After three brand new races on the bounce, Formula E is back to its most original venue this weekend, and I can still remember being blow away by Tempelhof Airport when I first visited. It was May 2015 in the opening season of Formula E, and I almost couldn’t comprehend the vastness of the deserted old airfield. It was all in perfect condition, with baggage belts and check in desks all spotlessly clean, leading out to the now so recognisable sea of concrete that becomes the race circuit once a year.
These days, Formula E has grown so much that a good chunk of the airport is filled with hospitality, sponsors' events - CUPRA is launching its new electric SUV here this weekend - and the Allianz Fan Village but in that first year the place was deserted save for some barriers outlining the track and the paddock! Jarno Trulli took Julius Baer Pole Position for that race, and I remember speaking to him afterwards and asking him what the team had done differently for him to suddenly be at the front rather than the back where they had been the whole season. He shrugged, and said ‘nothing’. It was an insightful chat.
Theories for why Trulli was suddenly rapid were mixed. Some suggested that he was always a driver who loved understeer, and his poorly set up car on the concrete surface of Tempelhof made it understeer city, in which he thrived. Some suggested the team accidentally ran at too high a power mode! After a brief Trulli train, he slipped back and finished last, two laps down after a 33 lap race.
Four of the last five races in Berlin were won by cars with Mercedes powertrains, and whilst there are no Mercedes powered cars in the field this season, the crew who ran the Mercedes-EQ team are now at NEOM McLaren, and the Maserati MSG Racing squad are still the same engineers who secured two of those victories under the Venturi banner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go well this weekend, because although they don’t have the same powertrain as before, getting this circuit right is about a lot more than having the right powertrain - it's a properly unique challenge.
Jaguar TCS Racing, for example, have one podium finish in Berlin. That will be something that needs to change if they want to harness their momentum from Sao Paulo, as this double-header weekend is pivotal in the championship. Two strong results for Sam Bird or Mitch Evans will launch them into title contention, but if they suffer more Berlin misery then that could be the end of their championship hopes.
Let’s not discount Nick Cassidy in this also. Envision Racing are a team who have struggled in Berlin in the past in general, and now they have Jaguar power! Cassidy is third in the championship, and he Jean-Eric Vergne (DS PENSKE), along with Antonio Felix da Costa (DS PENSKE) are the drivers who have scored the most points of anyone over the last three races as they begin chip away at Pascal Wehrlein’s title advantage.
So that’s five drivers in total, including the two Jaguar men, who arrive in Berlin high on confidence and momentum, trying to recover from Porsche’s early season domination. All of them know that this double-header weekend at Formula E’s most unique venue could make or break their season.