With its European leg now underway, Formula E championship race meetings are now coming thick and fast, with the next event – the Berlin ePrix – taking place this Saturday, May 23.
|2015 FIA Formula E Berlin ePrix|
|Date||23 May 2015||Lap Length||1.760km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:15-09:00||Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:30-11:00|
|Qualifying Group 1||Sat 12:00-12:10||Qualifying Group 2||Sat 12:15-12:25|
|Qualifying Group 3||Sat 12:30-12:40||Qualifying Group 4||Sat 12:45-12:55|
|FanBoost||Sat 15:50||Race||Sat 16:00-17:00|
* Session times are quoted in Central European Summer Time (UTC +02:00 hrs)
Whilst still on a temporary course constructed in the middle of a city, the Berlin event is the first Formula E championship race to not take place on a street circuit in the traditional sense – instead, the temporary track has been constructed on the apron of the historic former Berlin Tempelhof Airport.
Having originally opened as an airfield in 1923, major development during the 1930s saw Tempelhof become Berlin’s major commercial airport, and the site became the centre of the Berlin Airlift during the Berlin blockade of 1948-1949. Since its closure in October 2008, the former airport has become an important open space for Berliners, with the park and hangars hosting events such as music festivals, fairs and now Formula E, while sections of the heritage terminal buildings have been converted into exhibition and office spaces.
The Formula E circuit runs anti-clockwise, and stands to be one of the most technical tracks of the season, with 17 corners packed into its 2.469-kilometre length. The 170-degree left-hand hairpin at Turn 1 will likely provide a prime overtaking spot, however there if both cars get good traction out of the corner and remain side-by-side through Turn 2, there is a chance for the passed car to re-take its position at the right-hand Turn 3 Another possible switch-back opportunity follows at Turn 4.
The long, sweeping right-hand Turn 5 leads to another passing opportunity at Turns 6 and 7. Turns 8 and 9 are much more open right hand turns, before the left-handed Turn 10 hairpin provides what on paper appears to be the final ‘traditional’ overtaking location on the circuit. Turn 11 is a slight kink to the left before the very technical final section of the lap. Turns 12 to 17 are all quite tight and follow one another in very short succession; a well set-up car capable of changing direction quickly, in turn allowing the driver to link this complex of corners together will be vital for a fast lap time.
There are also two other potential challenges that teams and drivers may have to combat at this event: the track surface, and possible changes in light. Being constructed on the airport apron, the track is a mostly concrete surface, which will likely provide a different level of grip and tyre degradation rate to what the teams usually experience on an asphalt surface with the grooved Michelin all-weather tyre. It would not be surprising to see some drivers perform longer runs in practice to gauge the tyre performance over a race stint.
Sections of the circuit are very close to the terminal building, with turns 13, 14 and 17 almost being under the awning of the terminal. Similar to what is often talked about with the change of light into and out of the tunnel at the Monaco Grand Prix, the need for driver’s eyes to adapt to sudden in changes in light while remaining focused on such a technical section of the Berlin circuit may lead to some mistakes, especially later in the race.
For German Venturi driver Nick Heidfeld, simulator testing has suggested his home race will be a real challenge for the drivers: The last sector is very tight and very twisty but we’ve already had the chance to drive it on the simulator. The first two sectors of the track are quite difficult and a lot of the corners are not typical street circuit. It’s the most difficult circuit I have driven so far, at least it is on the simulator.”
The Form Guide
Monaco ePrix winner Sébastien Buemi (edams.Renault) is currently the form driver in the series, and after being a pre-season favourite, is hunting down Audi Sport ABT’s championship leader Lucas di Grassi.
But for the Swiss driver, his focus is on the Berlin race, where a good result will let the championship fight take care of itself: “It’s different, quite wide and bumpy in places so we will have to adapt to that. We will see more overtaking as it’s wide enough in places with various differing racing lines. I think it’s still quite early but it was great to win in Monaco. We lost pole in Long Beach so it was great to finally nail it. We feel confident in the car and the package that if we put everything together we can achieve a good result.”
Practice one for the Berlin ePrix begins at 08:15 local time (UTC +2:00), followed by the second practice session at 10:30. The qualifying groups are on track from 12:00, before the announcement of the FanBoost winners at 15:50 and Race start at 16:00.
Images via FIA Formula E Championship and Demotix