Checking in with Formula E Season 9 – 2023 SABIC Berlin E-Prix Race Preview

Sophie Clare looks forward to exciting electric action, as the 2023 SABIC Berlin E-Prix marks the midpoint of Formula E’s 9th season.

As we near the halfway point of ABB FIA Formula E’s 9th Season, it is all to race for as the series returns to Berlin.  So far this year, 11 teams have raced across the world from Mexico City to Diriyah, Hyderabad to Cape Town. Following the most recent action in Sãu Paulo, the current standings see TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein hoping to continue his Championship-leading performance at his (and his team’s) home race.  

Mitch Evans, Nick Cassidy and Sam Bird on the podium in Sãu Paulo (Copyright: Simon Galloway)

Jake Dennis, Nick Cassidy and Jean-Éric Vergne are currently placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively, with just 2 points between them – all will be aiming for strong performances here to consolidate their positions in the Championship lineup.  At the other end of the pack, Robin Frijns, Nico Müller and Maximilian Günther will be hoping to secure their first points of the season at the 10-turn Tempelhof track.  Considering no one driver has scored points in every race this season, there is certain to be exciting, unpredictable and closely-contested racing in store. 

Perhaps the most significant change for Formula E this year was the introduction of the GEN3 car, which has undoubtedly contributed towards the tightly fought races in Season 9.  The three race weekends preceding this round also took place in brand new locations for the series, which provided tactical challenges for the teams when deciding their strategic approach with the new vehicles. 

From the launch of the GEN3 last year (Copyright: Formula E Media Centre)

In this weekend’s familiar setting, however, teams and drivers will be able to draw on their previous experiences to shape their strategy, which could give the winning edge. In Berlin, the race site’s former use as an airport has several implications for the teams.  The track surface consists of concrete slabs which cause more wear and tear than a typical street circuit.  This will call for strategy choices which can help drivers optimise tyre management and energy conservation during the race.  Alice Powell, Simulator and Development Driver for Envision Racing, explained some of the important split-second decisions which drivers are responsible for. These can make or break a driver’s race performance, particularly when it comes to managing energy levels.  Alice described how there are so many buttons and switches that “the manual book for the steering wheel is something else!” 

With a top speed of 200mph, the GEN3 has a smaller chassis which has been optimised for close-fought street racing. The regenerative capacity of the previous GEN2 car has been doubled, meaning that more than 40% of the energy used in-race is regenerated from braking. Energy management (including when to employ the extra 50kW of energy gained from Attack Mode) is a fundamental part of race strategy and the flick of a switch has changed the fortunes of many on track. It remains to be seen how the collaboration of strategists, engineers, and drivers will unfold this weekend, but they will be sure to draw on data collected in the racing simulator by drivers like Alice to continuously fine-tune their performance. 

The manual for the steering wheel is something else!

Alice Powell

One of the most interesting aspects of the Berlin race is its unique location at the former Tempelhof Airport, which in particular played a pivotal role during the Berlin Airlift from 1948-49.  Supply aircraft transferred much-needed resources to the West of the city during a blockade by the Soviet Union, providing necessities to two million citizens in a monumental operation.   All flight operations were discontinued in 2008, with the site giving way to the Tempelhof Park; not only the biggest in Berlin, but one of the largest inner city open spaces in the world.  This unique location also allows for a racetrack which is wider than a typical Formula E street circuit.  The extra overtaking opportunities will be sure to provide many exciting wheel-to-wheel battles. 

Signage from last year’s Berlin E-Prix (Copyright: Sam Bloxham)

The once abandoned hangars of the Tempelhof airport will also feature the Allianz Fan Village, the launch of CUPRA’s new Tavascan electric SUV, a Formula Student showcase and a wealth of fan engagement activities.  Building upon years of both advocacy and implementation when it comes to sustainability, the E-Prix will be powered using 100% renewable energy, showcasing EcoCups in the Fan Village and celebrating Earth Day 2023 throughout the weekend.  Plus, to top it all off, Monday will see a host of talented drivers (who haven’t yet participated in a Formula E race weekend) who will be taking to the track for Rookie tests in the GEN3.

No one driver has scored points in every race this season, there is certain to be exciting, unpredictable and closely-contested racing in store.

Formula E has visited Berlin more times than any other city; with the races here having seen 10 pole-sitters and 13 race winners over 16 E-Prix events.  Given the close competition over Series 9 of Formula E thus far, it is clear that there is much to be excited for as the teams, drivers and fans prepare for this weekend.  

Stay tuned for Sophie’s coverage of the race weekend on our blog and social media.