After a surprisingly exciting race at the often-processional Monaco circuit, Formula E continues this crazy season at the Berlin ePrix at Tempelhof airport this weekend. Last year Audi swept their home race with a 1-2 finish, will they be able to repeat the feat and get back in the running for the teams’ championship this year?
Before we talk about last race’s results, here’s the full race on Formula E’s YouTube page. Have a watch if you’d like. You can also visit the bottom of this post for a shorter video of last race’s highlights.
Monaco ePrix race recap
There were several grid penalties handed out after last race, so Jerome D’Ambrosio, Eduardo Mortara and Oliver Rowland started 3 places back from qualifying. Mitch Evans received a penalty in qualifying as well, and Andre Lotterer, despite being 2nd in the championship, gave himself a lot of work to do by qualifying at the back of the field. Nissan did well in qualifying for the second race in a row, a big triumph considering how slow they started the season.
As stated in the last article, Monaco is often a fairly boring, processional race, due to its narrow streets. Formula E is used to narrow streets and still manages lots of passing, but Monaco is still a tough track to make exciting.
This race started no differently – there were very few, if any, passes in the first several laps. The first 10-15 minutes seemed like it would be another snoozefest of the type Monaco is famous for (albeit there are glitzy snoozefests). But then Formula E decided, once again, that it’s not satisfied being boring, and kicked the action into a higher gear.
We soon saw a separation between the top 4 cars and the rest of the field. Sebastian Buemi, in 5th place, despite being the only person to ever lead a lap in a Monaco ePrix (having won and taken pole position in both of the last two runnings), was dropping back quite a lot. Because Monaco is a tight track, Buemi was able to hold more than 10 cars bunched up behind him. Nissan seemed to be suffering from the same poor race pace they suffered from in Paris.
Soon the 10+ cars bunched up behind Buemi started getting anxious, and lots of fights broke out on the track. Cars were jostling around, several made contact with each other, and lots of passes happened even in parts of the track where they were unexpected. The large amount of action combined with somewhat poor direction from the TV crew resulted in an exciting but somewhat confusing race to watch.
The fighting resulted in a few cars retiring due to collisions and lots of debris on the track which had to be cleared during Full Course Yellow conditions. The Monaco marshals, thought of by many as the most professional and capable in the world, managed to clear up crashes and debris generally within the course of a single lap. Once again, they proved their excellence.
By the end of the race 6 cars were out due to collisions. Despite all the chaos, the finishing order wasn’t too different from the starting order, with Jean-Eric Vergne winning the race and Rowland and Felipe Massa rounding out the podium. The last lap was close with Pascal Wehrlein chasing Massa and both of them low on energy. Buemi managed to come in 5th, holding off the chaos behind him and pulling away from it near the end of the race. Vergne’s win marks the first time this season that we’ve had a repeat winner – every one of the previous 8 races had different winners.
The heroes of the race were Lotterer, who qualified last but finished 7th, and Sam Bird, who charged through the field gaining 8 places from his 15th place qualifying position, only to suffer damage which left him stopped on track just 2 turns away from the finish line.
Several penalties were handed out after the race. Antonio Felix da Costa was disqualified for too much power usage (he went over 200kW for more than a full lap, after accidentally activating 225kW qualifying mode, and was traced using 228kW at one point). Daniel Abt and Robin Frijns were penalized for collisions with Oliver Turvey and Alex Sims, Sims was given a penalty for a collision with Lucas di Grassi.
This race left DS Techeetah with a big lead in both championship standings. Vergne and Lotterer are separated by 1 point for drivers’ championship, with Frijns close behind and da Costa, di Grassi, Evans and d’Ambrosio still within striking distance with a little luck. Techeetah is 38 points ahead in the teams’ championship, with Virgin, Audi and Mahindra still having a chance.
Other Formula E News
At Monaco, it was revealed that the BMW i8 Roadster would function as the new safety car for Formula E in Berlin. The series has used the BMW i8 as a safety car for years, but is going topless for now. It seems a little strange to use a convertible for a “safety” car, considering racecars often have rollcages and such installed for safety reasons (and the FIA has mandated “halo” devices to protect the heads of drivers in open-wheel, open-cockpit racecars, like those in Formula E). But the Roadster is the “new cool thing” from the i8 line, so it makes sense to use it here, I suppose.
This week also saw the release of a trailer for an upcoming documentary about Formula E, “And We Go Green,” which premieres next week at Cannes Film Festival. The trailer shows a behind-the-scenes look at Formula E, with interviews with drivers and series CEO Alejandro Agag. Have a watch, and we’ll let you know when the documentary because publicly available.
2019 Berlin ePrix – what to expect
The Berlin track is an odd one, it’s entirely a temporary facility set up on a flat runway at the Tempelhof airport. There are no natural streets, curbs, geographical features or anything, just flat land and temporary walls/fencing with grandstands set around.
So there’s a bit of a lack of scenery, but there has still been good racing here in the past, with track designers having complete freedom to design the track they want to see. If you’d like to see a full lap of the circuit, there’s several videos in this post about Roborace’s DevBot taking a lap of the circuit two years ago.
One thing we know is that Audi will be wanting a big win this weekend. Not only is it their home race, but they’ve also fallen back in the championship with a poor running in Monaco, scoring no points, and are now 44 points off Techeetah in the lead. But a 1-2 finish by them would gain them 43 points, with 4 more available for fastest lap and pole position. Conceivably, if Techeetah doesn’t score and Audi repeats last year’s result then Audi could be at the top of the championship after this weekend. Or they could at least close ground.
Virgin is in a similar position in terms of points, though they don’t have the home race advantage. But they could achieve the same theoretical feat mentioned above with Audi.
Mahindra is 4th in the championship and seems to be falling behind. After a good start to the season they’re going to need a miracle to be a factor by the end of it.
And Nissan has been gaining fast with some good results recently. They’ve been showing good qualifying pace recently, but maybe not the greatest race pace. But their success has come too late. They’re just too many points behind to be able to catch up at this late point in the season. But a good finish to the season might give them some momentum going into next year.
Of course, I say all of this, when really the only rule we’ve seen so far in Formula E this year is to expect the unexpected. So we’ll have to see what surprises they have in store this Saturday.
The Berlin ePrix is on Saturday May 25th. The race starts at 4:00am PDT/7:00am EDT, 11:00am UTC, 1:00pm local Berlin time. Head to Formula E’s website to learn how to watch the race in your country.