Formula E arrives in Berlin for final European race of season three

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BERLIN, Germany – Formula E has come to a curious spot on its calendar for season three.

Despite having just three more cities slated on the calendar – Berlin, New York and Montreal – the fact they are all double-header rounds means we are only at the halfway mark of the campaign.

As such, there are plenty of points left on the table for title rivals Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi, both of whom have seen their fortunes vary widely in recent weeks.

Buemi’s run of three wins to start the season came to a shuddering halt in Mexico City, with di Grassi’s victory slicing the gap at the top of the drivers’ championship.

However, consecutive wins for Buemi in Monaco and Paris, combined with di Grassi’s DNF at the latter has seen the gap grow to 43 points. With Buemi’s participation in New York in doubt, though, the battle for the season three title is far from over.

DI GRASSI HOPES BAD LUCK IS USED UP

Di Grassi’s Paris ePrix weekend was a rotten one, with two crashes in the race scuppering his hopes of coming away with any points. However, the Brazilian hopes that the incidents will fill his bad luck allocation for the season in one hit, giving him the chance to bounce back in Berlin.

“Hopefully in Paris, everything that could go wrong did go wrong there, so we have good, clean races here, back to what we normally do, good points, podiums, maybe a victory,” di Grassi told NBC Sports.

“We’re going to fight very hard for that. This is a totally different track from Paris, totally different tarmac, totally different track layout, long straights, a lot of very wide, a lot of energy saving during the race.

“Hopefully we can get everything together and put together a good show.”

SARRAZIN SET FOR TECHEETAH DEBUT

Seasoned Venturi Formula E racer Stephane Sarrazin will make his debut for Techeetah in Berlin this weekend after being drafted in to replace Esteban Gutierrez, who has moved into IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing.

Until Friday morning, Sarrazin’s move wasn’t made official. Prior to that, the Techeetah team was waiting on permission from the stewards to field the Frenchman alongside Jean-Eric Vergne. Sarrazin fully expects to be allowed to race, but it is nevertheless an interesting quirk heading into the weekend.

Tom Dillmann will fill in for Sarrazin at Venturi for the remainder of the season, having made his Formula E debut in Paris last month.

LE MANS ON THE HORIZON

This weekend’s race in Berlin is the start of a busy run for a number of Formula E drivers who will also be featuring at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next week.

Buemi, di Grassi, Sarrazin, Nicolas Prost, Jean-Eric Vergne, Felix Rosenqvist, Sam Bird, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Jose Maria Lopez will all be heading to the Circuit de la Sarthe soon after the completion of their duties in Berlin, with the extension of the race weekend into a double-header causing a minor travel headache for most involved.

CONTRAST WITH HISTORY

Formula E has returned to Tempelhof Airport for season three after city officials in Berlin voted against staging the race on Karl-Marx-Allee in the city center, as it did in season two. Tempelhof hosted the inaugural Berlin ePrix back in 2015, but this weekend’s double-header will be run on a revised layout.

While Formula E is a series that points to the future, the backdrop of Tempelhof Airport could not be a stronger contrast. Tempelhof was instrumental in keeping West Berlin going in the early years of the Cold War as Allied forces flew supplies into the city that was blockaded by the Soviet Union. At the height of the Berlin Airlift, a plane was arriving in Berlin every 30 seconds filled with essential supplies. The a

FE SEE, FE DO

Formula E has also opted to follow Formula 1’s lead ahead of the Berlin weekend by calling for all teams to add name identifiers to their cars, making it easier for fans to differentiate between drivers.

Graham Rahal’s “Weighty Issue”

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses laser to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around, there was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“I’ve done one treatment,” Rahal said. “It takes a long time, I think. It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car and that can determine. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter weight drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is, so on…”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy…

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (bleep), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”