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Yet another "New" Track, as Formula E Unveils Fresh Layout for Berlin's Tempelhof Circuit

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

The pre-World War II Tempelhof Airport; Image Credits - Formula E

The Berlin E Prix has been a regular feature on the Formula E calendar. Scratch that — it hasn't just been regular. The German capital has played host to Formula E across each of its nine previous seasons, in various guises and track layouts.

And ahead of the upcoming tenth season of Formula E, the track has been given a fresh makeover, incorporating longer straights and technical sections into a speedy track layout. The changes have been brought about as a result of development work around the disused airport, with track designers seizing on the opportunity to design a new circuit.

The 2023 Berlin E Prix; Image Credits - Andreas Beil

The centre of action — the Tempelhof airport, once an iconic pre-World War II airport, now wears a deserted look to its yesteryears. A stone's throw from the airport is a massive park, the 'Tempelhofer Feld', a popular haunt for Berliners every year. It is also the largest inner city open space in the world, spaced at a sprawling 355 hectares.

The park is a major tourist attraction, yet, the historic airport has seen no shortage of events either. The location has been a popular host for music concerts and festivals alike, apart from being the proud host of the electric racing championship. In fact, the homegrown Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) have also contemplated racing here, before shelving their plans.

Round 7 of the 2019-20 Formula E season took place on the reverse layout; Image Credit - Zak Mauger

Yet, this iconic airport has etched its space in motorsport — it hosts the annual Berlin E Prix double header. In fact, it is the only circuit on the calendar to host a race on the reverse configuration — a rarity in motorsport. While most motorsport enthusiasts wonder how a track would fare when the layout is reversed, the Berlin E Prix has been resoundingly successful.

A major characteristic of the Tempelhof Airport circuit is its abrasive track surface — the track made up of repeating concrete slabs. As a result, drivers have to nurse their tyres along the track surface, making for an even tougher test against the speed and the of the track.

Only once has this disused airport not hosted a race, in season three, back in 2016, when the site was used as a temporary shelter for around 7000 refugees. Every other year, Tempelhof has played host to the Berlin E Prix, across various configurations and layouts.

And versatility is a key asset to this twisty Formula E track. The inaugural Berlin E Prix was run on a longer version of the racetrack, featuring a tight and twisty last sector of chicanes and slow corners, integral to a great lap time.

The inaugural 2015 Berlin E Prix took place on a longer, more technical version of the track; Image Credits - Adam Warner

However, on its return in 2017, the track featured a striking new layout, used until 2023, eliminating this mickey-mouse section for a simpler series of corners. However, the revision of this section of track was overshadowed by the ever-tightening 270-degree left-hander of turn one, a familiar sight for fans of the sport.

The track had another ace up its sleeve — the wide turn six, allowing drivers to take multiple lines, and race side-by-side into this expansive left-hand hairpin. Coupled with the attack mode detection point on the outside of the corner, drivers regularly battled fiercely into the fast left-hander of turn seven, in scenes of epic racing.

The major overtaking zone on the track, turn six; Image Credit - Formula E

The circuit's versatility really came to the fore in 2020. When Formula E was forced to cancel its remaining races from the 2019-20 Formula E season due to the impending COVID-19 pandemic, the Tempelhof Airport circuit stepped up, and hosted six races in nine days to conclude the season.

To generate hype for the title fight, organisers coined the line: 9 days, 6 races, 3 drivers, 1 champion, to hint at the massive plan Formula E would put into action over the course of the following week-and-a-half, to conclude yet another exciting Formula E season.

And it was in 2020 when the reverse track layout made its debut, hosting round seven of 11 in the 2019-20 Formula E season. It was such a hit among drivers, the layout became a feature of the Berlin E Prix double-header, with the weekend's first race held on the regular, anti-clockwise circuit, and the next day's race held on the reverse layout, a clockwise layout.

The layout's most important race was the action-packed season finale in 2021, featuring a red flag, two championship contenders eliminated early, and one of the Andretti drivers in 2024 taking his maiden race victory. His current team mate experienced heartbreak on that fateful day, clipping the wall on the main straight, and veering into the run-off area, out of the race, and the championship fight.

And now, on the tenth anniversary of the event, the track is set to receive another makeover, featuring a 2.585 km (1.6 mi) long layout, with modifications to the two existing straights, linked by a series of technical sections.

The track layout for the 2024 Berlin E Prix weekend; Image Credit - Formula E

The new layout aims to favour the current Gen3 cars, proven to be faster, lighter, and more efficient, compared to the previous Gen2 cars. So, how would this layout challenge the drivers, and showcase some thrilling racing, then?

The Gen3 cars can flex their immense speed along the straights, while the duo of hairpins provide a great opportunity to make an overtake.

The track also possesses a variety of corners in its arsenal. Fast corners, high-speed kinks, medium-speed corners, slow speed hairpins, it has every trick in the book to challenge today's crop of Formula E drivers.

The track will prove to be just as testing to the 22 Formula E drivers as its predecessor, with a trio of left-hand kinks expected to lay down a stern challenge to the grid. The hairpins of turns two and nine will prove just as testing, as will the in-field section of corners, a series of slower corners compared to the older version of the track.

The location will host the Berlin double-header on Saturday, May 11th, and Sunday, May 12th, rounds 10 and 11 of the season respectively, in a record 17-race Formula E calendar.

Pablo Martino, Formula E Head of Sporting Matters, FIA, praised the new layout, highlighting the challenge it would pose to the drivers:

The new Berlin Tempelhof layout retains all the soul of the old circuit, while presenting new challenges for drivers and teams – putting skill behind the wheel as well as efficiency and energy consumption truly to the test.

"The combination of fast, medium and slow-speed corners will give rise to a number of different set-up choices, handing the advantage to different drivers in different parts of the lap, while two major overtaking zones mean exciting races are guaranteed!

He also spoke about the off-track specialties continuing to exist, even with the changes in the track layout:

"Fans can still enjoy all the specialities the Berlin round has to offer including live music performances, racing simulators in the gaming arena and so much more. The famous podium has also been relocated for Season 10, moving into the heart of the Allianz Fan Village so everyone can be part of the driver’s winning celebrations. Did someone say Champagne showers?!"

In the history of Formula E, the Berlin E-Prix and its iconic location at Tempelhof Airport has always been a great and firm asset to our championship,” quoted Claudia Denni, Sporting Director, Formula E, mentioning the history of the circuit.

The new layout for Season 10 will create the right conditions for an even more thrilling race, with a faster, technical track and potential for higher top speeds.

As always, on the sporting event preparation and delivery, Formula E will continue to be supported by the DMSB and the professional sporting club ADAC, which we take the opportunity to thank for their loyalty and affection to our electric series.

The loyalty and affection adds another layer to the hype surrounding the Berlin E Prix weekend, with fans eagerly tuning in to the event, either at the track, or on their electronic devices, eagerly awaiting to see the spectacle this pre-WW2 airport provides, for three days of the calendar year!


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