Saturday’s opening race featured a record eight race leaders as the various contenders did their best to manage more than just their energy levels. This was a strategic test of epic proportions and through it all, the Jaguar team emerged with a one-two finish.
So, who hit the front in a record-breaking E-Prix, how did Mitch Evans time his rise to perfection, and why couldn’t the others that took the lead stay there?
Dan Ticktum (NIO 333)
When they took the lead: Laps 1-2, 4, 6-8
How they took the lead: A dynamite start and ATTACK MODE sequences
Ticktum qualified a strong fourth and snatched the lead in magnificent fashion with a dynamite move around the outside of three cars into the first corner - making it stick up the inside of Turn 2.
NIO’s season-long efficiency struggles meant he was fighting gravity from that point onwards and destined to fall back, but Ticktum managed to lead the first couple of laps and have two more stints in front as the early ATTACK MODE sequences played out.
He remained in points contention until crashing out in an accident with Vandoorne on lap 20.
Sam Bird (Jaguar TCS Racing)
When they took the lead: Laps 3-5, 9, 30-35
How they took the lead: Part of the fight from start to finish
Bird was ensconced in the lead fight from the start and first hit the front as Ticktum and Sebastien Buemi took their ATTACK MODES early, then again after overtaking both on merit.
But he dropped down to sixth to get into the pack and benefit from the tow to conserve energy, given how critical on energy the races in Berlin were modelled to be by the teams. I(t would take another 20 laps or so for Bird to return to the lead and even then, he was happy to swap places with the I-TYPE 6 of Buemi at the hairpin to better time a last-ditch push.
As he, Evans and Buemi traded blows in the final quarter of the race, it didn't quite work our for the Brit as Bird ultimately didn't have enough in-hand to keep his teammate at bay and was one percent down on the Kiwi in usable energy ramaining with just over five laps, plus three added laps, to go.
After falling behind Buemi as well, he was at least able to grab second, snatching the place with a big dive into Turn 6, holding the Swiss off to complete that Jaguar one-two.
Stoffel Vandoorne (DS PENSKE)
When they took the lead: Lap 10
How they took the lead: Later attack mode
When Vandoorne led the race it was mainly a result of electing to take a different ATTACK MODE strategy to those around him.
The reigning champion was part of the lead group early on and did pass both Buemi and Ticktum on merit, on-track, just before Bird removed himself from the lead by running wide into Turn 6.
But he was in that position to pass them because of how the ATTACK MODE activations had played out, with Vandoorne still holding one in reserve. Many of the lead group had elected to clear both of their 50kW boosts by as early as Lap 5 in some cases - this, as Oliver Askew expertly explains in the e-Pad analysis above, to remove the additional energy drain that boost entails from the equation to give them a fuller picture of what they would have to work with through the rest of the race to come.
Vandoorne only led for a lap before Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing) hit the front but remained firmly in the hunt for good points until a clash with Ticktum ended his race abruptly later on.
Edoardo Mortara (Maserati MSG Racing)
When they took the lead: Laps 11, 16
How they took the lead: Energy-heavy early push
Mortara was spending energy quite heavily in the first half of the race. This helped him cycle up to second during the ATTACK MODE mode sequences then pass Vandoorne for the lead.
Though Mortara was still second when the Saftey Car was deployed on lap 12, he had a significant energy deficit to the real frontrunners and that bore out in the average speed data - where the Swiss-French-Italian triple national was forced into conserving for some four laps longer than most of the pack, where he was four-five km/h per lap slower than eventual winner Evans.
That deficit meant he was always facing a difficult challenge and left the Maserati driver with a little too much to do as the race headed towards its crescendo, despite briefly hitting the front once again midway through his energy saving efforts on lap 16 when Jake Dennis dived into ATTACK MODE. Mortara gradually slid down the order and only finished ninth in the end.
Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti)
When they took the lead: Laps 12-15, 18
How they took the lead: Later ATTACK MODE activations
Dennis was effective at keeping himself in the sweet spot of running in the top five during the early phase of the race and the cars around him jostled forwards and backwards through the points-paying positions a little more erratically.
Every time he took the lead he rapidly, and happily, fell back again immediately - again, energy saving being king and the last thing he wanted to do was be the guy punching a hole in the air for the rest out front. So, it was clear Dennis was intent on building a nice bank of energy to deploy late on.
He looked in a strong place to fight for the win in terms of both energy in-hand being a match for those out-front and in pace alone – until it all went pear-shaped when an attempted move on Maximilian Guenther (Maserati MSG Racing) ended with Dennis losing control under braking and spinning into the wall, as well as taking the TAG Heuer Porsche of Antonio Felix da Costa with him.
Sebastien Buemi (Envision Racing)
When they took the lead: Laps 19, 23, 28-29, 36-39
How they took the lead: Part of the fight from start to finish
Buemi was a key figure at the front of this race for the duration of this race but didn’t lead it until approaching the halfway stage, when he outstripped Bird - who looked happy to let him by - at the hairpin.
He traded places with the factory Jaguar TCS Racing pair of Evans and then Bird in a battle that lasted several laps before Buemi hit a sustained period of leading from the front with eight laps to go, holding the two Jaguars at bay.
But a late struggle for energy, having led for a good chunk meant Buemi not only slipped behind the two works cars, he fell off the podium as Guenther grabbed third from him with a muscular move at the final corner on the last lap.
Maximilian Guenther (Maserati MSG Racing)
When they took the lead: Lap 24
How they took the lead: A mid-race charge
Guenther kept a hold of his second ATTACK MODE activation until the second half of the race, which facilitated an amazing mid-race charge.
In a feisty three corners he forced his way past both Jaguars then team-mate Mortara to jump from sixth to third, and the next lap he slipped by Dennis into Turn 7 and blasted by Buemi to lead into Turn 1. Sixth to first in just over a lap!
This didn’t count as a lap led because Gunther immediately took his ATTACK MODE after leaping into the lead but he did briefly head the field again at the end of lap 24.
His energy usage proved too high for him to stay there, with an extra percent to find compared to the Jaguar-powered cars around him, but he had enough in store to run a strong fourth then capitalise on Buemi’s late slump and grab a breakthrough podium for his team.
Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing)
When they took the lead: Laps 17, 20-22, 25-27 and 40-43
How they took the lead: ATTACK MODE sequences before a perfectly-timed late final charge
Having started ninth, Evans hit the front well ahead of schedule - leading for the first time before mid-distance.
The Kiwi had used a bit more energy to do that than his teammate, and those around him, and still had one energy-sapping ATTACK MODE to activate, so dropped back behind Bird and Buemi to try and make up that deficit.
There, he was able to bank more energy. Feeling a good balance in the car entering the final stages and now a percent up on energy he now had a slight edge on pace as the race approached added laps and looked to jump both cars ahead in the space of about 20 seconds late on.
First, he used Buemi backing Bird up on the inside line to go around the outside of Bird into the Turn 9 hairpin then have the inside for the final corner. Then, Evans dummied Buemi on the approach to Turn 1 before dramatically switching to the inside line to pass the Envision car on the brakes all on the final lap, prior to the three that would be added on for green flag conditions lost under the Safety Car.
Such a sweet final pass, set up by a great sequence of corners, was a fittingly dramatic way to end a remarkable race.