Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Lucas di Grassi thinks that the unique timetable for this weekend’s Berlin E-Prix could be crucial in the title stakes.
A modified schedule will see both Free Practice sessions held on Friday afternoon before the all-important qualifying and Super Pole sessions on Saturday morning, with the race following at 1 p.m.
The changes have been made to accommodate the German soccer final taking place at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on Saturday evening, so that the E-Prix doesn’t clash with build-up coverage ahead of the match.
The quirky nature of the Tempelhof track’s abrasive concrete surface can see grip conditions vary dramatically with fluctuating temperatures.
“The Berlin race with practice on Friday and then the qualifying on Saturday will be very pivotal I think,” di Grassi told e-racing365.
“We go direct onto a track that will pick up dirt and debris throughout the whole night and a temperature change so it will be tricky for sure.
“This means that Group 1 qualifying is likely to be completely screwed and probably Group 2 also. Berlin will be the worst scenario for qualifying and I think anyone in Group 1 will be unlikely to get into the first 15.
“At Berlin if you leave it with nobody driving on it for one hour it loses performance massively, so this will be a big factor I think.”
The 2016-17 Formula E champion currently sits fifth in the drivers’ standings and is 17 points adrift of current leader Jean-Eric Vergne. This is despite three no-scores so far this season for di Grassi.
“When you look ahead it is super difficult to know where we are going to be in New York,” he said.
“Maybe it will not be the optimum to go to New York in Group 1 with how it works, so it is a really key point.
“Really you cannot forecast if it will be 100 percent better to be in Group 2 or not but in New York for the first race I think there can be at least eight guys with a real possibility of the championship.”
Qualifying System Needs Change
Di Grassi believes that the current qualifying system for Formula E needs changes ahead of next season.
He does acknowledge that the current group system, based on championship standings and negatively affecting the most successful drivers who go out first, is fairer than using a random draw like previously.
“The strongest point for this championship to have had eight [different] winners and such a tight championship is not because of the equivalency of the drivetrains but because of the qualifying format,” said di Grassi.
“I am not against it and it is what it is for everybody. It creates a lot of entertainment on the sporting side, yes.
“From the qualifying systems that we have had this is the best one for the show. Better than anything random that we did in the past.
“It is the most fair and you know what is coming.
“But the qualifying system is not the best and people are not really excited about it and the cameras cannot focus on more than one car in the same way apart from Super Pole.”