until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Five Formula E drivers who need a big Berlin

by Sam Smith
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

After a hectic first six races that included three brand new venues in succession, Formula E’s first Gen3 season goes into its next phase this weekend as the new car makes its European racing debut in the familiar surroundings of Berlin’s Tempelhof venue.

It does so with the championship tightening up after two poor races for leader Pascal Wehrlein and a string of disasters for his initial main rival and season-opener winner Jake Dennis, and with Porsche’s early superiority largely gone but another Porsche still on the rise as Wehrlein’s new team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa finds his feet.

Elsewhere in the field there are drivers who are unexpectedly on the wrong ends of intra-team battles, or who’ve begun Gen3 with absolute disasters and who really need this weekend’s German double-header to go very well indeed.

Here’s our pick of those most desperate for a good result in Berlin.

Edoardo Mortara

Formula E Cape Town E Prix 2023

Mortara’s best ever Formula E season in 2022 has been followed by definitely his worst in terms of results. Just a ninth place in the second Diriyah race and a 10th place finish in Hyderabad has been mustered in a car that had some rivals worried at the pre-season Valencia test last December.

The only consistency so far for Mortara has been the harm inflicted on his Maserati Tipo Folgore. The collective damage he and team-mate Maximilian Guenther have accrued has got to the stage where some executive eyes have started to study the financial cost cap with added scrutiny.

Mortara was occasionally brilliant in 2022. His four wins were all completely deserved, especially so in Berlin where he dominated.

He needs to channel that performance and ensure he and the team gather points, preferably big ones, at Tempelhof this weekend.

Pressure and expectation are not an issue for a professional such as Mortara. Water off a duck’s back. The question marks are not only there regarding his propensity to hit stuff, but also how strong Maserati MSG is in digging its way out of its current, sizable and quite unexpected trough.

Guenther too needs a big result this weekend. But in the context of Mortara being embedded in that team for so long in its previous Venturi guise, it will be the Italo/Swiss that most eyes will be on to lead the team away from its poor recent form.

Andre Lotterer

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Lotterer has had a disappointing season so far in what on paper is the leading technical package. Three of the four Porsche powered drivers have won a race and are at the sharp end of the points table. Lotterer is not.

He’s had some bad luck, such as getting boxed in behind a stubborn Lucas di Grassi in Mexico City. But too often he hasn’t quite grasped the Gen3 car as much as Andretti team-mate Dennis and certainly not those at his former team Porsche.

Struggling with finding a suitable balance, he’s just looked massively out of sorts compared to his qualifying excellence in 2021 and then in the first half of 2022.

Lotterer’s Le Mans 24 Hours duties mean he will miss the double-header in Jakarta in early June and be replaced by David Beckmann, who by then will have further knowledge of the Gen3 car after the Berlin rookie tests.

What was hoped to be a great last hurrah for Lotterer in Formula E in 2023 has turned into a bit of a damp squib. That’s such a shame because if ever there was a driver in Formula E who deserved a victory it is Lotterer. That looks a distant possibility at the moment.

Sebastien Buemi

Formula E Cape Town E Prix 2023

Buemi has had a tumultuous 2023 in Formula E so far. He’s been in very strong positions but – mostly through ill-fortune – the results have not come as they should have.

An extremely difficult start to the Gen3 project with Envision eventually became smoother as the races began and Buemi started to show stirrings of a renaissance after a poor season in 2022.

He’s brought a great deal of his natural drive and motivation to Envision and its supplier Jaguar has also benefited from his knowledge and experience to some extent. Buemi should have won in Hyderabad and he is likely to add to his 13 wins accrued so far.

Unlike Mortara and Lotterer, Buemi doesn’t need a big Berlin to save any bacon. He needs at least a top three to stay in contention with the title protagonists because he knows he should be already among them rather than 44 points behind Wehrlein in seventh.

He’ll shake off the nasty hand injury sustained in his shunt with Guenther in Sao Paulo and he should be a contender despite Envision’s horrendous two previous appearances at Tempelhof.

Buemi’s deft touch with the new Hankook tyres and his ability to read races so strategically with his new engineer Connor Summerville could create an element of justified redemption after some outrageously bad luck so far this season.

Jake Dennis

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Dennis has been knocked off his title-challenging perch a fair bit in recent races. He blamed Rene Rast and Dan Ticktum for that and he was of course right to do so.

But a slight festering over the latter incident in particular shouldn’t knock him out of focus as he goes to Berlin, a track where in August 2021 he had that fleeting glimpse of an outrageous crack at the title in his debut season.

A reset is needed for the Andretti driver and he’s entirely capable of doing that and then delivering results as he did in Mexico City and Diriyah.

The slight concern is that in some seasons Andretti has fallen away in the second half, although last year it did a fair job of reversing that trend with a strong final two events in London and Seoul.

In the first Gen3 season, the post-BMW feel to Andretti is much slicker and smoother, meaning that Dennis still has a chance to be everyone’s favourite title dark horse.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Formula E Sao Paulo Eprix

Vandoorne’s chances of defending his title appear to have quietly drifted away, and maybe having moved to a new set-up that itself was finding its feet means there was too much expected in the first place.

Then again this is Stoffel Vandoorne, hands down one of the best all-round drivers to ever set foot in the Formula E paddock.

His expectation was to at least fight for the title even with his DS Penske move and he will remain capable of doing that. But now at a 64-point deficit to Wehrlein, the Belgian needs ill-luck for others to complement his own resurgence towards the big points.

They looked to be coming in Sao Paulo before he got sucked into the inevitability of falling down the order after heading the field from a brilliantly executed pole position.

Vandoorne now has to make the lower point-accruing consistency into regular podiums if he is to salvage a chance to at least put up a fight in protecting his title.

At present though DS Penske isn’t quite there on outright pace over a race distance, meaning it has a lot of work to do to consistently match the Porsche- and Jaguar-powered cars, which unfortunately for everyone else now amounts to eight cars on the grid.

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