The Formula E Championship ventured into an unfamiliar backdrop for round eight, putting aside the typical city-street scenarios and pitching up at the unused Berlin Tempelhof airport to race on a circuit designed entirely on a blank canvas.
The Berlin ePrix qualifying session may not have had the controversy of Monaco, but that didn’t make it any less entertaining. Despite a multiple-race spell of the Trulli team being off the pace, team leader Jarno Trulli produced one of the surprises of the season by setting the fastest time in qualifying. He was less than one tenth of a second ahead of Lucas di Grassi, who was followed by championship rival Sebastien Buemi. The two representatives of the ‘home’ nation, Nick Heidfeld and Daniel Abt, lined up in fourth and fifth ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio. Championship front-runner Nelson Piquet had a dismal qualifying session and started the race in 13th place, with championship-long-shot Sam Bird two places behind.
The FanBoost winners for the Berlin ePrix were Nelson Piquet, who achieved his third FanBoost win in a row, along with Sebastien Buemi and Charles Pic who both won the boost for the first time.
The lights went out in Berlin and Lucas di Grassi was immediately pestering Jarno Trulli into the first corner, but a defensive sweep across to the inside line from the Italian prevented the attack as Heidfeld challenged Buemi for third place on the exit of turn one. As the pack approached turn three Jarno Trulli undid all his good work by briefly losing the rear-end of the car and leaving the door wide open for di Grassi to pilfer the lead of the race. Trulli continued in second place but slightly further back Daniel Abt braked a little to sharply for his car’s liking, which sent the Audi Sport Abt driver into a half-spin, putting him at the back of the field. As the order shook out over the course of the first lap, the top ten was headed by Lucas di Grassi. He was followed by Jarno Trulli, Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Prost, Jerome D’Ambrosio, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Loic Duval, Stephane Sarrazin and Nelson Piquet, who had climbed three places in one lap from where he started.
Piquet wasn’t going to settle for a mere top ten place, though. On only the second lap he managed to line up and overtake Sarrazin for ninth place at turn six. Jerome D’Ambrosio also looked to be on an early mission as the Dragon Racing driver dived to the inside line and passed Nico Prost for fifth place at turn ten. Prost lost momentum and was easily overtaken by Vitantonio Liuzzi just two corners later. Ahead, di Grassi’s lead was already at 3.3 seconds over Trulli.
With the field starting to be held up by Trulli, Buemi decided to waste little time trying to pass and used his FanBoost to overtake for second place into turn twelve. That started dramatic fall down the field for Trulli; he was overtaken by Heidfeld into turn one on the following lap, and then by D’Ambrosio just two corners later. By the end of lap twelve, Trulli was down to 13th position. The following lap, D’Ambrosio was on the attack for third place, and mugged Heidfeld on the inside of turn ten. The Belgian was soon latched onto the back of Buemi to challenge for second.
Almost the entire field pitted at the end of lap 17, with only the NextEV TCR duo of Nelson Piquet and Charles Pic staying out for another lap. Some quick work by the Dragon Racing team saw D’Ambrosio leapfrog Buemi into second place, whilst Piquet left the pits in eighth place with a slightly fresher battery. The top ten after the stops were Di Grassi (whose lead was now up to ten seconds), D’Ambrosio, Buemi, Heidfeld, Duval, Sarrazin, Da Costa (who acquired a drive-through penalty for going faster than the minimum pit time along with team-mate Duran), Piquet, Vergne and Bird.
Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld had an early attempt during the second stint at passing for third place, and he briefly made it at turn ten, but a smart undercut from Buemi saw the Swiss pilot regain the position. Heidfeld then began to fall back towards Loic Duval as Sarrazin and Piquet (6th and 7th) began to reel the pair in.
On lap 28 out of 33, Piquet was now right behind Sarrazin and saw an opportunity to use his FanBoost on approach to turn 10. The extra 30kW allowed Piquet to easily get side-by-side with the Frenchman and guide his NextEV TCR car into sixth. This gave Loic Duval the hurry-up. On the following lap, despite not being that close to Heidfeld, he threw his car up the inside of turn six. Heidfeld saw enough of the move to give Duval room, but had to concede the place. Piquet started harrying Heidfeld straight away, and pulled off an overtake similar to the one he’d done at the same corner just one lap earlier on the other Venturi.
The order remained the same as Lucas di Grassi recorded a comfortable victory at the home race of the Abt team, some 12 seconds ahead of Jerome D’Ambrosio in second place whilst Sebastien Buemi finished in third. Piquet gradually caught Duval, but was unable to make a move late on and finished fifth behind the Dragon Racing driver. Venturi recorded their best team result of sixth and seventh with Heidfeld and Sarrazin respectively, with Jean-Eric Vergne finishing eighth ahead of Sam Bird and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Di Grassi couldn’t believe his luck when gremlins stopped the car only a couple of corners after the finish, but he was probably cursing his luck when it was revealed that his car had failed post-race scrutineering for being equipped with a modified front wing. Therefore, di Grassi was disqualified and long after the race had finished, Jerome D’Ambrosio was declared the winner, giving himself and Dragon Racing their first wins in the sport. Sebastien Buemi was promoted to second place – and second in the driver’s championship – with Loic Duval taking his first top-three result in third. Nelson Piquet collected fourth place but, more importantly, now took the lead in the championship by two points from Buemi. Di Grassi’s championship campaign was now dented as he fell to ten points behind Piquet.
Berlin ePrix – Race Result:
- Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 33 Laps
- Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault +2.433s
- Loic Duval – Dragon Racing +3.508s
- Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR +3.975s
- Nick Heidfeld – Venturi +13.046s
- Stephane Sarrazin – Venturi +13.335s
- Jean-Eric Vergne – Andretti +13.678s
- Sam Bird – Virgin Racing +14.055s
- Vitantonio Liuzzi – Trulli +15.636s
- Nicolas Prost – e.dams-Renault +16.602s
- Antonio Felix da Costa – Amlin Aguri +16.797s
- Jaime Alguersuari – Virgin Racing +20.594s
- Scott Speed – Andretti +21.149s
- Daniel Abt – Audi Sport Abt +23.688s
- Charles Pic – NextEV TCR +25.491s
- Salvador Duran – Amlin Aguri +44.157s
- Bruno Senna – Mahindra Racing +46.257s
- Karun Chandhok – Mahindra Racing +52.703s
- Jarno Trulli – Trulli +2 laps
- Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – Disqualified
- Nelson Piquet – NextEV TCR – 103 pts
- Sebastien Buemi – e.dams-Renault – 101 pts
- Lucas di Grassi – Audi Sport Abt – 93 pts
- Nicolas Prost – e.dams-Renault – 78 pts
- Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dragon Racing – 77 pts
- e.dams-Renault – 179 pts
- Dragon Racing – 116 pts
- Audi Sport Abt – 115 pts
- NextEV TCR – 107 pts
- Virgin Racing – 98 pts