Berlin E-Prix Race Report: Formula E Round 8 and Season 9 Rookie Tests

Sophie Clare details her experience attending the second Berlin E-Prix race and Formula E’s Season 9 Rookie testing.

The second round of the SABIC 2023 Berlin E-Prix began with a rainy morning, quite the contrast to the sunshine on Saturday.  After arriving on-site at Tempelhof, I sheltered from the weather in the media centre to watch qualifying (although we ventured into the rain to watch parts of the Duels!).  Qualifying saw an amazing front-row lockout for the ABT CUPRA team, with Robin Frijns and Nico Müller putting in two stand-out performances despite wet and variable track conditions, as drier lines appeared during the course of the session.  The ABT CUPRA team’s excellent result in the very first wet session of the GEN3 era was also voted as Formula E fans’ Moment of Berlin and marked the team’s first points of the season. 

Robin Frijns on his way to pole in a challenging qualifying session (Copyright: Sam Bloxham)

Qualifying saw an amazing front-row lockout for the ABT CUPRA team, with Robin Frijns and Nico Müller putting in two stand-out performances despite wet and variable track conditions.

After qualifying we enjoyed some time in the pit lane, where the rain certainly wasn’t dampening anyone’s spirits… The Jaguar TCS garage had a fantastic playlist featuring Umbrella by Rihanna!  I was pleased to have a tour around the garage from Emily Hogg, who discussed her role as Senior PR and Communications Officer and showed us the behind-the-scenes of the team’s setup.  Emily explained about the different responsibilities within a communications role, in particular how these vary between race weekends and the more typical work-week in the office.  When behind a desk, her role focuses on developing communications strategies for upcoming race weekends, such as planning engagement with regional markets.  During the weekend, the strategies and plans are put into effect with the production of social media content, writing of press releases, hosting VIPs and influencers and often collaborating with local Jaguar teams with a presence in each race location.  Each race provides unique opportunities, for example the Monaco E-Prix is a valuable chance to connect with publications in the lifestyle, fashion, travel and luxury consumer spaces; bringing Formula E and its teams and drivers to new audiences beyond the motorsport world.

The Abt Cupra drivers had been hoping for a wet race to continue their excellent performance from quali, but the weather nonetheless started to warm up and dry out.  We therefore watched the race start from our trusty trackside vantage point, with a sunny atmosphere that mirrored the previous race. The racing action was not quite as chaotic as on Saturday, although there was still a whopping number of overtakes and tense moments.  After a few laps we were quickly rushing through the paddock to watch the majority of the race from the DS PENSKE team garage!  Nathalie Dumas, Communications Manager from DS Performance was kind enough to invite us. It was amazing to observe the action from the garage alongside Femme Speed’s Gracie Talia Ross, and Lena Ferle from Formula Nerds. With our headsets tuned into the team radio, I especially enjoyed hearing some of Jean-Eric Vergne’s messages to the team in French: helping ensure the weekend counts towards my Year Abroad language immersion! It was a wonderful insight into how the trackside team members experience each race.

Enjoying the race in the DS PENSKE garage.

Excitingly, Jean-Eric Vergne secured a third place podium and maintained his third place position in the drivers’ championship – reducing his gap to the leader Pascal Wehrlein.  Stoffel Vandoorne also scored valuable points for the DS PENSKE team, which maintained its fourth place in the teams’ championship.  As the cars returned to the pit lane and the podium finishers parked in the Allianz Fan Village, we followed the DS PENSKE team members across the track and enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere of the podium!  It truly was an exhilarating experience and a highlight from another historic Formula E weekend. Following the podium celebrations, it was once again time for the press conference and media pens. As well as familiar faces from the Formula E grid, there was also the opportunity for the media to speak with drivers taking part in the Season 9 Rookie test the following day.  I had the chance to talk with Jack Aitken about the Rookie test and his thoughts on Formula E – read more here! 

Crossing the track with the DS PENSKE team ready for the podium celebrations.

The rookie test quickly rolled around on Monday which had a very different, peaceful atmosphere once the site was empty of spectators.  Staff were starting to unpack the track, and the pit lane and paddock was a lot quieter. This was a great opportunity to explore the grid away from the hectic atmosphere of the main race weekend, especially because events like Rookie testing place an emphasis on practice, experience and data collection rather than competition.  I enjoyed meeting Viktoria Wohlrapp, who is Motorsport Communications Spokesperson for Porsche and gave me a tour of their team garage. It was interesting to observe as Yifei Yi prepared for the practice session, particularly watching all the small details that go into getting the car and driver out on track. 

The rookie test quickly rolled around on Monday which had a very different, peaceful atmosphere…

Viktoria also took me over to the Avalanche Andretti garage, where it was lovely to meet their Formula E and Extreme E Communications Manager Lewis Mitchell.  I watched the rest of the testing session from the Andretti garage and it was nice to hear the Communications staff – albeit working for competing teams – discussing their plans for the upcoming Monaco E-Prix and working together towards shared goals.  This is something which consistently strikes me about the Formula E paddock is the wonderful feeling of community. Even though the teams are competing for the Championship, there is a great sense of camaraderie and collaboration across all aspects of the sport; from media to engineers, drivers to race officials. Everyone involved dedicates hard graft to produce high quality sport and entertainment, as evidenced by the cumulative growth of fan engagement and a whopping 20% year-on-year increase to a cumulative audience of 381 million during last year’s Season 8.  Overall, Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich scored the fastest lap time of the rookie test, setting a fastest time just two tenths of a second off the best time set in practice by Maximilian Guenther during the main race weekend – in the same Maserati MSG Racing car. 

Something which consistently strikes me about the Formula E paddock is the wonderful feeling of community.

To conclude the race weekend it was time for a final wander through the pit lane with Abi Jackson and Soph Upton, some of a lovely and talented group of motorsport influencers who I met during the race weekend as well as Ashley Eleanor, Monique Adriana and Antonia Rankin.  It was great to learn more about working as an influencer and how each of them are achieving exciting milestones: they were also taking part in the launch of Formula E’s new simulator racing series Accelerate Amped, which will continue at the oncoming E-Prix rounds in Rome and London.  

Ultimately, being back in the Formula E paddock was a highlight of my time here in Berlin.  It was a wonderful opportunity to get up close to the racing action, which I won’t forget any time soon.

F1 2026: FIA announces new engine regulations

Alex Pennington

The FIA recently approved the long-awaited engine regulations for 2026, the biggest overhaul since the 2014 introduction of the V6 turbo-hybrids. Following the finalisation of the regulations, Audi has confirmed its entry into the sport in 2026 as an engine manufacturer, with its buyout of Sauber as well as Porsche’s Red Bull partnership expected to follow shortly. With such big changes coming for the whole of F1, let’s take a look at what the regulations actually involve.

Audi’s show car at the Belgian GP

Unfortunately, the side effect of all this will be a familiar one in F1’s recent history, and that is increased weight

The big talking point of the new regulations, and F1’s future more generally, is sustainability. The new engines will run on 100% sustainable fuel made from municipal waste and have the same power output as the current generation, at around 1000 horsepower. Another major difference will be the increased reliance on electrical power, with the batteries now providing up to 50% of total power output. This is all in the name of a more sustainable sport with better applications for road cars, which are shifting ever more towards electrical power. However, this will not impact the racing we know and love.

The other change, which is even more significant on the technical side, is the removal of the complicated and expensive MGU-H. The MGU-H is an engine component which uses exhaust gasses to spin a turbine and create energy. This energy is then stored and used to artificially spin up the turbocharger’s air compressor under acceleration. This eliminates turbo lag (the period between acceleration starting, and the turbocharger starting to work to create additional power) and increases the efficiency of the engine. It is, however, a very complex and expensive part to develop, so much so that it has little real-world application and has been a major barrier to new engine manufacturers entering the sport. Its removal was essentially a necessity for Porsche and Audi to agree to enter the sport.

A Mercedes MGU-H (left) attached to the turbo housing and turbine (right)

Other changes to the regulations go along with the current drive to reduce costs and improve close racing. There will be a cost cap on engine development (separate to the overall cost cap) of $95m per year from 2023-25 and some parts of the engines, including the engine block and crankshaft, will have development on them tightly restricted. This should help to ensure that performance is relatively similar between engine manufacturers, and that the new manufacturers can enter and be competitive right from the outset.

Unfortunately, the side effect of all this will be a familiar one in F1’s recent history, and that is increased weight. This year’s cars are already 50kg heavier than the previous generation, and the new engines will have much larger battery packs and a move away from expensive, exotic (and lightweight) construction materials. The loss of the MGU-H, on the other hand, will only be worth around 4-5kg.

All of this means that the new engine regs will essentially bring three things: more sustainability; more manufacturers; and more weight. Some drivers and teams have already voiced concern about the weight issue (not to mention the extra money allocated to new manufacturers for development), but on the whole a more sustainable and competitive Formula 1 can only ever be a positive thing. As fans we will just have to accept that the quickest cars in the sport’s history are, at least for now, behind us. If the new engines create close, exciting racing, that seems to be a sacrifice worth making.

A current-gen engine with energy store/batteries