The Debrief: Mixed fortunes in Berlin

Maserati MSG Racing Deputy Team Principal, Cyril Blais, debriefs the 2024 Berlin E-Prix using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Completing a race weekend with a sense of disappointment can be a difficult emotion to contend with. It’s frustrating, sure. But it can be an incredible source of motivation.

The 2024 Berlin E-Prix was one of the most challenging race weekends faced by Maserati MSG Racing this season, but while poor fortune raised its head, it failed to strike at our promise and pure potential.

Despite the difficulties we faced as a team, our hopes endured, and our ambition prevailed as Jehan Daruvala completed a breakthrough weekend to secure the best finish of his Formula E career so far.

Reflecting on a testing but encouraging weekend in Germany, our newly appointed Deputy Team Principal, Cyril Blais, debriefs Berlin using insights powered by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“Berlin was quite possibly the most difficult race weekend we’ve faced as a team this season,” says Cyril, who was named as Formula E’s Engineer of the Year in 2023.

“Despite showing good pace in almost every session, our performance didn’t always align in the races, and although losing opportunities to score good points is frustrating, especially this late in the season, responding to challenges in the right way is vital.

“In Berlin, we rose to face our difficulties directly and after a challenging Saturday, we were able to bounce back into the points on Sunday with a big result for Jehan.

“Throughout the weekend we saw the return of peloton racing, and while it’s undoubtedly exciting to watch from a viewer’s perspective, on track, it just becomes one big game of survival.

“The state of a peloton race can change very quickly, and because drivers are battling for the same part of the track, there’s a lot of bumping and banging. The race comes down to luck.

“At multiple points in the weekend, we were caught out by the concertina effect which prevented us from showing our full potential but knowing that we have the pace to achieve more, and knowing that we’re capable of achieving more, is a great source of motivation.

“Maserati MSG Racing is made up of a team of fighters. The way we respond to the tough days is what carries us forward, and races like Berlin only make us more hungry for success.”

After showing strong pace across practice, it was evident that Jehan and team-mate, Maximilian Günther, were hooked up with Tempelhof’s new circuit configuration.

This profound speed enabled the duo to deliver one of our best performances of the season in Qualifying, with both drivers progressing to the sought after duels.

“Max and Jehan were on the pace as soon as we started running, and that especially showed in Qualifying when they both advanced to the duels,” continues Cyril.

“A good performance put Max fifth on the grid, and Jehan secured one of his best Qualifying results of the season with seventh, but because of a gearbox change, we knew that he would need to serve a 20-place grid penalty which demoted him to 22nd.

“Unfortunately, because we were unable to serve the full grid penalty, Jehan was then forced to serve a 10-second stop-go penalty at the start of the race.

“The stop-go made our strategy quite simple, and it was very similar to the strategy we used with Max earlier in the season in São Paulo: save energy at the back, and hope for a Safety Car.

“That Safety Car came on lap 11 when [Joel] Eriksson stopped on track, and it allowed Jehan to rejoin the back of the field. His race only properly started one-quarter of the way in.

“At this stage, Max was in a very good position inside the points and was on course for a top five finish, but light contact with [Edoardo] Mortara broke his wing which then slid under the car.

“When that happened, Max was just a passenger. He couldn’t steer, hit the wall, and there was too much damage for us to continue.

“In the final part of the race, Jehan used the energy advantage he had built up to fight into the top five, but like Max, he was caught out by the concertina, lost his wing and finished 17th.”

While Race One in Berlin was bruising, the team regrouped overnight and staged a strong recovery on Sunday, although the second part of the double-header was far from plain sailing.

“After the unfulfilled promise of Saturday, we entered Sunday with a lot of focus,” explains Cyril. “We had a very clear goal, and a very clear objective of what we wanted to achieve.

“With Max starting inside the top five again, we knew that we had a good opportunity to score big, but unfortunately, he lost power several times at the start which cost him a lot of positions.

“When we lost that ground, we were forced to immediately re-evaluate our strategy, and thanks to the real-time data insights we receive from Hewlett Packard Enterprise, this is something we did very quickly.

“We decided to use Max’s position towards the back as an opportunity to save more energy than other drivers around us and then use it to fight back into the points later in the race.”

After falling from fifth to 15th over the opening laps, Max commenced his recovery after taking Attack Mode and gained six positions on one lap alone to return to the top 10.

“Shortly after moving into the top 10, Max was caught out by the concertina effect in Turn Two, lost his wing, and hit the wall in an incident that was almost identical to what we had in Race One,” says Cyril.

“He was able to get the car back to the pitlane, but after an initial investigation, we found that there was too much damage on the car for us to continue.

“After the Safety Car, Jehan drove a very clean race to get into the top 10 and overtook [Jean-Eric] Vergne, [Jake] Hughes, and [Taylor] Barnard in the final few laps to finish seventh.”

By finishing seventh, Jehan secured his second points finish of the season, and the best result of his Formula E career so far.

“I’m proud of Jehan,” adds Cyril. “He’s the only full-time rookie on the grid this season, so coming in to 2024, we knew that he had a very steep learning curve.

“He’s taken that learning into his stride, worked incredibly hard, and step-by-step and session-by-session, he’s shown good progress to get to where he deserves to be.

“He scored some good points on Sunday, his pace and strategic-thinking is only getting better, and he’s becoming more and more consistent. I can’t wait to see what he can achieve over the final six races of the year.

“After Monday’s Rookie Test with Felipe [Drugovich] and Nico [Pino] in the car, we have an invaluable opportunity to refine our performance before the Shanghai E-Prix next week.

“Shanghai is a new circuit for us, but the goal is always the same: remain focussed, prepare well, maximise track time, qualify well, and drive clean and intelligent races.

“This season is far from over, and after Berlin – if everything aligns – we know that we have the potential to fight at the very front with both cars.”