Formula E’s Berlin double-header weekend hauled the 2022 season to its halfway stage, with a clearer title picture emerging after two races that were predominantly fought over by title contenders.
Our Formula E aficionado Sam Smith picks out the biggest winners and losers from the weekend.
While Merc’s impressive 56 point haul from Berlin was one shy of its 57 point total from the opening double-header of the season in Riyadh, the performances as a whole were superior at its home circuit.
The team pulled off three excellent races from four, with only de Vries brake material affected Saturday run, which at least garnered a point, the only slight fly in the ointment.
The satisfaction levels from the team were high, and rightly so, with team manager Gary Paffett telling The Race that he felt the squad “adapted really well in some very challenging performance windows” for the vehicle dynamics of the Michelin all-weather tyres on the quirky Tempelhof surface.
De Vries’s turnaround was exceptional. But it was Vandoorne’s consistent efficiency and speed on both days that caught the eye just as much.
Had the Belgian perhaps completely nailed his qualifying runs in the quarter-final stages which he lost out to Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer respectively, then much more than a brace of third places would definitely have been his.
Still, the expansion of the British based, German entered team’s lead in the teams’ standings, from 15 to 28 points widened the collective smile on the squad’s faces and triggered team principal Ian James to declare that Berlin has been “Berlin has been a pretty special place for the team, right from its inception.”
That statement is hard to argue as de Vries’ win added to the three-pointed star’s first victory in Formula E in 2020 and a double title confirmation last August.
These facts, allied to customer team ROKiT Venturi winning Saturday’s race to add to its own proven success at Tempelhof ensures that Mercedes powertrains have annexed its own private fiefdom of success upon Berlin’s largest open space.
Mortara’s Tempelhof weekend was almost that rare thing in Formula E, a clean sweep of the top step.
Mitch Evans’ achievements in Rome were impressive in their clinical application, and so too Mortara’s efficiency and revelry in the car beneath him at Tempelhof had to be admired.
The Venturi’s on-board camera footage pointed to a car that at times appeared to be steering in a completely different manner to his rivals. It was like he had a power steering function dialled into his mount at the Turn 2 and Turn 5 hairpins, and that had rivals waxing lyrical.
To hold advantages of 0.2 and 0.3s within the quality of grid and closeness of competition put Mortara into a completely different realm on occasions last weekend and Mortara’s silky smooth inputs really paid dividends.
Quite how he did it is hard to pin down. But it is likely that his inherent driving style around Tempelhof of conditioning his tyres and being able to rotate the car sufficiently to not overheat his rear tyres as much as other packages.
The treatment of the rear tyres to minimise oversteer on both circuits used was the key factor. For Mortara, it was clearly coming completely naturally, and he admitted so to The Race, saying: “You have these kind of weekends where everything is sort of going well and you feel good without really forcing it too much.
“You can see also from the data you are doing the right things. It’s good to have this kind of race weekend.”
In the context of its 2022 season so far, a relatively meagre eight points from the Berlin brace of races, might not seem to be too much to celebrate. But for Mahindra, it was a timely morale boost for a team that has found results extremely hard to come by lately.
There has always been the feeling that the ZF powered Mahindra powertrain had the capability to get racey but a combination of factors ranging from driver error to the team failing to harness the package has cost the team dear.
Alexander Sims’ much needed big laps in Saturday’s qualifying, that netted him a front-row start – his best for two years – appeared to come out of the blue, yet in fact, anyone who has followed his Formula E adventure so far knows he is always capable of delivering when the conditions allow.
Those conditions included a technical glitch for both himself and team-mate Oliver Rowland, meaning that perhaps even a crack at pole could have been on the cards had it not been for a slightly scruffy final sector.
His race was equally spirited, but he ultimately got shuffled down the order as others exploited their better energy efficiency and Sims had to settle for ninth.
Rowland shone brighter on Sunday and had pushed his way through to an excellent fifth in the closing stages, only to drop down behind Robin Frijns and Antonio Felix da Costa to claim four points for eighth.
Both Mahindra drivers were relatively hamstrung compared to most of the Tempelhof big-hitters. It remains though its best showing for some time, and one in which it doubled its points tally for the season to draw level with fellow strugglers Nissan e.dams.
Jaguar TCS Racing
In the context of the title race it was definitely a squandered weekend for Jaguar Racing in Berlin, and although it had a positive Saturday, its Sunday performance tips it into the losers bracket for one main reason – because it is a genuine title contender.
Only 17 points from the two races is not out and out disastrous, but when compared to Mercedes EQ’s 56 and Venturi’s 62 it was a damaging net total that saw them drop from a 26 point teams’ standings deficit after Monaco to 65 right now.
It wasn’t quite a return to the depression of 2020 when it oversaw Mitch Evans’ damp squib ending to his title challenge, but it did see the Big Cat barely unfurl a paw on its bigger picture title opposition.
Both Mitch Evans and Sam Bird drove excellent races on Saturday to net 16 points for fifth and seventh places respectively, with Bird especially standing out after fighting through from a P15 start.
Overall, it appeared that the slightly cooler temperatures from this Tempelhof vintage as opposed to last August’s hothouse conditions affected Jaguar more than others on the grid.
That was immensely frustrating for the team, and it conspired to ensure only a point was achievable for Evans’ 10th on Sunday.
Again, it could be deemed harsh to bracket Jaguar as losers last weekend but of the top four teams this season – Mercedes EQ, Venturi and DS Techeetah, it has by far the weakest points haul.
Hard work paid off to some degree for Envision Racing from Saturday, where frankly it was nowhere at all, to Sunday where Robin Frijns and Nick Cassidy both made it through into the duel phases of qualifying.
But a fifth place for Frijns, which included some good will from the stewards after his collision with Da Costa’s DS Techeetah, was scant overall consolation for a team that was challenging for race wins a few races ago.
The team pretty much continued where it left off in Tempelhof last year, which was pretty much at the back, and something that the team has endured before.
“We’ve done it in Riyadh, we’ve done it here,” the team’s managing director, Sylvain Filippi told The Race on Sunday evening.
“We really don’t like having a s*** first day, so we worked bloody hard overnight to turn it around.
“It’s mostly on the tyres, of course, no secrets. Our car seems to be more sensitive, maybe than others, on the already very tricky tyre conditions here, but maybe ours differs from that even more.”
While bad luck stories are generally everywhere in Formula E, Nick Cassidy has a claim to wonder if some kind of ‘hex’ has been bestowed upon him this season.
He didn’t have any team radio on Saturday before he clouted the concrete barrier at Turn 2 and bent his steering arm while trying to pass Sebastien Buemi, inducing an early retirement. His Sunday race was essentially over before it began when he had to take a penalty for a complete powertrain change. The legacy of that stretched back to his tub wrecking accident in Diriyah, with Envision electing to make the change ahead of the second race.
Andretti’s Berlin weekend started in an exciting fashion with the confirmation of its future Gen3 partnership with Porsche being confirmed.
Few suspected that this event would be its highlight on a track where it had achieved strong previous results, including a win for Maximilian Guenther in 2020.
But Tempelhof 2022 was an unmitigated disaster and delivered only a pair of 13th place finishes for Jake Dennis, whose only real contribution was confined to a blazing start in Saturday’s race before dropping back when he had to manage his energy.
That was a legacy of not being able to perfect a decent set-up and when the team made several changes overnight it was hoped improvements would come for Sunday.
They didn’t. Dennis had a completely uneventful run to 13th, while Oliver Askew did similar to 15th in a race where the American team was again largely anonymous.
It all meant a second consecutive event with no points. More concerning is the fact that it has only accrued just three from the last six races, denoting that only Dragon Penske has a poorer points collation since Mexico City in February.