The usual assorted cliches of “it’s too early to think about the championship” and “there are still plenty of races to come” echoed through the ghostly terminals of Tempelhof Airport, once the world’s largest airport, after Saturday’s Formula E race.
But they’ll start to dissipate quickly after Sunday’s race if the same usual 2022 big dots racking up suspects reap their rewards once again as the season winds down.
The first race of the Berlin double-header made it clear that a group of four drivers looking to have both the consistency, the absolute pace and a clear understanding of how Formula E 2022 racing develops, to be able to claim the status official title challengers now.
Stoffel Vandoorne, Jean-Eric Vergne, Mitch Evans and Edoardo Mortara are all covered by 19 points after seven races of the 2022 16-race schedule but with only second-placed Vergne having scored points in each race.
Vandoorne has finished every race, but his tied run to 11th in Mexico City is the only minor blemish on his otherwise impressive landscape so far this season.
Mitch Evans still stands out as the slight anomaly, with one point in the first three encounters and then a whopping 81 points in the last four, while Mortara’s back-to-back contacts inflicted at Rome and Monaco have so far cost him a other likely. carry out.
Like a fifth Beatle achieving slightly less regular hits against the “fab four” above, Robin Frijns is now 25 points behind Vandoorne, but risks losing initial contact at least if he and the horror show of the Envision Racing Saturday repeats Sunday.
But even with a more hierarchical sporting nature for the current season, which is complemented by a natural material performance shutdown throughout the final season of the Gen2 ruleset, a rogue gang of four consisting of Andre Lotterer, Pascal Wehrlein, Nyck de Vries and Lucas di Grassi are also in a fitful wait to join the current top layers.
The Saturday race at Tempelhof was perhaps the purest event so far this season that had a clear structure that highlighted those mentioned above and was untainted by race suspensions and deployment subsequent to the “overtime panel”.
This was due to the excellent racing and ultimately the layout of the Tempelhof track, which provides generous racing space while retaining at least an element of street racing vibe.
Through the prism of Jaguar TCS’ active and perfectly judged racing, there’s a worthy narrative that translates well into the title feud.
“There was a decision point in that race which I can actually show you here on the track, it was a decision point around laps 12, 13, 14 where everyone had to decide if they were going long (41 laps) or short (40 laps),” Jaguar technical chief Phil Charles told The Race as he waited for his cars to return from Parc Fermé.
“It turned out that we just weren’t fast enough to do it for long.”
One of those pilots turned out to be Stoffel Vandoorne. It initially seemed unlikely after being pushed back from eighth on the starting grid to a lowly 12th on the opening tour.
“Most people were going long and then you make the decision to go short,” says Charles, speaking of the adaptation of the tiptoe strategy that is now a regular part of Formula E 2022 racing.
“At this stage of the race I think Mercedes EQ timed very well, he was doing well and fast, and he did a very good job.
“Unfortunately, with Mitch, we just couldn’t. On the other hand, Sam made some really nice attacks and got away with having a great first lap and then we timed the attacks well. It’s just a really tactical and tricky game and there’s a lot going on there.
The race ultimately had its roots in poleman Mortara’s hesitant pace in the opening phase before the Venturi team rolled out the ‘short’ strategy.
Mortara and his ROKiT Venturi garage team completed a brilliantly judged race as the Italian/Swiss did just enough to stay ahead and stay out of trouble, before expertly timing his attack while managing his pace and energy Perfectly.
For Evans, there was the tricky part of “no man’s land” halfway through the race, which proved “pretty difficult for him to see where he was,” according to Charles.
“But I think he was happy with the car; we did well in the end. It’s just when people are constantly changing tower numbers and there are attacks going on, it’s pretty hard to know where you’re at in all honesty.
“At one point some of the cars we were racing against got away, had made a couple of attacks and were maybe short, and suddenly got on top of you and then a few laps later flipped over. “
One of the fundamental challenges faced by all teams that also had an added level of complexity was the difference in optimal setup for this much colder race than the one that took place in the heart of the Tempelhof furnace last summer.
“It’s so hard to get in through the window here,” Charles said.
“Even though this track went very well, (with) slightly cooler temperatures this week, that was a game changer.
“It’s a different set-up to the one we used last year by far. Really interesting, and that’s Formula E, that’s why it’s so good.”
Those little nuances in how the Michelin all-season tires are handled and used over the duration of a lap at Tempelhof, the quirky old asphalt and all, can make huge differences in points and prizes at the end of the lap. race.
“You have to have a slightly different approach. It’s basically when warming up and then how you use the tire throughout the lap.
“But at the end of the day it’s still the same surface, it’s still pretty much the same setup, it’s just these little bits of tire usage.”
Getting the little things right, whether it’s vehicle dynamics or software perfection, in some ways happened to most fighters in Saturday’s race. Still, the 2022 title-seeking “fab four” found their way back to the surface faster than the rest.
In Vandoorne’s case, it’s started to crystallize a lot more in his mind that maybe there’s going to be more of a fumble element to the title fight this season.
“There’s definitely a bit of an image emerging, let’s say,” Vandoorne told The Race after finishing third behind Vergne and Mortara.
“I feel like I’m constantly battling a few of the same guys on the track now for the first seven races, JEV being the main one of them let’s say, and for some reason we always seem to end up on Track .
“There’s a lot more consistency on the grid this year, even though people are still coming in and out. I wouldn’t write them off.
“At the end of the day, we know how variable this championship is and how quickly things can change from race to race, but it’s very intense there.
“It’s very intense there and every point is super important right now.”