Battle for Berlin FormulaE

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

The penultimate race in the Voestalpine European Trophy Races was held in Berlin in the historic Tempelhof Airport yesterday.

It is also the fourth to last race in the overall ABB FIA Formula E 2018/19 series.


The track is unusual for Formula E street racing, as it’s situated on the giant apron of the airport terminal building in which Formula E have created a layout that presents a number of challenges to the teams and drivers. The track itself is not tarmac or bitumen, but old concrete. It’s a rough, high grip surface which is extremely abrasive on tyres. The circuit is wide, and with more distance between each of the ten turns, there are plenty of chances to overtake, and less chance for battery regen. Otherwise, the conditions are ideal at 16ºC and dry.

Winning the Julius Bär superpole position is Nissan e.dams driver Sebastien Buemi from Switzerland. He is joined in the front row by fan favourite Stoffel Vandoorne racing for HWA Racelab.

Buemi wins Julius Baer Super Pole in Berlin 25 May 2019 
Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) is one of the most successful drivers in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship (as well rival Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler)


As one of the series' four champions, the Swiss driver not only has the most wins to his name but an outstanding number of Julius Baer Pole Positions to match. 

In the all important second row, is Lucas di Grassi driving for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, and rookie driver Gary Paffet also racing for HWA Racelab.

New Zealand’s own Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar) did well in the first practice race but didn’t win a chance to try for the Super Pole shoot-out; starting in the 9th row. Through clever use of Attack Mode, he did manage to elevate himself to 12th position by race end, still short of much needed points for the series championship.

Two cars did not finish, Andre Lotterer, driving for DS Techeetah, and Panasonic Jaguar’s replacement second driver, Alexander Lynn, who was otherwise having a brilliant race.


But before the race began, a minute of silence was held to honour three times Formula 1 Champion, Niki Lauda, who passed away this week, aged 70.


Race 10 Recap

The field quickly readjusted itself with Lotterer climbing from last place (22nd) into 16th during the first lap.

Meanwhile, Buemi held the lead, but four minutes in, di Grassi passed Vandoorne moving into second place. At the same time Robin Frijns (Envision Virgin) in last place was the first to activate Attack Mode, jumping 4 spots. Two minutes later di Grassi successfully challenged Buemi for the lead – both times passing on Turn 6.

di Grassi goes wide and takes the lead

The next 10 minutes saw a lot of manoeuvring in the back of the pack with the majority of drivers alternately activating Attack Mode and jumping and falling several places.

Sam Bird (Envision Virgin) with an extra 25 kW in Attack Mode overtakes Edoardo Mortara (Venturi)

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Paffet and Vandoorne battled for third. Di Grassi increased his lead to 1.3 seconds ahead of Buemi, and Audi’s Daniel Abt moved up into fourth at Turn 1, sending Vandoorne back a place.

"Heads Up" display on da Costa's windscreen

With each passing lap, Gary Paffet continued to lose places,  dropping back to eight place. Whereas starting on 7th pole, Antonio Felix da Costa (BMW I Andretti Motorsport) began to climb. With 21 minutes remaining and using his Attack Mode, da Costa passed Abt and began to pester Vandoorne for third place, taking him on the infamous Turn 6 moments later. He then passed Buemi to take second place despite Buemi being in Attack Mode, while da Costa had already returned to normal power.

With just over 20 minutes to go, di Grassi finally launched the first of his two power boosts, increasing his lead to 4.3 seconds.


With 18 minutes remaining, Jean Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) passed Lynn moving into 6th place. Then a minute later, Buemi engaged his FANBOOST to regain lost ground overtaking da Costa to move back into second. And Vergne followed, overtaking both Abt and Vandoorne to slot in behind da Costa in 4th place.

With just under 16 minutes to go, Alex Lynn stopped on the start/finish line, reporting that his rear axel had ceased up. With a Full Course Yellow deployed while Lynn's stricken car was recovered, di Grassi held onto a hefty lead. The majority of the field activated Attack Mode, which seemed to go to waste during the yellow flag, as no passing is allowed under a Full Course Yellow. Only di Grassi, Abt and Evans timing it nicely to still have a power boost when the racing restarted with just under 10 minutes to go.

Pascal Werlein (Mahindra Racing) strangely seemed to activate his second Attack Mode while still in his first attack mode, and it wasn’t immediately clear what the result of this was, no-one having ever done this before.


But the racing wasn’t decided yet. With just over 6 minutes to go, Vergne took da Costa on the inside of Turn 10 to move into third place on the podium. His teammate Lotterer found himself in the pits due to a battery issue, ending his home-town race early.

There was a few minutes worry that the cars wouldn’t have enough power left to finish the race, but with just the final lap to go, they all ranged between 7% and 9%. In the final lap Vergne unsuccessfully tried to take Buemi, while di Grassi sailed past the chequered flag maintaining a 1.856 second lead, and winning the cup for Audi in their capital city.



The final of the Voestalpine European Races will be held in Bern, Switzerland on 22nd June.

How to watch:

Then there is just the double header finale on July 13th and 14th on the streets of New York.



[Rachelle Tilsley - Better NZ Trust - 26 May 2019]

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