After a COVID-19 enforced break of over five months – 158 days, to be precise – since the Marrakech ePrix, Formula E returns on Wednesday August 5 in Berlin for the first of six races in nine days to round out the championship.

The Circuits

Berlin Tempelhof Street Circuit - 2020 Formula E Championship Layouts

Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit
Location Berlin, Germany Circuit Length 2.250 km (Layouts 1 & 2)  / 2.375km (Layout 3)
Opened 2015 Direction Clockwise (Layout 1) / Anticlockwise (Layouts 2 & 3)
First ePrix 2015 Lap Record 1:09.357 – Lucas di Grassi (2019)

Billed by series organisers as 9, 6, 3, 1 – nine days, six races, three tracks, one champion – Berlin Tempelhof airport forms the ideal location for the championship to provide a number of different races on a number of different track layouts, while keeping the entire paddock of officials, teams and drivers in a quarantined ‘bubble’.

The first two races, to be held as a standard Formula E double-header event over August 5 and 6 will use the ‘traditional’ ten-corner Berlin Tempelhof layout seen in recent seasons, but run clockwise – the reverse direction to normal. Once these two races have been completed, run-off areas and marshalling posts will be realigned and the second pair of races are run across August 8 and 9, using the same course in it usual anticlockwise direction.

Barriers and kerbs will then be moved and reinstalled to create a third circuit with 16 corners and also running anticlockwise. The opening four corners of the lap will remain the same as the ‘traditional’ layout, before the second sector is completely changed, as ten new corners are added in to create a much more technical sequence. Passing is likely at the left-hand Turn 7, which comes at the end of the layout’s back ‘straight’ (which in all reality is an extended right-hand sweep), with the following corners from Turns 8 to 14 likely to see battling cars manoeuvring for a passing line for the run to Turn 15 – the tight, right-hand hairpin which would normally be Turn 9 on the regular circuit. From here, the end of the lap remains the same.

All six races will be run behind closed doors to preserve the event’s COVID-19 safety bubble, with all attendees having been quarantined in hotels upon their arrival in Berlin before being tested ant cleared of the virus before being permitted entry into the circuit precinct.

Each pair of event days will run to a similar format to a normal Formula E double header: The first day will commence with two practice sessions, followed by the four groups running in qualifying and the six fasted drivers progressing to ‘Super Pole’. The 45 minutes plus one lap race is then set to start at 19:03 local time (UTC+2:00). The second day of each event features just a single practice session in the morning, followed by qualifying, ‘Super Pole’ and the race which again goes green at 19:03.

The Form Guide

A break of over five months is longer than most off seasons, so it’s not unexpected that there have been a number of driver changes in that time. After controversially using a substitute sim racer in place of himself during the Formula E Race at Home esports challenge, Daniel Abt was dismissed from his drive with the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team, ending his tenure dating back to Formula E’s first race in 2014. Abt’s position in car 66 for the races in Berlin has been taken by Audi factory driver and two-time DTM champion René Rast.

Abt, who won in Berlin two seasons ago, will still be on the grid for his home races though, having received a lifeline from NIO 333 Racing. The ongoing pandemic has prevented Ma Qing Hua from travelling to Berlin to complete the season, so Abt will drive car 33 in Ma’s absence and keep his run of consecutive Formula E race starts alive.

Former World Endurance Champion and Formula One driver Brendan Hartley has parted ways with GEOX Dragon Racing during the hiatus, with the team promoting their test and reserve driver Sérgio Sette Câmara to fill the seat in Berlin.

Similarly, Pascal Wehrlein announced his departure from Mahindra effective immediately after the completion of the ‘Race at Home’ Challenge, with former Jaguar driver Alex Lynn selected as the substitute for Berlin.

With a maximum of 168 points available over the six races, and António Félix da Costa leading the Drivers’ Championship standings on 67 points, mathematically any driver – even those who have not completed in the first five races of the season – can still take the crown.

In reality, the favourites are those who were competitive before the season break, led by da Costa. The Portuguese driver moved to the head of the standings with victory last time out in Marrakech, taking the championship lead from Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, who now sits in seconds on 56 points. Alexander Sims is third, 10 points behind Evans, with his BMW i Andretti teammate Maximilian Günther a further two points behind, tied on 38 points with former champion Lucas di Grassi.

Heading to Berlin, no driver has won more than once this season, with di Grassi the only driver in the top five to not have claimed one of those victories. While yet to win a race this year, the Brazilian has experience competing for (and winning) the title in a tight Formula E championship battle, and certainly shouldn’t be discounted. Di Grassi is also the defending winner in Berlin, form which could be beneficial across all six races to come.

While it’s highly likely that the championship winner will come from the top five, there are some outsiders who could challenge. The one race winner so far in Season 6 who is not in the top five is Sam Bird, the Envision Virgin Racing driver won the opening race of the series but has since fallen to tenth in the standings on 29 points. The Brit will be leaving the team – with whom he’s run every Formula E race to date – following the final Berlin race, and will no doubt want to end his time with the squad on a high.

In eighth place, just two points ahead of Bird – and in a bottleneck of drivers between sixth and tenth – is reigning champion Jean-Éric Vergne. While much on the focus will be on his DS Techeetah teammate da Costa, Vergne’s experience in taking the title over the past two seasons should see him in good stead to mount another come-from-behind challenge in Berlin.

In the Teams’ Championship standings, da Costa and Vergne have driven DS Techeetah to the lead with 98 points, moving eight clear of second-place BMW i Andretti in Marrakech. Jaguar sits third with 66 points, ahead of Nissan eDams (57 points), Mercedes (56), Audi Sport (46) and Envision Virgin Racing (39 points). While again, mathematically any team could take the title – including NIO333, yet to score – form throughout the five races to date suggests it’s highly likely to DS Techeetah and BMW battling for the title.

Images via ABB FIA Formula E Championship

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Mitch Timms

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