Pandemonium in Bern

Pandemonium in the Pits After Massive Pile Up

The final of the Voestalpine European E-Prix Trophy was held in Bern today — the Swiss city of the bear — where the crowds lined every inch of space 8 or 9 deep right around the length of the 2.750 km hard-core street circuit.

A new track in a new location, where everything is different, comes just when the drivers are probably looking for stability, as they head into the final few races in the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E series.

And it really was a fun and challenging narrow track with sharp corners, multiple surfaces, manholes, broken tarmac, extreme cambers, an overly long pit, topped by huge changes in elevation. There was no room for error, and energy conservation was key.  More about the track, the European series, and the city of Bern.

In the Qualifying rounds Kiwi driver Mitch Evans (racing for Panasonic Jaguar) soared to the top of the pack with fastest time at 1.18.897 meaning he was one of the top six drivers to have a shot at Super Pole. But in the shootout, he was just pipped by Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne, affectionately known as JEV (racing for DS Techeetah). This put the 24 year old Kiwi in second place, but still on the front row on the starting grid. However, the extra three points would have been very useful for the Jaguar Driver who was in 7th place in the championship and 8th place for the Voestalpine Trophy.

Before the race and the day before his birthday, Mitch Evans reflects on missing the Superpole position and discusses the track.  

Now at the business end of the Championship, it was an exciting, rapid race, with Evans making Vergne work hard at every turn, despite rain in the last few minutes creating a slippery surface. Even so, Vergne managed his third consecutive podium finish. He now has a 32-point lead in the Championship as they head for the double-header finale in New York. Evans rocket to 4th place in the Championship and in third place Sebastien Beumi (Nissan e.Dams), looked happy to make the podium just 100km from his home town.

From the start line, heading to the first corner it was looking like Buemi might overtake Evans on the left, but as the right hand corner swiftly changed back to a left hand around the chicane, Evans blocked the Nissan car retaining his second place.

And then Bam!

From behind at the same pinch point on the first chicane at consecutive turns 12, 13 and 14, came a real mess with two accidents. The first caused by a collision between Mahindra Racing's Pascal Wehrlein hitting Geox Dragon's Max Gunther.  Unable to clear the mess, Mahindra's Jerome d'Ambrosio shunted Envision Virgin Racing's Robin Frijins spinning his car and leaving him stranded on track with a broken drivetrain With both incidents blocking the way through, it looked promising for the front three who were ahead of the mess. And at the back of the pack, veterans di Grassi and Da Costa managed to avoid the pileup and go around the pack to follow the front runners.

But a lot of cars sustained wreckage and/or were stuck in the carnage and the red flag came out, stopping the clock and meaning the entire field had to head back to pits retaining the starting grid positions for a restart.

 

Pandomonium ensued in the pits with several drivers, including Audi driver di Grassi heatedly arguing that they had crossed the first sector time line, so race positions should be retained. It was an important issue for championship contenders di Grassi and Da Costa at the back of the pack, who had managed to go around the crash zone and into the head of the pack. However, the officials stated (and cameras confirmed) that the red flag flew before the back of the pack crossed the sector line. Race rules prevailed as there was no way reorder the bulk of the field. There was also a red flag incorrectly flown early and quickly replaced with a yellow, meaning some drivers may not have been racing.

Di Grassi vehemently pleads for race positions to be upheld

Sadly the race was over for Frijins. Carrying on but not finishing was Oliver Rowland (Nissan e.Dams), Pascal Werhlein (Mahindra) and Swiss driver Edoardo Mortara (Venturi). The remaining pack quickly made repairs, including a whole new side panel for Lotterer's car, and headed back out behind the BMW i8 Safety Car.

The race for first and second by the DS Techeetah car and the Panasonic Jaguar car was mirrored by their team mates further down the pack in 8th and 9th position. But only Andre Lotterer (DS Techeetah) managed to increase his lead.

James Barclay, Panasonic Jaguar Team Director.
In all-electric racing, the team play a significant role in battery management during the race. 

Vergne, with Evans on his tail began to build a healthy gap over champion Swiss driver Buemi. But Slowing on track, Pascal Wehrlein ground to a halt just after Turn 8. Under a Full Course Yellow, the Mahindra driver's car was pulled off track.

With the pack regrouped, Buemi was back close behind Evans having successfully defended his provisional podium position while Sam Bird had made it into fourth. 

Making use of his FANBOOST, home race hero Buemi again attempted to take Evans for second place with less than seven minutes left on the clock. But all eyes were on Evans as he attacked Vergne over and over, taking the initiative with Attack mode, but unable to squeeze past the leader.

At the same time, Lotterer went on the attack, determined to take Sam Bird's fourth position and eventually slipping past him on Turn 7. But time was running out for the German to get a podium finish on the quick and narrow track.

Each driver goes through the weigh-in immediately after the race.

At the checkered flag, Evans trailed Vergne by 1.6 seconds and both drivers finished with just 2% battery left. Buemi in third had just 1% left.

 

Tradition in Formula-E is the podium selfie. Here they are joined by Vergne's son.

 

Following the race, DS Techeetah's Andre Lotterer was handed a Drive Through Penalty (which converted to a 22-second time penalty) by the FIA (motorsport's governing body) for ignoring the pit exit light. The decision drops the German driver to 14th, denying him the 12 points he earned for a fourth place finish. Rising to second in the standings is Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Lucas di Grassi with 98 points — still 32 adrift of the Vergne in the Championship lead. And our very own Mitch Evans will be heading to New York in third overall for the championship.

The Zero Emission Formula E car will have to return to a single motor next season.

Also in news this week, a decision has been handed down by FIA that all Formula E cars will have just a single motor next season. Disappointing news for team Nissan e.Dams who, have spent the past season finessing a complex dual motor setup.

 

Next Race

All that remains of the current season is the double header finale, set to be on the streets of New York on 13th and 14th July. It will be the last time the city plays host to the finale, as next season it's heading to the exciting new indoor/outdoor ExCel track in London's Docklands area.

Earlier this month, British prime minister, Teresa May, announced that her government has revised its goal of cutting GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, to zero emissions by the same year. This is to include not only transport but homes, farming and industry as well. This radical plan makes the UK the first major nation to set such a target.

Promoting low emission all-electric transport, a Formula-E Gen 2 single seater racing car parked in front of 10 Downing Street for the government announcement on June 12th 2019.

Don't forget to give your fanboost vote to your favourite driver every 24 hours before the race. It gives them an extra 25 kW boost during a 5-second window which, in the right conditions, might be just enough to secure a race. 


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