Yes, it’s Thursday. Yes, it’s the second day of a double header. Here’s what you need to catch up…
Formula E is, finally, back. After the first of six races in Berlin, Antonio Felix da Costa has extended his championship lead to 41 points with the perfect day back in “the office,” taking the maximum points haul of group stage fastest, pole, fastest lap and race win. But with five races – in rapid succession – still to go, here’s what you need to know about what happened.
Sam Bird flies again
There have been points during this season when Sam Bird has seemed literally broken by his appalling run of luck; most painfully, watching him crouched with his head in his hands after crashing out from second place in Mexico City. After winning the first race in Diriyah he only managed to collect two further points in a perpetual cycle of recovery drives and incident retirements.
Qualifying in seventh for Berlin Race 1 might not have set his pulse racing but a move up the field to third – only prevented from being second by some bold energy gambling by the race leader – was a major improvement to Bird’s fortunes and keeps him in contention for the a strong end to the season.
Return of the DAC
The only thing that’s remained consistent, between the last race before lockdown and this first race after it, is da Costa taking pole by a ludicrous margin and managing to hold it until the end of the race.
Da Costa’s massive haul today, along with some chronically bad luck for closest competitor Mitch Evans (caught in a weird accident where Edoardo Mortara tapped Max Günther who then ended up spinning Evans as a result) has extended his championship lead from a quickly-snatched 11 points to the second-biggest it’s ever been at this point in a Formula E season at 41 points.
On the other hand, the man who had the bigger lead was Sebastien Buemi in Season 3 on 43 and arguably the most unstoppably dominant run the series has ever seen. Which he lost in the last four races. So don’t get the trophy engraved just yet.
There’s been talk ever since da Costa moved from BMW to Techeetah that he’d clash with teammate (and back-to-back, reigning, two-time Formula E champion, part-owner of the team) Jean-Eric Vergne.
Some of it’s superstition about Vergne holding back former teammate Andre Lotterer during his rookie years in Formula E, some of it’s just the desire for the spice of a teammate rivalry. But in Formula E your closest competitors are rarely driving the same car – the closeness of competition means although da Costa has drawn out a big lead on him, Evans is still his main title competitor.
Vergne, currently 66 points shy of da Costa, is a distant concern. And although Formula E – with less g force compressing drivers than other single seater series – leaves plenty of opportunity for agitated radio messages, what’s said in the battery heat of the race probably shouldn’t be taken deadly seriously.
After waiting so long to get back to racing, cars got every last watt out of the first day back on track. It’s possible – although potentially risky – to coast across the line in Formula E on 0% energy, so long as no more is used.
The batteries actually have slightly more capacity than the 52kWh you’re allowed to use in the race – so there would be a little more juice left in the tank but so long as you don’t use it, it’s ok to end on 0.0%. It does make the car a little uncontrollable, however, as Lucas di Grassi demonstrated by ploughing into the rear of a beleaguered Jean-Eric Vergne in the pit lane.
Two cars – Günther’s BMW Andretti and Sergio Sette Camara’s Dragon – were ultimately disqualified from the race due to overuse of energy but all other cars crossing the line on zero made it.
James Calado’s very bad, no good day
Already slightly beleaguered by the announcement that former WEC teammate Bird would be replacing him at the end of this season, James Calado’s final stint with Jaguar got off on a terrible foot as despite running in shakedown yesterday, a reportedly small software issued made the team make a “precautionary powertrain change.” No small task, as well as a replacement that immediately incurs penalties, the team managed to complete it during FP1 but only for Calado’s car to fail on track, this time with the red light warning meaning an electrical malfunction.
Calado was safely retrieved and the car taken back to the garage for another replacement, this time of the battery, totally Calado 60 grid place drops. As, in Formula E, if you can’t be moved back all your grid places you are issued a time penalty at the start of the race, he then got issued – as well as starting dead last – a 10-second stop-and-go penalty.
He would’ve needed a miracle to do more than finish the race – but doing so does mean he’s got a much better chance at things tomorrow.
Here’s when to watch the rest of the Berlin races – and a reminder that we’ll be bringing you a podcast off the back of each race.