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Formula E preview: Berlin

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

Season Ten of Formula E heads into the final European round of the season, and officially heads into the second half of the 2024 season, as teams and drivers make their way to Berlin for the first of four double headers to round out the season.

The German capital is a staple on the Formula E calendar, and has played host to an astonishing 16 races across nine seasons — including six in a row at the end of the COVID-shortened season six in 2020. With the layout proving versatile and having multiple configurations, races have taken place on various configurations of the track.

Since season seven, the second race of the traditional Berlin double-header has taken place on the reverse configuration of the anticlockwise layout used for Saturday's race, a by-product of successfully hosting six races in a row. This has become part and parcel of the Berlin race weekend.

However, this is no normal Berlin weekend. Yes, the double header is still being held around the disused Tempelhof airfield. Although, the layout for this year's running of the Berlin E Prix has been turned on its head. Track designers have completely flipped the switch, incorporating a much quicker, faster layout, to keep up with the rapidly-evolving Formula E cars. More on this in the next section.

The track layout isn't the only big change you will notice for this weekend. Formula E's Berlin double-header is set to clash with World Endurance Championship's 6 Hours of Spa event, meaning some big names will be missing in action at Berlin.

This includes the likes of Envision Racing's Sebastian Buemi and Robin Frijns, as well as Mahindra Racing's Nyck de Vries, while Nico Muller will also be missing out in ABT Cupra's home race.

Step forward their replacements. Formula 2 racer Paul Aron steps up to fill the big shoes at the green team, while former Dragon Penske racer Joel Eriksson returns to the series for the reigning champions, who are yearning for a big result to turn around a tough season so far.

Mahindra reserve, and former Formula 2 racer and commentator Jordan King steps in to fill the shoes of de Vries, who will be piloting the Toyota #7 hypercar around the mighty Spa-Francorchamps, while ABT Cupra reserve Kelvin van der Linde fills the shoes of Muller, who will be at the wheel of the Peugeut hypercar at Spa.

On the other hand, NEOM McLaren reserve Taylor Barnard will continue to fill in for Sam Bird at the Berlin double header, as he fills in for his fellow Briton who broke his arm in a crash during free practice at Monaco two weeks ago. Bird has undergone successful surgery on his left hand, and is set to miss the final European round, in a bid to recuperate and regain fitness for the rest of the season.

Only a day after the conclusion of proceedings of the Berlin E Prix weekend, teams and drivers will take part in the rookie test around the Tempelhof circuit, fielding two drivers who haven't raced a Formula E car. The test will see a heterogenous line-up of 22 racers take to the track, coming from Formula 2, Formula 3, DTM, Feeder Series, IndyCar, and even F1 Academy's reigning champion is set to take part.

So then, with plenty of changes up and down the grid, and within the event, and only a race victory separating the top five drivers, this weekend is set to be a cracking weekend of racing. Here are the standings heading into rounds nine and ten of the 2024 Formula E season:

Drivers' standings:

Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) - 102 points

Nick Cassidy (Jaguar TCS Racing) - 95 points

Jake Dennis (Andretti Formula E Team) - 89 points

Oliver Rowland (Nissan Formula E Team) - 88 points

Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) - 77 points

Constructors' standings:

Jaguar TCS Racing - 172 points

TAG Heuer Porsche - 128 points

Andretti Formula E Team - 113 points

Nissan Formula E Team - 112 points

DS Penske - 102 points

The track layout for the event

When you remember the Berlin E Prix, you remember famous points such as the popular, never-ending left hander of turn one, the quick stretch under the 'tunnel' between turns three and four, or the wide left-hander of turn six, a corner revered as an overtaking spot on the circuit, with the Douglas DC-9 plane in full view on the inside of the corner.

However, changes to the track feature a revised pit lane, the 2.343 km (1.4 mi) long layout featuring the main straight now shifted to the location between the erstwhile turns five and six. The old turn six is the new turn two, and the nature of this corner means we can expect plenty of action and jockeying for position in the opening metres of the race.

Contrary to its predecessor, the revised Berlin layout takes the drivers into two slower left-right corners of turns three and four, bringing them onto another speed stretch, encompassing the quick kink of turn five.

The speedy run along this section opens up overtaking opportunities into the double-right of turns six and seven. Originally the slow hairpin corner of turn nine on the old circuit, this corner served as an overtaking opportunity for drivers getting a slingshot from the quick sweeping turns seven and eight. However, the double-right hander will definitely make for a sterner test to the drivers during the weekend.

Here after, the layout matches that of its predecessor, with only the corner numbers varying, as the left-hander of turn nine takes drivers onto what used to be the main 'straight' of the track, angled to the left, all the way down to the turn one loop.

However, this corner, and the ensuing series of turns are now replaced with a trio of left-handers, consisting of turns 12, 13, and 14, with a quick kink of turn 15 taking the drivers back onto the main straight, and across the finish line for a lap of the Berlin E Prix circuit.

A unique trait to the Berlin Tempelhof circuit is its track surface — composed of repeating concrete slabs, the harsh surface is often known to be abrasive, and causes much higher tyre degradation and wear on race day, forcing drivers to be smoother in their inputs, and avoid sliding too much into corners.

All in all, when comparing the old and new layouts, the major differences visible include the slow corners of turns three and four, and the triple left-handers of turns 12, 13, and 14. Otherwise, the layout bears plenty of resemblance to its predecessor.

Season nine's Berlin E Prix weekend provided an aggregate of 362 overtakes across the weekend, and with a speedier layout in store for this weekend, expect yet more overtaking action during the race weekend.

Drivers to watch out for:

With momentum on his side as the championship leader, and the chasing pack not far off, could the sights and sounds of a home race inject an extra bit of speed into Pascal Wehrlein, and bring about another strong weekend for the Porsche driver? An excellent showing at home could prove crucial to his quest for a maiden Formula E championship, and Porsche's run for a maiden Formula E title.

Another driver taking part in his home race this weekend is Maserati's Max Gunther. The Maserati driver has blown hot and cold in the first half of his campaign, taking victory at Tokyo and netting a podium at Misano, but hasn't been able to display the consistency of the championship-contending quartet.

A great showing at home could catapult him into championship contention, and Gunther is known to produce some outstanding performances. Could this be the weekend he truly steps up and brings home some big results?

The Jaguar duo of Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans worked together to pull off an excellent one-two finish at Monaco, the latter becoming the seventh different driver to stand on the top step of the podium in 2024. The duo have strengthened Jaguar's stranglehold over the constructors' championship, holding a massive 44-point lead over their closest contender. Could this highly-touted driver line-up continue to dominate proceedings into the second half of the season?

Elsewhere, Berlin marked the beginning of a successful run to glory for reigning champion Jake Dennis in season nine.

Consistency had been his kryptonite early on last season, the Nuneaton native struggling to notch up points, until a second position finish in the second race of the Berlin weekend kicked off a five-race podium streak, and a golden run of nine top four finishes, taking him all the way to the championship. Coming off a non-score at Monaco, could the Andretti racer mark his return to points around the Tempelhof airport?

Finally, no mention of season ten can be made without taking Oliver Rowland's name. The Barnsley native has been a revelation for a rejuvenated Nissan outfit this season, scoring podiums at will, and even experiencing a moment in victory lane after Antonio Felix Da Costa was disqualified at Misano. Rowland knows what it's like to win at this venue, having triumphed in 2020 for..... Nissan, under the e.DAMS nomenclature. Could he become the second repeat winner of 2024?

Special mention goes out to the likes of Aron, King, Eriksson, and van der Linde, who will be subbing for the full-time drivers of those seats. Do keep a keen eye on Aron, the Estonian racer having the form of his life, sitting second in the Formula 2 standings in 2024 for Hitech.

Timings for the weekend (in BST)

For this weekend's double-header, the timings are as follows, in British Standard Time (BST):

Round Nine

Friday, 10th May, 2024:

Free Practice 1: 15:55 - 16:45

Saturday, 11th May, 2024:

Free Practice: 06:55 - 07:45

Qualifying: 09:20 - 10:43

Main Race (35 laps): 14:03 - 15:30

Round Ten

Sunday, 12th May, 2024

Free Practice 3: 6:55 - 7:45

Qualifying: 09:20 - 10:43

Main Race (33 laps): 14:03 - 15:30

Vyas's predictions

Let's go bold for this weekend. Being in front of the home crowd, I would predict Max Gunther to step up and deliver for Maserati MSG Racing, taking a special victory to bring himself into championship contention, with Rowland and Cassidy rounding out the podium.

The second race, however, will see a different set of contenders, and I predict Wehrlein taking a home victory to strengthen his grip on the championship standings, with Jake Dennis and Evans rounding out the podium.

Elsewhere, I would predict McLaren youngster Barnard netting a point in either race, as he looks to build on a solid 14th position finish at Monaco.

That's it, then. With a slew of changes, and plenty of action expected across the weekend, you do not want to miss it. Do tune in to the action this weekend, and witness yet more overtaking action!


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