car that alleviated some concerns about his energy consumption.

“I think we gotta be more careful, we are certainly not there yet,” said Vergne, who last FE win prior to Hyderabad was at Rome in 2021.

“We've seen in the race…okay, we won the race but we were not that quick. 

“I think it's good for the morale of everybody in the team, because after the first three races it's quite hard to come back with so little points, so much work and no results, so it's good for everybody.

“But we still have quite a lot of things to improve, to understand, to get better because if we want to have more good results like this one, I think we still need to improve quite a bit of things. 

“So, it was certainly a big improvement from the first two weekends, this I could see clearly. So very pleased with that but we must be careful not to think that we are there because I don't think we are there yet. We need to keep pushing.”

Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Penske, 1st position

Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Penske, 1st position

Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images

In the three races prior to Hyderabad, Vergne and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne could bag just two points finishes between them, with the former’s drive to seventh in Diriyah the best result for the marque. 

Qualifying was an even bigger weakness for DS Penske in the opening leg of the campaign, with the team making it to the duels only once in three attempts courtesy of Vandoorne.

But when Formula E’s first visit to the Hyderabad Street Circuit levelled the playing field to a certain extent, Vergne shone to claim a spot on the front row of the grid before taking a fine victory over Cassidy, overcoming a massive energy deficit to the Kiwi on the way.

Coming into Hyderabad, Vergne's teammate Vandoorne said it was “hard to judge” how long it will take for DS Penske to return to the front of the pack, explaining that it is not possible to “make a revolution” from one weekend to another in Formula E.

The Belgian driver was eighth in India after an encouraging drive from 17th on the grid, although he could have been finished even further ahead had he not been hit with a time penalty for exceeding track limits.

Vandoorne stressed that one-lap pace is an area where DS Penske must focus on in the coming races, believing the car can perform strongly if he qualifies near the front of the grid.

“It’s still quite inconsistent between when we are fast and not so fast, so there is definitely some work to do in qualifying because that will just make our races so much better,” said reigning champion Vandoorne.

“We clearly have some good pace in the races and with energy management but when you are so far back and the way the races are this year it’s extremely hard to overtake. 

“It was a good day for the team, JEV won the race, especially considering the difficult start of the season we had, it was a well-deserved result. 

“We scored some good points for the team and now we have to keep our head down, keep working and hopefully we continue the upward strength.”

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