The Formula E was in Berlin this weekend, where for the fifth time, racing took place at the city’s iconic and (usually) disused Tempelhof airport. As in previous years, the Berliners took to the spectacle with German coldness (or is it cool?) but in great numbers. And, they got to see a home run for Audi driven by a high spirited Lucas di Grassi.
Over 40,000 visitor made their way to the outer edge of Kreuzberg-Neukölln to see the Berlin ePrix taking place on the airfield. Only this time, an extended framework programme in the form of the GreenTech Festival, backed by the former F1 champion Nico Rosberg, made for a different backdrop to the Formula E’s 10th race of the season. The consumer trade show reflected that by now (almost) everyone has arrived in the new era, next to those longstanding infrastructure suppliers of course.
Take HWA Racelab for example, a new team that is Mercedes in disguise, who also promoted the EQ range at the festival. Both Daimler and Porsche will enter the Formula E in 2019/20, then joining those already there, from Audi, BMWi, to DS, Jaguar and of course, Nissan. The professionalisation is feasible, take the number of sponsors and various wristband and passes, to see e-mobility buzzing.
And so is the race, well, zooming actually. Set on the concrete grounds of Tempelhof airport, the course is a test of tyres and skills with curves coming in close succession. Still, compared to narrow city tracks like Monaco, Lucas di Grassi considers Berlin a “hybrid race” that leaves some room for takeovers. And that is just what he did – already after a good qualifying on 3, the Brazilian managed to get ahead of Sebastien Buemi who started from pole position and until the end of the race, the leading duo remained in place.
Further back, however, DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne skillfully overtook racer after racer until he came in third despite having started from position 8. The Frenchman thus retains the overall lead in the championship as a driver.
Di Grassi’s victory however secured Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler the second win on home turf and sets Audi on top of the manufacturer’s table with Daniel Abt coming in 6th. “It was a very strategic race with a lot of energy saving, and our cars seemed very efficient today, so I’m super happy,” says di Grassi who drove home Audi’s 12th win and 40th podium in its 55 races in Formula E ahead of Buemi and Vergne.
Strategy indeed helped win the Berlin ePrix and a bit of one man’s bad luck. Panasonic Jaguar’s driver Alex Lynn had to be recovered mid-track as his car broke down, resulting in round after round under the yellow flag, that requires everyone to drive no faster than 50 kph. In anticipation of the race taking up speed again, most drivers pushed the Attack button, a new mode that allows for an extra 25 kW, only to see the precious time frame of four minutes of extra power count down. The Audi drivers had waited long enough actually to profit when finally the yellow flag was lifted and so had JEV, who said he had a “fun race” during which he “saved and saved and then decided to attack”. He was particularly glad that an issue with his car the day before had been resolved.
Swissman Buemi however, referred to a “frustrating” season with good qualifying but mostly no results. The Berlin podium was the first for him in the 5th Formula E, and so he is hoping for the upcoming race in Bern to make good in front of his home crowd.