Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl says clinching both the Drivers and Manufacturers’ World Championships one race early has been a “big release” heading into the program’s conclusion later this month in Bahrain.
The German manufacturer locked up its third consecutive set of world titles in Sunday’s Six Hours of Shanghai, courtesy of a second place finish for the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, who have taken the drivers’ crown.
It came following a dramatic closing hour that saw the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid crash out of the lead and pave the way for Porsche to take an unexpected runner-up result in the race.
“It’s a sensational story to win all these titles and races three years in a row,” said Seidl.
“At the same time it was a big release today, not just for me but for the entire team, that we could seal the two championships one race before the end.
“It was not an easy situation the last month, especially after the announcement was made that we’d stop at the end of the season, to keep everyone focused and keeping it up.
“At the same time with this point gap that we were building up in the middle of the season, at some point you could only see what could go wrong and you don’t see any new strength you have inside the team.”
While Hartley, Bernhard and Bamber were poised to wrap up the drivers’ title even with a third place result, an accident by Jose Maria Lopez with 35 minutes to go denied a Toyota 1-2 finish and allowed Porsche to seal the manufacturers’ title as well.
Much like its victory in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, following failures for all three Toyotas, Seidl admitted Sunday’s result came with a bit of luck.
“It was not the first time in this project, but you always need to be first in a position that you can benefit from luck,” he said.
“The last two years we always had this pressure going into this last race on a single car.
“As we have seen in the last four years, there’s always something that can happen. And there always has been something that’s happened in Bahrain on this car.
“Last year, Neel [Jani] with a puncture, the year before with a throttle actuator problem that we had with Mark Webber in the car.
“It’s a nice feeling knowing it’s done.”
High-Downforce Aero Kit the Turning Point
Seidl credits Porsche’s post-Le Mans development of its high-downforce aero kit as the turning point in the season.
It triggered a run of consecutive wins at the Nürburgring, Mexico and Circuit of The Americas, which padded its championship lead following the double-points-winning run at Le Mans for Hartley, Bernhard and Bamber.
“I think what paid off in the second half of the season was the strategy of the high downforce package,” Seidl said.
“Especially at the circuits that you need high downforce, we were clearly stronger than Toyota. We were good in Austin, Mexico, and even in Fuji, we were in the same pace in dry conditions.
“When we left Le Mans, we were not really happy with the performance that we showed, independent of the result.
“The six weeks after Le Mans, there was a real big push from inside the team to correct that.
“We had two tests in Barcelona in July and this really made the difference for the second half of the season.
“A big thank-you to everyone back home in Weissach for the sensational work they’ve done this year, striking back big time after Le Mans. It paid off, especially in the races after Le Mans.”