After an exciting Parisian E-Prix, the electrifying motorsport series moved to Flughafen Tempelhof in Berlin, a track that has deep ties with the sport. Before the race, we were also treated to Nico Rosberg doing some fast laps in the second-generation of Formula-E cars that will grace these circuits from next season onwards.
Jean-Eric Vergne and Techeetah may well be leading the championship standings but it was the Audi Spot Abt Schaeffler team that was clearly the faster car this weekend with Daniel Abt leading the charge on his home circuit.
The German driver secured the trifecta for the best possible result of the weekend as he qualified the fastest to start on pole position, took a dominant victory ahead of everyone and even clocked the fastest lap during the whole race. This was his third win in FE but only the second that counted after the Hong Kong technical penalties, and all victories have come in this season. Abt drove perfectly all race and was able to pull away from everyone within a few laps of the start, and once again after pitting and changing cars. Meanwhile, his teammate and current FE champion Lucas di Grassi gave another stellar drive to secure an Audi one-two on the team’s home circuit, while also picking up valuable points for the constructor’s championship. The Brazillian started fifth on the grid, working his way up the order with clinically executed overtakes to get past the likes of Sebastian Buemi, Vergne and Oliver Turvey. He was extremely close to Abt after switching cars in the pits, but a small problem with his steering meant he could not keep up with his German teammate, but did enough to pull a very comfortable lead away from the rest of the competition.
Jean-Eric Vergne had a decent qualifying and started third on the grid but was having a tough time battling with the Nio of Turvey as Abt began to pull away. He was also getting pressured by Buemi and Di Grassi, both of whom were able to pass him before the pit stops, but the Frenchman fought back valiantly. Vergne overtook Buemi once before the stops, colliding a bit as he went down the inside, and again after the pits giving the Swiss driver a clever feint before passing him down the inside of Turn 6 to move up into third. The pair of them had overtaken Oliver Turvey earlier on the same lap. Techeetah’s second car driven by Andre Lotterer and the German was having a very poor weekend at home. Qualifying P18, he remained at the back of the order for the majority of the race, driving a battery-conservative race. But he was able to mount a charge in the closing laps thanks to the extra energy he had saved and managed to finish in the points crossing the line in ninth. Sebastian Buemi did not have a good weekend yet again, qualifying only seventh fastest but did well to make his way up the order as he did and managed to secure a P4 finish. His teammate Nico Prost started last on the grid and finished in P14.
The Nio team has been struggling in Formula E since their driver Nelson Piquet Jr. won the Driver’s Championship in the debut season of the sport, but has been looking to return to form this year. Oliver Turvey did a brilliant job in qualifying to start second on the grid and then had a tough race for most of the 45 laps around Berlin’s Tempelhof circuit. He defended well in the opening laps to keep Vergne at bay but was unable to hold back the dominant Audi before the pit stops. He did manage to hold onto P3 all the way into the last quarter of the race, fending off the Renault and Techeetah cars, but a mistake on Turn 10 of Lap 33 as he was being overtaken by Buemi also created an opening for Vergne to pass through. The Brit would have been expecting a podium finish at least but had to settle for P5 as he crossed the finish line. However, his teammate Luca Filippi had another disappointing weekend and crossed the line in P17.
The 2018 BMW i Berlin E-Prix was one of the cleanest races this season with no retirements and plenty of drivers put in an impressive performance. Jaguar team’s Mitch Evans qualified P9 and finished the race in P7 after a defensive drive in the first half of the race. The man who is second in the driver’s championship, Sam Bird, had a rather disappointing weekend after qualifying tenth fastest couldn’t do better than a P7 finish, which allows Vergne to pull further away in the standings. His DS Virgin teammate Alex Lynn actually qualified faster but finished P16 after what seemed like a technical problem that left him lacking pace really. Another German driver on the grid that did well was Maro Engel, who had qualified thirteenth fastest but was able to finish with some points as he brought his Venturi across the line in P8. Meanwhile his stand-in teammate Tom Dillmann could only manage a P13 finish despite some remarkable overtaking manoeuvers during the race.
This was an important weekend for Team Mahindra but unfortunately, there was not a lot either of their drivers could do. Felix Rosenqvist, the man who had won in Berlin last season, knew this was his last chance to secure enough points to stay within a statistical possibility of claiming the driver’s championship. The young Swede managed to qualify sixth fastest but a heroic attempt around the outside of Turn 1 at the start of the race didn’t quite work out and he fell back to the bottom ten of the order. Rosenqvist seemed like he might just be able to finish in the points near the end of the race but he was picked off by Lotterer and eventually crossed the line in P11, ending his run for the title this season. Nick Heidfeld though did manage to get a point with a P10 finish despite starting 14th on the grid. The experienced German racer having to fight for positions nearly throughout the race.
Piquet seemed poised to earn a few more points for Jaguar and himself but his battle with J. Lopez in the Dragon Racing car in the last quarter of the race saw him go off and so he fell back down the order, finishing in P12. Speaking of the Dragon Racing team, they really did have a terrible result despite having a decent weekend overall. Lopez had qualified eleventh fastest while J. D’Ambrosio managed to start 4th on the grid. The latter was keeping up with the battle for podium positions in the first half but seemed to suffer from technical difficulties in the second stint and crossed the line in a distant P19. On the other hand, Lopez had run off too in his battle with Piquet and then spun out two corners later and ended up finishing P18. Lastly, Antoni Da Costa in the MS&AD Andretti car crossed the line in P15 while his teammate S. Sarrazin finished last.
Vergne is now 40 points clear of Bird in the driver’s championship with three races left as they head to Zurich, Switzerland for the next round. It should be an exciting race as it is the first time the country is playing host to a motorsport event in 60 years. Meanwhile, in the constructor’s title race, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler is closing in on Techeetah thanks to consistent points from both their drivers in the last few races. An immense comeback despite the team’s poor start to the season. Share your thoughts on the Berlin E-Prix in the comments below and subscribe to The Auto Loons for plenty more.
Full race standings:
- D. Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler – 55m35.546s
- L. Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +6.758
- J. Vergne Techeetah +12.894
- S. Buemi Renault E.DAMS +17.282
- O. Turvey Nio Formula E Team +19.620
- M. Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing +24.586
- S. Bird DS Virgin Racing +34.610
- M. Engel Venturi Formula E Team +37.814
- A. Lotterer Techeetah +44.359
- N. Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +45.931
- F. Rosenqvist Mahinda Racing +46.381
- N. Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing +49.087
- T. Dillmann Venturi Formula E Team +50.150
- N. Prost Renault E.DAMS +50.381
- A. Da Costa MS&AD Andretti Formula E +50.381
- A. Lynn DS Virgin Racing +53.000
- L. Filippi Nio Formula E Team +53.302
- J. Lopez Dragon Racing +53.611
- J. D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing +54.289
- S. Sarazzin MS&AD Andretti Formula E +1:06.954