08 Jul 20

Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne expecting 'rollercoaster of emotions' during Formula E's Berlin showdown

Stoffel Vandoorne’s looking to hit the ground running in Berlin having had the opportunity during lockdown to reset and step back from the usual day-to-day of motorsport, with ‘everything still possible’ in the nine-day half-season from Tempelhof.

Back in the hot-seat

Vandoorne was delighted to be in his race-seat again as Mercedes-Benz EQ tested for the first time ahead of Formula E’s return and a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ to come during the final six rounds of the 2019/20 season.

“It’ll feel nice to be back in a competition environment when we get to Berlin,” said the 28-year-old. “I'm looking forward to being in a racing environment and having that adrenaline kicking in again.

“Getting back into a real car last week after being away from the track for such a long time and spending so much time in the simulator was a great feeling. Seeing the whole team again and being in that environment, it didn’t take us long to get back up to speed.

“It was pretty straightforward and I felt comfortable in the car straight away, which was a very positive feeling. We’ve got a couple of tests and a few more simulator days for me to prepare for ahead of Berlin and the week before will be super busy with a lot of work in the sim.

“Lockdown has been useful for things like physical preparation to be able to switch off a little bit. I can’t ever remember having such a long break from motorsport and with all the travel it’s always hard to keep on top of your fitness.

“I feel as strong as I’ve ever been and it’s been nice to get into a routine without having to fly every day. It’s going to be intense in Berlin with a lot of stress, so this time has helped us be ready."

Berlin 'rollercoaster'

The return of the 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship will be an unprecedented run of six races in nine days - unlike any other race meeting in the modern era of motorsport.

The teams and drivers don't know quite what to expect - it's never been done before - though they're all well aware just how difficult an ask it will be. And, with half-a-season effectively to come at Tempelhof, the stakes couldn't be higher.

“Six races in nine days will be extremely tough," said Vandoorne. "When you think about it, it’s the whole championship being decided in nine days.

“For me, it’ll be a rollercoaster of emotions we’re going to go through because we’re going to have good races and some where we know we’ll probably struggle a bit more. So, it’ll be intense, and the days will be long.

“Back-to-back races we have in Formula E are already pretty hard on the whole team – the mechanics and engineers. So, this will be another step, especially as we’re operating with reduced team personnel due to limits imposed for health and safety. It will be interesting to see how everyone will cope with everything.

“With very little time between the races, engineers are going to be flat out to extract and relay all the information to feed back to us.

“The added difficulty comes with the three track layouts. At the moment, we don’t know what these changes will be, so it’ll be a big challenge to adapt the car setup and get used to them very quickly with little prior data or time in the simulator.

“The mental side and the amount of thinking time in a short space will be tiring, too – making sure we’re switched on at the right times. There’s a lot of engineering meetings to attend and it’s going to be super important to find the balance between amount of information to take on-board and overloading yourself with too much going on.”

Season so far

Mercedes-Benz EQ are new to Formula E this season, and having impressed on debut with a double podium in Diriyah on the opening weekend, the outfit have slipped a little from top spot to fifth – though still well within reach of DS Techeetah, which currently leads the charge.

With more points on offer in Berlin than the rest of the season to-date, Vandoorne is keen for Mercedes to take every race as it comes with the Belgian sure the team has what it takes to be ‘right up there’ come lights-out in Round 6.

“We’ve had a pretty good start, whilst I feel we left a couple of good results on the table at races where we could have done a bit better.

“We’ve been fairly competitive in all the qualifying sessions and we had our first two podiums as a manufacturer back in Saudi Arabia, which was obviously a great way to start the season and we left there leading the Teams’ standings.

“Okay, now we are sixth but everything is still possible from here – there’s still a lot to play for. We are still new in this championship and I feel we’re coming back to the action stronger.

“I can improve in terms of extracting the maximum from races in energy management and dealing with different race scenarios. There’s definitely some room to improve there and in consistency.

“It’s important we go to Berlin without too many expectations and focus on ourselves. We’re not setting any specific targets. This will be the best way because it’s just going to be a crazy rollercoaster of emotions otherwise.

“If we stay calm, do our job and view things race-by-race, we have a chance of achieving anything. I would love to be back on the podium, though. It would be nice to finish the season off that way.

“We’re pushing as hard as we can and we have the capability of being right up there so let’s see. If we do the job, we should be close.”

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