Formula E | Berlin E-Prix | Lessons from Berlin

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We’re back with the “Lessons from” and this time, we have a quite a few of them to share with you. Thanks, double-header!

Credit: Formula E Media Bank / Simon Galloway

What a weekend here in Berlin! From an absolutely chaotic race on Saturday, to absolutely astonishing qualifying in wet on Sunday, the track at the Tempelhof Airport provided a roller coaster of emotions. We’ve compiled all of the lessons from both rounds into one space, so you can reflect with us on all the different things that have happened over the course of the past three days. Are you ready?

1. Jag’s got the power

Is that even a surprise after São Paulo? During the first race in Berlin, we’ve got another taste of that with a spectacular 1-2 by the factory team, with Buemi missing out on P3 by literal centimeters. Both the factory and customer team extract some massive performance from their cars in the recent races, proving that Jaguar is stepping into being the number one power train in this years championship.

Although Sunday didn’t go as planned for the factory team, with Evans just missing on podium and bringing it home on P4, the current streak of both Jaguar and Envision gives both of the teams a lot of hope for the remaining of the season. The factory team is slowly climbing up the ranks, with Evans in P5 and Bird in P7 in the championship, and the customer is charging through the field with Cassidy in P2, four points short of the leader of the championship.

2. Envision is on the roll

We’ve already hinted at it above, but we’ll mention it again – the Kiwi from Envision is having a phenomenal season so far. Mr. Consistent in terms of delivering the results, he recovered during race 1 in Berlin from dropping to the back of the pack after a contact and a pit stop and crossed the finish line in P5. Berlin race 2 is history – after overtaking around lap 25 of the E-Prix and then staying ahead of everyone till the end of the race. The move was surprising, considering that whoever takes the lead in Berlin sets himself in the most difficult position actually, as Tempelhof is a track that demands a lot of energy efficiency. Nevertheless, the Kiwi was capable of holding it together and taking the checkered flag ahead of Dennis and Vergne.

We’ve mentioned it many times before, but it seems like Envision has been so far capable of extracting more from their Jaguar power train than Jaguar. When we asked him about it on Saturday after the race, Cassidy said:

“Our updates are similar to the Jags to be honest. They’ve copied us on a few things, which has been quite cool. This weekend actually, I’ve ended up copying them on a few things, I guess the beauty of that relationship. The last four weekends now, we’ve had updates at each race, so appreciate them for that.”

Absolute masterclass from Cass over here in Berlin.

3. Small redemption, but at what cost?

Despite Günther surprisingly claiming P3 in race 1 in Berlin, this weekend has again proven that something is going wrong back at the Maserati garage. The car seems to have the pace to keep with the front-runners, but more often than not, the team seems to be plagued by the mistakes of their drivers. Mortara got damage to his front wing on lap 17, that eventually eliminated him from the race three laps before the checkered flag. Günther was capable of bringing it home in P6, and after this weekend, he’s finally got some points on his account. But we believe it is time for some serious conversations inside of the Maserati garage, because the situation is getting a bit out of hand at this point. With half of the season done, it’s about crunch time if the team wants to get anywhere closer to the leaders of the pack. For now, it doesn’t seem too great for a team that has the potential to fight in the front.

4. Don’t get caught in the wipe-out

If that would be an actual advice from someone on the grid, it would probably be from Jake Hughes after the first race in Berlin. The McLaren drivers seemed to be doing alright in the first stages of the race, until soon after they didn’t. Although Rast had some questionable contacts with other drivers, notably a tug that sent both him and Sette Camara into a spin and pushed the German one lap behind everyone else, Hughes had his fair share of bad luck on Saturday that resulted in him not finishing the race. After the contact between Ticktum and Vandoorne, Hughes fell victim to the wipe-out.

When we’ve asked him after the race about the absolute chaos that occurred in front of all of us, Hughes said:

It’s easy to say: “oh, the, the driver that’s in the lead should just push a bit harder and open up the gaps” – but then he’s writing his own, you know, death sentence if he does that. Anyone who gets in the lead, when you have a race that’s so energy sensitive with the Gen3 car that can save so much in the slip stream, you’re gonna get this kind of racing all the time.

Effectively the coasting periods are quite long – which means you could save more energy in the tow even more. I’m not so sure if it’s the whole answer or if it’s even the answer at all, but for me it feels like if you wanna avoid this kind of race, the race needs to be less energy sensitive. And there’s two ways to do that: either increase the energy that we’re allowed to use, which I don’t think we’re gonna be able to at the end of the season or lower the (amount) laps, so we have more energy per lap to use. Then the coasting periods get a bit smaller, and then the amount that the cars can save in the slip stream becomes smaller, the laps become quicker. And the natural separation of a normal race starts to happen. But that’s not what we’re getting at the moment.

5. Frustrations at NIO, big time

Let’s say that after race 1 there were some…frustrations arising in the paddock. Notably from the NIO 333 garage. On Saturday, Ticktum got contact with Vandoorne eliminating both of them from the race. The weekend started well for him, after he qualified P4 for round 7, but the contact during the race and race of round 8 where he brought it home on P10 feel like a wasted opportunity.

We’ve asked him after the race on Saturday about the performance of the car so far. To that, he responded:

The guys on trackside, it looks bad on them, but I mean, it seriously isn’t most of those guys’ fault. Most of those guys are doing a fantastic job. And me as well to be honest, without being arrogant. I think I’m bringing the car way higher than it potentially should be. So, we just need some efficiency to be honest, and once we get that, I think there’s no reason why we can’t be fighting for podiums and wins. We just have no efficiency at all at the moment, I’m sort of running out of patience to be honest. Last year it was different, we were inefficient and we were slow in one lap, so like there was never any sort of light at the end of the tunnel. But now there’s a light and it’s always just… It’s just constantly just getting further and further away. So painful. I’m really sort of getting fed up with it, if I’m honest.

6. Chill? Who needs chill?

When you can have over 20 changes of the leader of the race during the first race in Berlin, setting a new Formula E record. A bit bonkers, if we can say so ourselves. If we have to be completely honest, there were certain points of this 43 laps race where even we felt lost in the chaos – and we love this championship. We’ve been watching it since the inception, and we love the spectacle that it provides with every event. But this time, it seems it went a bit overboard – and as much as we thrive in the drama and love the intensity, it does take a bit away from the actual purpose of this event – proper racing. And it seems like some of the voices in the paddock echo this sentiment.

Thankfully, the pack seemed to calm down a bit for the second outing in Berlin, where we had no safety car throughout the course of the whole race, which is something we didn’t really expect after the day before.

But we’ve got some records broken again this weekend, and that’s where it gets impressive. During Round 7, we’ve had a total of 190 (!!!) overtakes. During Round 8, we’ve got another 172, making it a total of 362 overtakes over the course of the weekend. Absolute madness.

7. From P-Last to P-Fast and first points

We thought Saturday provided a spectacle, but Sunday absolutely didn’t disappoint in that realm as well. After a dry qualifying, the two ABT Cupra drivers Robin Frijns and Nico Müller locked front row for race 2, a result that probably not many could’ve predicted. The race was a bit more brutal to the German team, but they were finally able to score their first points of the season. Both Frijns and Müller mastered the track in the wet conditions, giving us a promise that in case we’ll have more rounds in the remaining parts of the season that will start with rain, we have someone to count on when it comes to putting it in the front of the pack. Although Frijns eventually finished the race in P17, Müller was able to hold onto P9, scoring two points that added to the three collected by Frijns in the morning thanks to his pole position. You can definitely say that about every team in Formula E, but ABT Cupra has been really putting in the hard work every single race weekend, so it’s been super special to be able to witness them claim their first points on home soil in Berlin.

8. Dennis back on the podium

Took you a while Jake, huh? The Brit is finally back on the podium, claiming P2 ahead of Vergne during Sunday’s race. He went from a big disappointment the day before, classifying P18 in Round 7 after a mistake that sent him into the barrier, but was able to put his head down and keep out of trouble to take the checkered flag in second in Round 8. He started the season on a very strong note, finishing first in Mexico and second twice in Diriyah, but missed on points for four consecutive races, dropping him down from P2 in the championship standings.

He’s now in P4 in standings, and if he can keep up the performance from Sunday, he’ll be definitely challenging the likes of Wehrlein, Cassidy and Jean-Éric Vergne for the title.

During the Sunday’s press conference, he highlighted what the result meant for the team. As he said:

I think just for morale as team, you know, it was quite a beat-up place yesterday. The crash with Antonio, I’ve seen the team quite down and it wasn’t a great place. So I needed this for my team. We’ve needed it for the championship, for myself and the team championship. And it was great to see everyone so happy at the end. It felt like a win for us, to be honest.

9. Great atmosphere, but not a drivers favorite

Although both round in Berlin provided a fantastic spectacle this weekend, the Tempelhof Airport track seems to be very polarizing among drivers. Some love it, some hate it, and from what’ve heard in the paddock, more drivers hate it than love it. We think it was the best summarized by Mitch Evans when we’ve asked for his opinion after Round 8. As he said in his own words:

I still hate it. Look, it’s a unique venue here. It was the best event from a result point of view, but I think also from the atmosphere, from a vibe, everything, there’s a lot. There’s a big turnout, which is fantastic. Definitely (will) be my best memories of the place. But I just wish I could maybe tweak the track or mix it up from year to year, because we’ve got the same layout every year. With a massive airfield we can make so many different things. Or go back into the city centre! That would be my absolute favorite. But anyway, it’s still a good event. It works. Still not my favorite, that’s for sure.

And, by the way, the other Kiwi from Auckland is sharing the same sentiment, just so you know.

We’ve had an absolute blast here in Berlin, and we hope you were able to feel the emotions through our coverage this weekend. Coming back to Formula E in Berlin after eight years has been a fantastic experience, and we hope this is not the last time this season where we report live on-site for you. For now, we’ve got Round 9 in Monaco in twelve days, so better prepare yourself for that. Until then, don’t forget: enjoy the race, wherever you are