Formula E championship battle heats up after Berlin double-header

Tyler F 4/27/2023
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The German capital of Berlin has seen racing in all nine seasons of Formula E and played host to another chaotic double-header last weekend. The efficiency of the Jaguar powertrain proved the difference on the rough tarmac of Tempelhof Airport. On Saturday, Mitch Evans and Sam Bird gave the Jaguar team their first 1-2 in seven years of Formula E. Then, on Sunday, Nick Cassidy's Envision machine held off fellow championship protagonists Jake Dennis and Jean-Éric Vergne for another Jaguar-powered victory.

Cassidy's Envision teammate, Sébastien Buemi, continued his superb recent qualifying form and took a second pole position of the season for Saturday's event. From the race start, NIO's Dan Ticktum, who had qualified an impressive P4, took the front with a superb move around the outside of Turn 1.

Ticktum and Buemi made the early call with their Attack Mode strategy, with Bird following shortly after. Ticktum was able to hold the lead but soon fell out of contention due to NIO's heavier energy consumption.

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A pair of collisions involving Ticktum's teammate, Sérgio Sette Câmara, resulted in a brief Safety Car period. When green flag racing continued near the halfway stage, the strategy battle resumed with no driver seemingly comfortable out front punching a hole for more than a lap.

With Buemi and Ticktum further back after their Attack Modes, Jake Dennis was out front, with Mitch Evans making serious progress behind from ninth on the grid. Then on lap 21, Ticktum unknowingly squeezed Stoffel Vandoorne's DS Penske into the wall at the exit of Turn 3, ending both drivers' races.

Following a second Safety Car, the lead constantly shuffled after the restart between Buemi and the Jaguar pair. On lap 32, title challenger Jake Dennis lost control of his car under late braking, spinning into the barrier, simultaneously clipping the front wing of António Félix da Costa's Porsche, leaving both drivers out of the race. This DNF was Dennis' fourth consecutive pointless finish. A sharp contrast to the three podiums he scored at the start of the campaign.

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With four laps remaining, Buemi passed Bird to assume the race lead again. From here on out, the two Jaguars were hot on the Swiss driver's tail in the fight for victory. An additional three laps for the two Safety Cars gave the charging Mitch Evans an opportunity to go for the win.

The Kiwi had slightly more energy available than both Bird and Buemi ahead. In just three corners Evans first dispatched his teammate, then scythed past Buemi before claiming victory. This triumph was his second consecutive win after victory last time out in São Paulo. In the remaining fight for the podium, Buemi struggled for energy on the final lap and conceded P2 and then P3 to Bird and Maserati's Maximilian Günther.

For Sunday's race, wet conditions during qualifying offered a shock result. The only team without a point this season, ABT Cupra, took full advantage of the weather and locked out the front row in style, as Robin Frijns took his second pole in Formula E.

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In increasingly familiar scenes across Europe, a German group of climate protesters – Letzte Generation (Last Generation) – delayed the start of the race as members climbed onto the track. Following this disruption, both ABT Cupra's were able to get away cleanly and lead.

Just as Ticktum and NIO had chosen to do so on Saturday, ABT decided to go early with their drivers' Attack Mode strategy, seemingly hoping to negate their historic overconsumption. Unfortunately, this didn't work for polesitter Frijns, with the Dutchman finishing a disappointing P17. However, things were better for his teammate Nico Müller, who remained in the lead after ten laps. Eventually, Müller would succumb to those around him but still held on to claim P9 and his first points of the season.

At the front, it was once again a battle involving the Jaguar and Envision cars, with the teams' championship-leading Porsches of Pascal Wehrlein and António Félix da Costa also in the mix. On lap 14, Nick Cassidy began to make his mark on the race with an exceptional overtake through the Turn 2/3 complex. He followed this up on lap 23 with another jaw-dropping move which saw the Kiwi rise from sixth to third in a single corner with a late divebomb on the inside of Turn 6.

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Unfortunately for the Envision team, Buemi's afternoon would end prematurely following contact during the battles within the top ten. The Swiss driver's front wing became stuck under his car, forcing him to pit.

Another driver making his way through the pack was Avalanche Andretti's Jake Dennis. The British driver hoped to make amends for his poor Saturday and score some much-needed points to re-establish his title fight. By lap 28, it was Cassidy and Dennis atop the timing tower. The Envision driver radioed to tell his team that leading was "killing him," in terms of energy consumption. Nevertheless, Cassidy continued to stay out front.

By lap 34, the Porsches of Da Costa and Wehrlein found themselves in a comfortable fifth and sixth. However, with Da Costa closing in on Evans for fourth place, the Portuguese driver made contact, failing to take the position. Furthermore, this resulted in Wehrlein dropping back to P7.

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In the fight for victory, Cassidy was now using all his talents to hold off the rampant Dennis behind. Both drivers had started Sunday's race outside the top six and were keen on finishing their weekend in style with a big haul to help their title-fighting causes.

Ultimately, Cassidy stood on the podium's top step with his first Formula E win of 2023. His efforts now see him move to second in the championship, just four points behind Wehrlein. Meanwhile, Dennis and Vergne joined him on the rostrum to further their own chances and close the gap.

Next up, we head to Monaco (May 6) for Round 9 of 16, with the championship, once again, wide open, as four drivers now sit within 25 points of Wehrlein.


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