BERLIN, Germany – Nick Heidfeld led Mahindra Racing to a one-two finish in practice for the opening Berlin Formula E race on Saturday morning, edging out teammate Felix Rosenqvist at the top of the timesheets.
Heidfeld arrived in Berlin for his home race off the back of two straight podium finishes in Monaco and Paris, and sent out another warning shot to his rivals through Saturday’s practice.
Heidfeld turned in a fastest lap time of 1:08.070 around the Berlin Tempelhof circuit in FP2 on a 200kW lap, nosing clear of Rosenqvist, who was left 0.022 seconds down in second place.
Formula E championship leader Sebastien Buemi turned in the third-fastest time of the morning, but opted to complete an early full-power lap in FP1. The Swiss driver could only finish ninth-fastest in FP2, half a second down on Heidfeld at the top.
Maro Engel finished FP2 third for Venturi ahead of Buemi’s title rival, Lucas di Grassi, who was just two-tenths of a second down in fourth place despite carrying a minor ankle injury.
Stephane Sarrazin made a good start to life with Techeetah, finishing fifth ahead of the DS Virgin Racing duo of Jose Maria Lopez and Sam Bird. Jean-Eric Vergne was eighth-quick in the second Techeetah, with Buemi and Oliver Turvey rounding out the top 10.
The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.
With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.
Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.
With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.
“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!
“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”
Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.
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