Templehoff Airport, a venue absent from the calendar since the first season, returned for the first of three double headers in the third season of Formula E; and in Rounds 7 and 8 we saw big swings in the championship between Sebastien Buemi and Lucas Di Grassi, as well as a rookie winner…
The first race was advantage Di Grassi as the Brazilian took pole by a mere thousandth of a second from Jose Maria Lopez; Buemi meanwhile languished in 14th and had a mountain to climb.
At the start Lopez found himself dispatched by the two Mahindras of Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld, whilst Mitch Evans was pushed into the wall of the tunnel at Turn 3 and suffered damage to his suspension, forcing him to change cars early and go for fastest lap, which he managed to win for the first time.
Buemi then began to make places in the first stint, passing Adam Carroll, Stephane Sarrazin, Jerome D’Ambrosio, Oliver Turvey and Maro Engel by going down the inside at the turn nine hairpin.
Towards the end of the first stint, Rosenqvist passed Di Grassi at turn 1 as Di Grassi lifted and coasted more in an attempt to recover energy spent defending earlier.
During the pitstops, Jean-Eric Vergne was deemed to have an unsafe release and was given a 5-second penalty post-race.
Buemi managed to bravely dive down the inside of Daniel Abt at Turn 1, the, from a long way back, he forced Sam Bird out of the way at Turn 9; his teammate Nico Prost then let him through, and with JEV’s penalty there was no further need to make risky moves up the field.
Rosenqvist took his first win in Formula E and Mahindra’s emotional first victory too. Di Grassi hung on to beat Heidfeld to second. It got better for the Brazilian though as Buemi was disqualified from 5th for using illegally low tyre pressures, cutting down the Swiss driver’s lead to 22 points.
Rosenqvist picked up where he left off from Saturday and took pole position, leading away from the start. Buemi began the race second whilst Di Grassi was 7th. On the first lap, there was contact between Maro Engel and Loic Duval at Turn 7 which dropped both to the back; Engel swapped cars and received the consolation point for fastest lap.
Heidfeld had a throttle sensor issue in qualifying and was last on the grid, but he made great progress early on, eventually finishing 10th, just behind Oliver Turvey.
After a strong qualifying the Englishman was struggling with pace in the NEXTEV NIO car and dropped behind the two Abt cars and Nico Prost, deciding to save energy at the expense of positions on a track which doesn’t suit the NEXTEV package.
On Lap 17 the DS Virgin cars, running 3rd and 4th, hit each other as Bird attempted to go around the outside of Lopez at Turn 1; Lopez lost control and tapped Bird, sending him into the run-off and losing him four places.
Surprisingly this did not become that controversial a moment and Lopez found himself also under attack by Vergne, Di Grassi and Abt, all of whom got past.
During the pitstops on Lap 23 Rosenqvist was released into the path of teammate Heidfeld; only quick thinking from both drivers prevented a nasty collision in the pitlane. Unfortunately for Rosenqvist although he still managed to emerge ahead of Buemi, this resulted in a race deciding penalty.
On Lap 30 Vergne began to go on the defensive in the Techeetah, attempting to block Di Grassi from finding a way onto the podium. Two laps later JEV went too deep at the long Turn 1 and Di Grassi neatly slotted down the inside to cut down the deficit to his championship rival Buemi.
Vergne then found himself defending from Daniel Abt, this time by sticking to the inside at Turn 1, but eventually Abt found his way past, after which Lopez recovered to snatch 5th from the Frenchman at turn 9.
Rosenqvist crossed the line first, but it was bittersweet as he was demoted to second. Victory instead went to a delighted Buemi, who said that after being disqualified the day before he didn’t really care about how he won.
His lead is back up to 32 points but the big question is whether he’ll turn up to the inaugural New York city ePrix. We’ll find out on the 15th and 16th of July as the title fight closes in with the penultimate double header.