A new circuit in a familiar city awaits the FIA Formula E championship this Saturday, as the series returns to Berlin for the eighth race of the 2015-16 season.

The Circuit

2016 Berlin ePrix circuit

2016 Berlin ePrix circuit

2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship – Berlin ePrix
Date 21 May 2016 Lap Length 2.030km
Free Practice Session 1 Sat 08:15-09:00 Free Practice Session 2 Sat 10:30-11:00
Qualifying Group 1 Sat 12:00-12:06 Qualifying Group 2 Sat 12:10-12:16
Qualifying Group 3 Sat 12:20-12:26 Qualifying Group 4 Sat 12:30-12:36
Super Pole Sat 12:45-13:00 Race (48 laps) Sat 16:00-16:50

Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT +02:00)

With Berlin Tempelhof Airport being used to house people displaced in the European refugee crisis, the Formula E field moves to a new venue within the city, a more traditional street circuit around Strausberger Platz and Alexanderplatz. The 2.030-kilometre, anti-clockwise circuit will be a welcome change for the drivers who bemoaned the overly-technical airport layout, as four long straights are the dominant feature of the new track.

The 180-degree left-hand Turn 1 punctuates one of these straights, and provides an ideal passing opportunity. This leads into another long straight, before a tight left/right chicane comprising the Turns 2 and 3 complex. A good exit from here will be important, as it leads through the fast Turn 4 right-hand sweeper that feeds onto another straight with a passing opportunity at the end: the left-hand Turn 5.

Another 90-degree left handed follows at Turn 6, which feeds the cars in the opposite direction along the Lichtenberger Straβe, another long straight. That precedes a series of sweeping corners through Turns 7, 8 and 9 which run counterclockwise around the Strausberger Platz roundabout.

This run is immediately halted by another tight 180-degree hairpin at Turn 10, providing another potential passing opportunity. A final sweeping right hand corner brings the cars back on to the start finish straight.

Ahead of his home event, Daniel Abt described his excitement to drive the new layout.

“Last year the track layout was really nice from a driving point of view, but actually it was not that easy to overtake and I think this year with the track we have it’s going to be really good for racing,” he said.

“We have long straights, hard braking zones and that’s exactly what you need if we’re going to have close action on track, especially with the energy saving that we do. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be really exciting. We’ve seen that at a track like Buenos Aires with a long straight and a hairpin afterwards it creates a thrilling spectacle, and I think what we have here is very promising for that. I don’t know how the streets will look but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very challenging for the drivers and very good for the fans.”

The Form Guide

With the Moscow round which was scheduled for Roun 9 having been cancelled, the Berlin event takes on far more significance in the championship battle between ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas do Grassi and Renault e.Dams Sébastien Buemi.

Having won three races so far this season – including the past two in succession – di Grassi is clearly the form driver in the championship and holds an eleven-point lead over Buemi leading in to Berlin. Buemi has also showed incredible pace and racecraft to move towards the front of the field in recent events, but on several occasions poor qualifying performances have stopped the Swiss driver from battling with his Brazilian rival from the start of the race. Given di Grassi is the only driver in the field to have finished each race at or better than his qualifying position, another sub-par qualifying performance in Berlin may make the title a bridge too far for Buemi to achieve.

Along with the championship combatants, the fight for the win in Berlin is likely to also include the two Dragon cars of Loïc Duval and Jérôme d’Ambrosio, the two DS Virgins of Sam Bird and Jean-Éric Vergne, the two Venturis of Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin, and the second Renault e.Dams of Nicolas Prost.

DTM commitments with BMW for António Félix da Costa have forced another driver change for Team Aguri, so Audi GT3 and former LMP1 driver René Rast joins Ma Qing Hua for Berlin. In what will be his first serious open-wheel competition since racing in Formula BMW, Rast is looking forward to the challenge.

“Driving a Formula E car on the streets of Berlin will be something very special and I’d like to thank the team for this great opportunity,” he said ahead of the event.

“I have been in the simulator for the last few days to get a good feel for the car. While these cars have their own unique demands, I am confident that I can get up to speed quickly and use my experience in energy management to deliver a strong result for the team.”

There had initially been a need for NEXTEV TCR to find a substitute for Oliver Turvey, who was due to miss the event owing to his SuperGT commitments in Japan, however the Autopolis event of that championship has been postponed, meaning the Briton is free to take his spot on the grid in Berlin.

At the time of writing, Ma Qing Hua leads the FanBoost vote, ahead of Buemi, Sarrazin and Simona de Silvestro.

Image via Rubina

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Mitch Timms

Journalist at MotorsportM8
Professional motorsport engineer and all-round tech head.