Formula E: 2017 Berlin ePrix Preview

The calendar is now in June, and that means the 2016–17 Formula E championship has reached its halfway point. Having passed through Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Monaco and Paris, there remain only three more rounds and six more races, in the form of double headers in Berlin, New York and Montreal.

2014/2015 FIA Formula E Championship.
Formula E Race.
Berlin e-Prix, Berlin, Germany, Europe.
Saturday 23 May 2015
Photo: Adam Warner/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _L5R8477

Last year, the Berlin ePrix represented a massive swing in the championship stakes, as Sébastien Buemi put a halt to Lucas di Grassi’s streak of wins and closed up to one point behind the Brazilian going into the final round in London.

With Buemi’s win tally almost perfect this season, it’s hard to imagine the championship leader doing anything other than repeating that result again this weekend, perhaps even in both races. What makes things even more ominous for the rest of the field is that Buemi also comes to Berlin off the back of two pole positions in Monaco and Paris.

However, even with the level at which Buemi is currently performing, his and Renault’s rivals can draw some inspiration from the fact that the championship leader will be under supreme pressure to win this weekend. After Berlin the calendar moves to the infamous WEC-clashing round in New York, from which Buemi will be absent and leaving a considerable open goal so late in the title race.

And although Buemi’s buffer to di Grassi in the standings is currently the largest it’s been all season, at 43 points it’s still not enough to cover off the possibility of di Grassi taking away a maximum points haul in New York.

That makes it imperative for the championship leader to win at least one, if not both, of the races in Berlin—but as we’ve seen many times before, when the pressure mounts Buemi often becomes overwhelmed, allowing his more collected rivals to land some heavy blows amidst his distraction.

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
Qatar Airways Paris ePrix, France.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams, Spark-Renault, Renault Z.E 16, on the grid.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _J6I9038

But of course, it’s not all about Buemi and di Grassi this weekend, and of the eighteen other drivers heading to Tempelhof Airport, Stéphane Sarrazin will certainly be one to watch. The Frenchman has scored points only twice this season and sits last of the full-time drivers in the standings, but this weekend his chances of a top ten finish will be vastly improved as he moves up from Venturi to Techeetah, taking over the former car of Esteban Gutiérrez as the Mexican leaves Formula E to join the IndyCar series.

Sarrazin’s move means rookie Tom Dillmann gets another chance to show his abilities following his eighth-place finish substituting for Maro Engel at the last race in Paris. Dillmann had been eyeing up a full-time drive in Formula E for season four, and with Sarrazin on the move it looks like his future at Venturi is secure for now.

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
Qatar Airways Paris ePrix, France.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Tom Dillmann (FRA), Venturi, Spark-Venturi, Venturi VM200-FE-02.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I9760

Also worth keeping an eye on both in Berlin and for the rest of the season are those drivers in and around the top ten in the standings. Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist are matched closely with Jean-Éric Vergne in the battle for fourth place, whilst two points separate Sam Bird and Nelson Piquet in seventh and eighth respectively. Bird’s teammate José María López has launched himself into the top ten at last after taking his first podium in Paris, and is just two points clear of a consistent Daniel Abt.

Below them, Robin Frijns and Oliver Turvey are in a fight to head the second page of the standings with Jaguar’s Mitch Evans. Although the British marque has had a slow start to Formula E, neither Evans nor Adam Carroll can be discounted from the points anymore now that Jaguar appears to have settled into the demands of the series and is hunting Andretti for seventh in the Teams’ Championship.

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
Qatar Airways Paris ePrix, France.
Saturday 20 May 2017.
Mitch Evans (NZL), Jaguar Racing, Spark-Jaguar, Jaguar I-Type 1.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _W6I8428

James Matthews, Deputy Editor

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