Back to Berlin, back on track

It’s time to go racing!

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have my good health and the chance to spend a lot of time with my family so far during this challenging year. But I’m very much looking forward to getting back on track with BMW for Formula E.

I’ve had a couple of taster sessions back in the GT seat. This month I’ve raced with Nick Yelloly in the Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie (NLS), formally known as VLN, finishing fifth with the Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3. Then Stefano Comandini, Marius Zug and I finished second in the first Campionato Italiano Gran Turismo Endurance race of the season with the M6 of the Ceccato Motors Racing Team. It was a fantastic race with an incredible battle to the chequered flag – we crossed the line second by just 0.026 seconds!

While the simulator race events during lockdown have been fun, for me they’re no substitute for the track and the real thing. And now we’re set for a lot of the real thing!

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship is gearing up for six races in nine days, which is unprecedented. Although we’ve had double-header events previously, this is going to throw up new challenges, not just for the drivers but for the engineers and mechanics too, as the turnaround time between events is so quick.

Before heading to Berlin I’ve spent a bit more time in the sim to try out the three track configurations. The first two races (Rounds 6 & 7) will be held on a reverse of the conventional track layout. We’ll then race the conventional layout (Rounds 8 & 9) before a third extended track will be put in place for the final double-header of the season (Rounds 10 & 11).

The change of race direction for Rounds 6 & 7 creates some big braking zones that also incorporate a change in direction, making them tricky to get right. There’s a pretty big braking zone at the end of the back straight and into Turns 6 and 7. Meanwhile, leading onto the back straight there’s a section where traction will be difficult and could potentially lead to some opportunities to overtake if people make mistakes. It also means our energy management and regeneration strategy will change.

Although a substantial amount of the track will remain the same throughout the weekend, the layouts are significantly different enough to avoid confusion over which you’re currently on. Then, when we switch between the second and third track layouts, there will be a fair amount of rubbering in and a clean racing line. With that, the penalty of being in Group 1 for qualifying could lessen as the week goes on. The evolution of qualifying during Rounds 10 & 11 will be negligible for the most part of the circuit, giving those in the early groups a chance at being competitive, which is different to most Formula E events. 

While the changing tracks will throw us some physical challenges, the intensity of the final races will also give us some mental ones. We’re going to see big swings in the championship situation in a very short period of time, so I think it will be important to keep emotions in check and not get too carried away. We know how unpredictable Formula E races can be, so the focus needs to be on doing our best each day and trying not to dwell on any mistakes made. We were pretty sensible in Berlin last season and hopefully we can create good pace like we’ve had during the season so far. We’ll just go out there to do the best job we can, focusing on getting the basics right and having good races, then we’ll see where we’re at points wise at the end of it all.

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