Formula E Berlin Eprix Weekend Preview: Championship Wide Open

image courtesy of Formula E

The sun is beginning to set on another enthralling season of Formula E as the championship heads to Berlin with 18 drivers still in championship contention.

Formula E returns to the Berlin Tempelhof Airport for its season finale this weekend as both teams and constructors titles are still wide open. It will be the 6th time the all electric racing series has visited the airport, with the circuit making its debut in 2015, albeit with a different layout. With just 10 turns and only 2.4km long, the current layout was first used in 2017 and has since become a staple of the Formula E calendar.

This year, however, there is a slight change to the weekend. Following last year’s successful running of 3 different layouts, the second race will be run in reverse, with work needing to be done overnight to ensure that the barriers are all correctly positioned for the new design. The reverse loop was trialed in 2020 as part of the series’ unprecedented 6 races in 9 days season finale.

A staggering 18 drivers and 10 teams come in to the weekend able to win the championships, as Mercedes EQ driver Nyck De Vries edges out Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns by just 6 points. A whopping 29 points is available for each of the two races so it really is all to play for.

In the teams championship, Envision Virgin lead Mercedes EQ by just 7 points. Jaguar are a mere 2 points further back.

Audi in particular will look to end the season strong as they say goodbye to the series. Created by Hans Jurgen Abt, the German team were among the first to enter the series back in Season 1. Despite some name changes along the way they have become one of the most successful and iconic teams the sport has ever had, finally winning the constructors championship in Season 4 (the 2017/18 season) with their drivers Lucas Di Grassi and Daniel Abt.

With the departure of Audi, we may also see the departure of their star driver Lucas Di Grassi. Di Grassi has driven every race for the German team since Formula E’s inception, and he has become one of the sports best ever drivers. From the very first race Di Grassi had etched his name into the history books, capitalizing on a collision between Nico Prost and Nick Hiedfeld to win the inaugural race. He then followed this win up a few years later with a Season 3 title win. Lucas himself is confident of remaining in the series next year, with rumors circling that he may take Norman Nato’s Venturi seat. However, if Formula E has taught us anything, it’s that this series is never predictable, so a Di Grassi exit cannot be ruled out.

Prior to this weekend it was also announced that several drivers will remain with their teams for next season, whilst BMW will also (sort of) leave the sport. Both Porsche drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Andre Lotterer will continue with the German outfit, and Robin Frijns will still race for Envision Virgin. BMWi Andretti’s Jake Dennis will also remain at the team as it changes its name to Andretti Autosport. BMW will continue to supply the powertrains however.

It’s set to be a weekend of both firsts and lasts in Berlin and with both championships still wide open, you’d be a fool to miss it.

What We Learned From Formula E Testing

image courtesy of Sergio Sette Formula e

Earlier this week saw the return of Formula E, as the teams took to the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia to test their cars ahead of the 2020/21 Season. BMWi Andretti’s Maximilian Guenther was the quickest of all over one lap, but what can we actually learn from Formula E testing? Let’s find out!

Changes to Testing

Last year, the Ricardo Tormo circuit implemented a tight chicane into the first corner, in order to try and replicate some of the characteristics of Formula E’s famous (or infamous) street circuits. This year, though, that was removed in an attempt to minimise the risk of the cars sustaining damage. That wasn’t the only change either. Due to the somewhat creative interpretations of where the track limit was last year, it was decided that this year they would monitor it using sensors. The increased awareness of track limits also helped with the batteries’ operating temperatures. Unfortunately, because of all the changes to the track, comparing times with last year would not give an accurate representation of how the technology has developed since then.

Rookies Impressed:

Every year the quality of the Formula E Grid seems to get better and better and this year is no different. The new faces this year, Venturi’s Norman Nato, Andretti’s Jake Dennis, and Virgin’s Nick Cassidy, sprinted out of the starting blocks, posting competitive times almost immediately. By the end of testing, their quickest laps were all within 4 tenths of the overall fastest, Max Guenther, with Cassidy and Nato both quicker than their more experienced teammates.

NIO Resurgence:

It’s fair to say NIO have struggled to be competitive in recent years, often being the slowest car on the grid. However, that seems to have changed this year, as an all-new powertrain helped Oliver Turvey finish testing 10th quickest. NIO also completed the most laps of anyone with a total 535 across all three days; valuable data to help get to grips with the new system. As spectators, we can but hope that the clear improvement in one-lap pace, also means an improvement to their long run pace.

As Tight As Ever:

One of the best things about Formula E is the closeness of the racing, and this year it’s set to be the closest field ever. At the end of testing, all the drivers were covered by a little over half a second. The young Max Guenther lead the pack, but Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi brought up the rear just a mere 0.578 seconds behind. Audi themselves seemed to be a tad behind the others, perhaps as a result of their decision to pull out of the all electric series after this season, so that they can focus on Le Mans. With a field covered by so little, however, this season is going to be as close as ever. Any championship hopefuls will need to be incredibly consistent.

So now that testing has concluded, we have learned many things about what to expect in this coming season. NIO look like they can be competitive again, and anybody can win any race. We look destined to witness one of the best seasons of Formula E to date: you won’t want to miss it when it kicks off in Santiago on January 16th.

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