Berlin E-Prix: Rowland leads Bird in truncated practice

Matt Kew

Five months (158 days) after the last race in Marrakech, after which FE suspended operations for COVID-19, the championship resumed for its opening 45-minute session. 

Rowland set a benchmark time of 1m07.832s with 11 minutes to go, and a stoppage for James Calado two minutes later brought the red flag from which the session would not continue. 

Jaguar driver Calado spent the first-half of opening practice in the garage after the team identified a small software issue, which forced a precautionary powertrain change. 

An impressive rebuild effort meant he could leave the garage but his I-Type 4 car stopped at Turn 3 on the out-lap after Calado reported a “big oscillation”. 

Revised FE protocols following the coronavirus meant fewer marshals on site at Berlin - which will result in longer delays - but combined with the powertrain failure, on-track running was ended early by race director Scot Elkins. 

That left Bird, who will replace Calado at Jaguar next season, in second and 0.236s adrift of Rowland as reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne was a late climber to third place. 

Dragon's Nico Muller wound up fourth, eclipsing the time of Jerome d’Ambrosio who ran in the higher-power attack mode for Mahindra Racing. 

Alexander Sims was the top BMW Andretti pilot in sixth, as Venturi customer team driver Edoardo Mortara beat the parent powertrain of Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries to seventh. 

Bird's teammate Robin Frijns finished ninth, and Sebastien Buemi - Rowland’s Nissan counterpart - rounded out the top 10. 

Pre-event points leader Antonio Felix da Costa was shuffled down the order late on to finish 11th as title rivals Maximilian Gunther and Mitch Evans were only 15th and 16th respectively - the latter complaining over team radio about a lack of traction.  

Two-time DTM champion Rene Rast marked his return to Formula E with 17th, one spot higher than NIO 333 driver Daniel Abt whom he came to replace at Audi. Rast’s teammate Lucas di Grassi was 20th.   

First practice results:

1

22

GBR

 Oliver Rowland

Nissan e.Dams

1'07.832

 

2

2

GBR

 Sam Bird

Envision Virgin Racing

1'08.068

0.236

3

25

FRA

 Jean-Eric Vergne

DS Techeetah Formula E Team

1'08.129

0.297

4

7

SUI

 Nico Müller

Geox Dragon

1'08.168

0.336

5

64

BEL

 Jerome D' Ambrosio

Mahindra Racing

1'08.219

0.387

6

27

GBR

 Alexander Sims

BMW i Andretti Motorsport

1'08.349

0.517

7

48

SUI

 Edoardo Mortara

Venturi Formula E Team

1'08.484

0.652

8

17

HOL

 Nyck de Vries

Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team

1'08.601

0.769

9

4

HOL

 Robin Frijns

Envision Virgin Racing

1'08.617

0.785

10

23

SUI

 Sebastien Buemi

Nissan e.Dams

1'08.712

0.880

11

13

POR

 Antonio Felix da Costa

DS Techeetah Formula E Team

1'08.718

0.886

12

94

GBR

 Alex Lynn

Mahindra Racing

1'08.783

0.951

13

3

GBR

 Oliver Turvey

NIO 333 FE Team

1'08.816

0.984

14

5

BEL

 Stoffel Vandoorne

Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team

1'08.996

1.164

15

28

GER

 Maximilian Günther

BMW i Andretti Motorsport

1'09.196

1.364

16

20

NZL

 Mitch Evans

Panasonic Jaguar Racing

1'09.199

1.367

17

66

GER

 René Rast

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

1'09.236

1.404

18

33

GER

 Daniel Abt

NIO 333 FE Team

1'09.247

1.415

19

36

GER

 Andre Lotterer

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team

1'09.309

1.477

20

11

BRA

 Lucas di Grassi

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

1'09.378

1.546

21

19

BRA

 Felipe Massa

Venturi Formula E Team

1'09.390

1.558

22

18

SUI

 Neel Jani

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team

1'09.505

1.673

23

6

BRA

 Sérgio Sette Câmara

Geox Dragon

1'09.982

2.150

24

51

GBR

 James Calado

Panasonic Jaguar Racing