- Oct 27, 2014
The electrified championship battle resumes between Formula E’s top five drivers as the series visits its most unique venue yet. The cars have raced around Olympic parks, beachsides and waterfronts, now they’re tackling an airport.
With no German Grand Prix on this year’s Formula One calendar, it’s Formula E providing the country’s world championship race in Berlin, specifically at the now-defunct Tempelhof airport only a short distance from the capital’s city centre.
The airport’s apron hasn’t been used by airplanes since 2008, but this weekend the series has turned it into a twisty temporary slalom of 17 turns at 2.5km long. Looking at a sim of the track (which you can watch here), the most interesting part is how several corners create continuous sequences, especially the 90-degree turns which end the lap. Hopefully this will be replicated with the real thing and give the drivers a tight challenge without much respite, and lots of heavy braking zones for overtaking
What might be less appreciated is the lack of resurfacing over the original airport tarmac. Not that downforce or mechanical grip is as crucial to the Formula E cars as F1 (this is in order to promote battery development above all else), but if it’s especially bumpy we could see a repeat of the same havoc as seen in Buenos Aires, whose final section caused notable suspension failures.
The teams will hope not, especially given how the championship has closed up. Four races left, four drivers still within race-winning points of each other. Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) leads on 93, but Nelson Piquet Jr’s (China Racing) just four points back, Sébastien Buemi (e-Dams) only ten. Teammate Nicolas Prost and Sam Bird (Virgin Racing) could still claw back their bigger gaps, but they really need to start beating the top three again to stay in contention.
And that might prove difficult given how di Grassi, Piquet Jr and Buemi have all overcome Formula E’s noted early randomness and haven’t been out of the top four places since Miami. Signs that tensions were mounting came with di Grassi and Piquet Jr’s squabbling after Monaco qualifying, and the two were often nose-to-tail during that race.
The two might have to be careful that their battles don’t let Buemi become the first to win three races, let alone two this season. The Swiss was considered the heavy favourite during pre-season testing at Donington and after some difficult races he may have finally made the breakthrough needed to win the championship.
Of course, there is still the chance that others might intrude on the action; Jérôme d'Ambrosio (Dragon Racing) has probably been Formula E’s quietest top performer and still presents a threat to the frontrunners. di Grassi’s teammate Daniel Abt, Andretti Autosport, Mahindra and Amlin Aguri can all do similarly provided they don’t get caught out by incidents, like the pileup at Monaco’s start which ruined many of those drivers’ races. Venturi actually had their best results yet at their home race, but they’re another team whose results don’t reflect their pace. In a spec series as Formula E essentially is, don’t rule out anyone surprising on the day.
Drivers’ Standings after 7 races
1 Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport ABT 93 points
2 Nelson Piquet Jr China Racing 89
3 Sébastien Buemi e-Dams 83
4 Nicolas Prost e-Dams 77
5 Sam Bird Virgin Racing 64
Teams’ Standings after 7 races
1 e-Dams 160 points
2 Audi Sport ABT 115
3 Virgin Racing 94
4 China Racing 93
5 Andretti Autosport 82
Qualifying is at 10am UTC this Saturday, which you can follow here on RaceDepartment through Formula E’s live online stream. It’s also available for the race at 2pm UTC. To watch ITV4’s coverage, qualifying is on from 11am, the race programme from 2pm with the race starting at 3pm.
Will you be watching the ePrix on Saturday? Do you like the look of the circuit? Who do you think will win? Comment below!