Goodness, it’s been a weird one in Berlin. Nothing about the Tempelhof races has been normal, even by whatever standards you want to apply as ‘new’ but perhaps the most surprising development, for anyone who’s been covering Formula E for years and got into the habit of dealing with a penalty noticeboard that looks like a conspiracy theorists’ bedroom wall, is that no one’s been misbehaving.
It all started off normally, with 21 decisions issued during the first Berlin round. That’s the kind of thing you expect from Formula E; highly specific technical infringements, teams pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with and sometimes getting it wrong, drivers getting into argy-bargy on track, cars needing emergency fixes that merit a grid drop… All the classics.
When I started writing these features, before Inside Electric had even been thought of, it was because often Formula E results change dramatically post-race and the structure of the events means you didn’t necessarily get time to make sense of that. Drivers would be disqualified hours after the event for seemingly nonsensical or arcane reasons – because we just aren’t as familiar with Formula E’s six-year-old regulations as some other series – and trying to work out which sporting article applied where was enough of a deep-dive that it seemed worth doing.
Especially in a series where the races themselves are far apart, breaking down exactly what happened and how it ultimately affected the results is definitely worthwhile, between events. When you’ve got dozens of stewards’ enquiries to process there’s plenty to tuck in to.
And maybe that’s what changed here. Because we’ve never had six races in nine days before – and probably, hopefully, never will again – so although the teams are exhausted, maybe all those issues that come from taking the cars out of freight storage after a month and setting everything up in less than a day are just less of a thing when you’re settled into a rhythm and a garage. And maybe the drivers are behaving themselves more than usual, with so much at stake and knowing that they can’t risk damage to compromise the next event. It’s definitely worth looking at what, exactly, the operational constraints at Tempelhof affected about the racing.
Which all brings me to yesterday’s race, where exactly one (1) penalty was handed out.
Jean-Eric Vergne was one of the wrist-slapped drivers on Saturday, issued at €1000 fine for not attending the post-race media sessions. He repeated the stunt, earning him a further bill for €2000 as well as whatever he paid for an earlier flight home…
It might sound petty to fine drivers for not turning up to media sessions but they are obligatory as part of the regulations and it’s important for teams to get coverage of themselves to secure sponsorship, especially with such a condensed and disrupted season. Techeetah no doubt understand why JEV skipped the sessions and given his, uh, strong words on the TV broadcast about a variety of topics it’s understandable if they thought putting (virtually) in front of the press wouldn’t help matters.
But also, as a journalist, really disappointing to not be able to get quotes from him after a difficult season. So I’d have to side with the stewards here and say it’s a bit immature not to show up to a ten-minute press conference – you can always give monosyllabic answers or talk in cliches, two alternative driver strategies for getting out of it without a fine.
Almost as disappointing as refreshing the noticeboard and realising that’s… it. The Tempelhof finale is over and penalty explainers go out not with a wheel-grinding bang but with a refusal to say anything. I finally see why people say Formula E is too quiet…