After months of suspension and cancellation, Formula E season 6 is due to resume this Wednesday.
With the majority of the original calendar cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Formula E is staging six races in Berlin to bring the season to a festival style finale.
Three track layouts. Six races. Nine days. 1 champion.
In two weeks time, season 6 will be over and it will have been one of the strangest motor racing seasons of all time.
What happened in the first half?
The majority of race series had not actually got underway at the start of the year but obviously FE is different, the season started in November with a double header in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The first race was won by fan favourite and stalwart of Formula E, Virgin’s Sam Bird. He fought his way up from fifth on the grid to take the lead close to the end after playing an aggressive strategy with his attack mode which left rivals BMW’s Alex Sims and new team Mercedes with Stoffel Vandoorne being forced to lose track position late on in the race.
RSA 1: 1st BIR. 2nd LOT. 3rd VAN.
The second race in Riyadh proved BMW and Sims had learnt from their mistakes and they went aggressive with attack mode and dominated the race with Sims taking his first ever race win in the series. It was a 1-2 on the road for BMW but Sims teammate, Max Gunther was given a penalty late on but their pace was very clear to see.
RSA 2: 1st SIM. 2nd DIG. 3rd VAN.
The series then went half way across the world to Santiago where the series storylines began to emerge. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans took pole and fought hard to keep it from DS Techeetah’s new signing for this year, Antonio Felix Da Costa and Gunther. But it was Gunther who took a second BMW win of the season fighting back past Da Costa at the end.
SAN: 1st GUN. 2nd DAC. 3rd EVA.
Mitch Evans came back with a mission in Mexico. He took the lead at the start with an aggressive move on Andre Lotterer and drove off into the distance to take a rare dominant win in the electric series. Joining Evans on the podium was Da Costa in second and Sebastien Buemi.
MEX: 1st EVA. 2nd DAC. 3rd BUE.
Round 5 was in Marrakech and was the last “normal” race for Formula E at the end of February. The championship was led by Evans with one point over Sims. Da Costa and Vandoorne close behind in third and fourth.
Marrakech was where Da Costa made his mark. Evans was starting from the back of the grid after missing his qualifying lap and had to fight his way through the field which allowed Da Costa to pounce. He led away but was hunted down by Max Gunther. But Da Costa had him covered and took a controlled race win, mastering his energy usage to perfection.
MAR: 1st DAC. 2nd GUN. 3rd JEV.
From then on the pandemic took hold and the whole world changed. The Sanya and Rome races both were cancelled quickly with China and Italy proving hotspots for the pandemic. Formula E then took the difficult decision to place the entire season on hold until they could realistically return to racing.
The summer rounds in Brooklyn, London and Berlin were touted as potential events with common sense dictating that Berlin was the most versatile and easy for the European teams to get to.
Where are we now?
So now we are here, Berlin, ready for the season to resume with three double headers and it is wide open.
|1||António Félix da Costa||67|
|5||Lucas di Grassi||38|
With six races to go it is all to play for. Every race has had a different winner and there is no reason for that to change going into the next six rounds.
It could be any of these five drivers who win, it could be someone else completely. It is a complete unknown.
The Berlin e-Prix is held at the old Tempelhof airport on a large concrete apron providing significant potential for track layouts and FE has not disappointed with three layouts being competed on.
The first layout will be a reverse of the traditional track. The second double header will be contended on the original track with the final two races being held on a new layout with only a few original corners remaining.
The track layouts are below:
The drivers have been looking forward to the much more technical final layout with Virgin’s Sam Bird saying: “I think the final track could pose some different challenges, as it looks to be a more technical, so I think they could be very interesting races to watch.”
Oh so much!
So, so much!
Formula E decided to go crazy in the mid season driver market whilst in lockdown.
First Daniel Abt was unceremoniously sacked from Audi. He was fired for using a stand in for the Berlin round of the Formula E Race at Home Esports challenge and not representing the values that Audi stand for. Audi want to be clean as a whistle now after emissions scandals in the past and dropped Abt after what was a silly mistake by the popular German.
The door then opened for Audi DTM golden boy Rene Rast. The reigning DTM champion will take part in his second ever Formula E race on Wednesday but this time with a lot more testing than his Season 2 outing with Aguri.
Rast is a perfect fit for Audi and is starting on a high after winning the second DTM race in Spa this weekend just gone.
The next big story was Pascal Wehrlein quitting Mahindra.
Wehrlein had started with Mahindra in Season 5 on a high, taking pole on his debut and nearly winning in Mexico. But when Porsche were rumoured to come knocking, he wanted to be released from his contract and left the team with immediate effect, just after clinching second in the Race at Home challenge.
Wehrlein is expected to go to Porsche for Season 7 replacing Neel Jani.
In to replace Wehrlein is young brit Alex Lynn. After starting the season on the sidelines as Jaguar’s reserve driver, Berlin will be a welcome return for Lynn who has performed well alongside some supreme teammates in Bird and Evans.
That enough switching up for you?
Well there’s more.
Sam Bird, who has been with Virgin since Season 1, Race 1 announced he will split with Virgin at the end of the season and move to Jaguar for 2021 to partner Mitch Evans in a mega lineup for them.
Nick Cassidy will make the step from Super Formula in Japan to replace Bird from Santiago next year for race 1.
Brendon Hartley split with Dragon immediately and will not race for the team in Berlin with Sergio Sette Camara being called up for his debut in the series.
NIO driver Ma Qing Hua announced that it would not be safe enough for him to travel from China to Berlin and withdrew from the remainder of the season.
Now NIO were in need of a super sub with many high profile names in contention including Nelson Piquet Jr for a return to the series. But it was none other than Daniel Abt who returned immediately to Formula E to partner Oliver Turvey.
Got all of that?
What to look out for
This will be tough.
Closed door events are really hard to do and with the whole paddock being limited to 1000 people, by next week the teams and drivers are going to be seriously burned out.
COVID tests and bubbles on top of the usual drill of practice, qualifying and the race all in one day.
They will need to be ready to pick themselves up and move onto the next race, especially if something goes wrong. There is no time for debriefs at all.
The strain on the cars will be great too. Energy management is a key part of every FE race, but when that battery has been used at full pelt for a whole nine days, then there could be some serious ramifications for those who are not as adept at energy management.
The rookies here will particularly struggle, Sette Camara and Rast will at least have the steep learning curve flattened slightly by getting another go immediately but compounded with the tiredness of so many events and having to manage a whole new car and team. They could thrive but also could flounder.
The championship fight is obviously a major talking point but there is no point discussing the direction that will go until at least three races into this extravaganza.
It could swing in favour of someone we haven’t even mentioned. It all depends on which drivers and teams work the best in the entirely new world Formula E finds itself in.
The experienced drivers with the good team relationships will come to the fore, the Di Grassis, Birds, D’Ambrosios and the like. Those who have been there before in most race scenarios should be the ones to watch.
You would expect.
As I say, it can go in any and every direction!
Formula E returns on Wednesday with the first Berlin E-Prix at 19:00 local time, 18:00 UK time.
The second race is on Thursday. With the next double header over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday before finishing on Wednesday 12 and Thursday 13 August where the Season 6 champion will be crowned.
You can find out how to watch here.