Formula E

Teams fear track sweeping will skew Formula E title fight

by Sam Smith
4 min read

The over-use of an infamous Tempelhof track sweeper was deemed to influence last season’s title defining Formula E races, and some teams are already lobbying against a repeat at this weekend’s 2021 decider.

Eighteen of the 24 drivers heading to Berlin have a mathematical chance of taking the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E world championship.

The top 11 are all within 25 points of leader Nyck de Vries, who is only one of two drivers to have claimed more than one victory in the 13 races held so far this season.

Nyck de Vries

The Race has learned that some teams have requested that the track is not swept in the fallow period between the second free practice session and the all-important qualifying period each day.

Last August the sweepers were used between sessions and many drivers and engineers believed that they affected the track evolution to the benefit of those in later qualifying groups.

What occurred last season has been likened by many teams to a rubber being dragged across a piece of paper with some smaller chunks (marbles) coming off and resting back on the racing line.

Berlin Formula E 2020

Teams’ desires regarding track cleaning are multi-faceted, because they want the larger marbles that collect off-line cleared to ensure cars are able to overtake in the race.

But they don’t want the sweepers to be put into action before qualifying as this would compromise those out first in the group system – exacerbating some of the stacking-up group qualifying scenes that have occurred in recent qualifying sessions.

The intentions of the FIA and Formula E Operations last August were to genuine in wanting to clear up the debris, but in fact many have since suggested that the sweeping had the effect of redistributing some smaller dust and debris fragments.

One engineer described it to The Race as akin to “feeling a piece of paper by running your hand across the paper after rubbing out a sentence and feeling the small amounts of debris left.”

In last season’s six Berlin races the fastest drivers in group qualifying came four times from the second group and one each from groups one and four.

Antonio Felix da Costa DS Techeetah Berlin Formula E 2021

However the evolution of the track became more pronounced as the races accrued and by the final race the group one qualifiers filled out six of the last seven positions on the grid.

Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans has confirmed that his team is one of the three known to have alerted organisers to the subtle yet crucial effect the sweeping has.

“We’re one of the teams requesting it not to happen,” he told The Race.

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“The idea was good to try and keep the track clean, but it almost just sort of throws the dust off and just brings it back onto the racing line.

“So if anything, it probably just made it worse.

“We’ve found if you can’t have actual cars driving on the racing line, and sort of clearing the racing line, it’s better just to leave it.”

One of the other teams known to have requested no sweeping before qualifying is BMW i Andretti.

Spacesuit Media Shiv Gohil 209134

Berlin Tempelhof has a notoriously unique and abrasive surface that has outfoxed many of the teams since it was first used in May 2015.

The old airfield asphalt is very aggressive even on the durable Michelin tyres used in Formula E.

Last year was the first time that teams had driven there in the height of summer as previous races had taken place mostly in May.

Additionally, last season the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY had races at the venue and was capable of naturally cleaning the racing line to some extent between Formula E sessions.

There are no support races this season, however there is planned VIP track activity timetabled in the gap between the second practice session and qualifying.

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