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.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”