Formula E is back with a bang ! Real racing, on track, resumes this Wednesday at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, with six races scheduled in nine days to decide who will win the 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
The historic German airfield has been chosen to close out the current season, hosting three double-headers in quick succession on August 5/6, 8/9 and 12/13. Each pair of races will use a different track configuration, presenting opportunities for distinct strategies and the conditions for Formula E’s unpredictable and exciting racing.
Formula E had already completed five races before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, with DS Techeetah driver Antonio Felix da Costa topping the standings, but only 11 points clear of nearest rival Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans. The very talented Portuguese driver will be looking to seal his first Formula E title, promoting him onto the champions’ roll of honour alongside team-mate and two-time reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne.
Three major German car manufacturers will play at home, in Berlin, for this very exciting Final 6 of Season 6: Mercedes, who joined the FE Circus recently and is not as dominant, yet, as it proves in F1 year in, year out; BMW, whose partnership with Team Andretti is getting more and more efficient; last but not least, Audi Sport, whose FE operations are managed by three-time Le Mans winner Allan McNish.
“Six-pack is an enormous mental and physical challenge”, McNish says, and he is well aware that the context of the coronavirus pandemia will make this grand finale in Berlin a very special moment in his long career.
Since the first race in September 2014, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler has been competing in Formula E and, in addition to drivers’ and teams’ titles and more than 40 trophies, it has already experienced a lot. But six races in nine days at the same venue – this has never happened before in international motorsport.
“Normally, we have six races in four months. Now, we are going to do them in nine days. This means a lot of emotional, mental and also physical challenges,” McNish adds. “It’s a big task, but also a great opportunity, as I am sure the final championship order will be quite different to how it is now. The Berlin six-pack reminds me a little bit of a restart after a full course yellow with only a few laps to go in the last race of the season.”
In the standings, Lucas di Grassi, champion of the third season and the most successful driver in the series, is in fifth position. At the Brazilian’s side, two-time DTM champion René Rast makes his debut with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. “Lucas is only 29 points behind in the standings. He loves the track and has had great success there in the past together with Audi,” McNish says.
In order to get Formula E back on track, the organizers have drawn up a hygiene concept of almost 80 pages, which has been agreed with the local authorities and contains precise specifications to protect the health of all those involved. McNish praises the efforts behind the scenes: “All the restrictions and special rules we have due to the pandemic will play a big role. As you can imagine, social distancing is a lot easier in an office than in a Formula E paddock. Formula E did a great job in putting together a hygiene concept that allows us to finally go racing again.”
An essential point of the restrictions: there is a maximum of 1,000 people allowed on site at the event – normally, there are usually almost five times as many. That means: of course, no spectators, but also no media, no VIP and sponsor guests, and less personnel from suppliers, track constructors, Formula E and the FIA.
The teams are affected as well. “We have a limitation of 19 staff people plus our two drivers,” McNish explains. “That means all of us have to take over more jobs. This goes for the engineers, who will split their work differently and also for me: I will be in charge of some marketing and PR work, support our team manager with FIA documents and look after various things that are normally taken care of by other team members.”
“The key to success will be to come as best prepared as possible and to keep focused no matter what happens. While concentrating on each of the six races individually, we always have to keep the big picture in mind. When others get tired – mentally or physically – we want to be even stronger.”
The trip to Berlin will round out Formula E’s revised Season 6 calendar at the top level of electric racing, taking the total number of rounds to 11. With the top-four drivers in the championship separated by fewer points than a single race win offers, it’s still all to play for when the racing recommences in Berlin.
Gentlemen, start your batteries !
ABB FIA Formula E Championship Table (after 5/11 races):
1. Antonio Felix da Costa (DS Techeetah) 67 points
2. Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) 56
3. Alexander Sims (BMW Andretti) 46
4. Maximilian Guenther (BMW Andretti) 44
5. Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport) 38
6. Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes EQ) 38
7. Edoardo Mortara (Venturi) 32
8. Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) 31
Berlin E-Prix Winners since 2015:
2019 – Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport)
2018 – Daniel Abt (Audi Sport)
2017 – Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra) & Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams)
2016 – Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams)
2015 – Jerome d’Ambrosio (Dragon Racing)
All information available in several languages on www.fiaformulae.com