Report on the BMW i8 driving experience at the Formula E race track in Berlin. Those who have been following my blog for a while know my fondness for sporting events, beautiful cars and Berlin – if you can combine all three – you get a perfect weekend with Formula E Berlin. I was invited by Harman Kardon to the Formula E Grand Prix last week and got to experience what “Sound of the Future” can mean. The former Berlin Tempelhof Airport became the Formula E Berlin Grand Prix race track and I was there not only as a spectator but also for the BMW i8 driving experience.
Sound of the Future at the Formula E Berlin Grand Prix
If you think of motorsports as roaring engines, lots of exhaust fumes and an incredible amount of noise, you will experience the opposite at Formula E Berlin – the new sound – the “Sound of the Future”. Formula E has been around for three years and is similar to the world-famous Formula 1, only with electric cars. The cars look similar, both racing series are organized by the FIA and well-known Formula 1 drivers have also been racing in this relatively new racing series for three years now.
Due to the significantly lower noise level and no exhaust fumes, these car races are also allowed to be driven in cities, which opens up completely new opportunities. More and more cities are opening up to Formula E and the combination of eSports and Formula E racing was also launched at CES in Las Vegas in 2017. 20 racers and 10 gamers played for a prize money of one million USD.
Before the Formula E Berlin race at Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport, right in the city center, there was a race in Paris, for example, which drove through the narrow urban canyons, past Musée de L’Armée, Hôtel des Invalides and Le Tombeau de Napoleon; in Hong Kong, racing takes place in the harbor district; in Monte Carlo, on parts of the Formula 1 race track. It’s allowed to be fast – and it’s spectacular. But more on that – during my own drive around the Berlin track of Formula E Berlin…
Harman Kardon – Experience sound
For me, Harman Kardon by Harman was previously only known from the automotive sector and if you ordered a new car, you, like me, often came into contact with Harman Kardon’s offerings. Do you want to have only four speakers in the car or can you have twelve speakers. Once you’ve heard the difference, the decision is clear – but I also learned many things that weekend and have held Harman products in my hands more often – I just didn’t know it yet…
My day started relatively early on Friday with the journey to Formula E Berlin in Berlin. Fittingly for an event – as a VIP guest – the black BMW X5 was already parked in front of the exit of the Berlin train station and the motto was already recognizable from a distance – “Sound of the future”. In the car already prepared – the program for the days and all the information about the race. (Perfectly solved!)
After a short drive through Berlin, there was also for me the first time a visit to the 25hours Bikini and after a friendly and quick check-in, a short time out in the hammock with a view of the Berlin Zoo, there was getting to know international bloggers and YouTubers for lunch at the Neni restaurant.
I always look forward to international blogger and influencer events, there are so many things to exchange and you can take away so much for yourself and also apply it back to your own blog, YouTube channel or Instagram channel.
From autobloggers and big YouTubers, to gentleman bloggers and lifestyle bloggers, everything was represented and I was the only woman in the men’s “influencer” round. Every participant of the Formula E Berlin was totally open and so new conversations and common ideas were born again and again and the ride again with the limousines to the airport Tempelhof in the afternoon flew by in minutes.
Berlin Tempelhof Airport – BMW eVillage
Who has visited the old Berlin airport once, this building will simply love. Even though the airport was once again open for a limited time until 2008, it feels as if time has stood still. The furnishings and design of the airport of the seventies were seemingly preserved until today and so you notice the contrasts even more clearly.
The old building, the old staircases and the check-in counters on one side and on the former apron the BMW eVillage – the latest technology, both in vehicles and in sound by Harman Kardon. I absolutely love these contrasts and am always fascinated.
Thanks to BMWi and Harman Kardon, it was possible to take a look “behind the scenes” of the Formula E Berlin event as early as Friday and understand how important it is for car manufacturers and sound technology to work together.
What to pay attention to in the construction of the vehicle, which noises from the car should be reduced, which noises should be amplified and how to bring your own music wishes perfectly into the car.
In an expert discussion with Wolfgang Zieglmeier (Principal Acoustic Systems Engineer) at Harman, it quickly became clear where the challenges lie in terms of sound and that every car and every manufacturer really does have very different requirements and demands.
Wolfang Zieglmeier often sits in front of CAD drawings four (!) years before the vehicle is released and, together with the team, considers where the speakers can be placed, which components need to be developed, and what the weight situation is. Many manufacturers specify weight limits to individual grams, which then must not be exceeded. So components have to be developed that meet all the specifications and also provide the perfect sound.
Another challenge arises, for example, with electric vehicles, such as the BMW i8, in which the vehicle housing is made of carbon. Seats that can otherwise be used are not usable and new solutions have to be found. The spaces under the seats are also unusable in vehicles such as the BMW i3, for example, because the space is used for the batteries. Fascinating for me again and again, no matter how loud you turned up the music in the BMW i8 – nothing could be heard from the outside.
To give the users a feeling of sound themselves, there was also the opportunity to have their own VR experience from Harman, as well as to hold the products in their hands and try them out themselves.
Formula E Berlin Safety Car Driver and BMW i8 Driving Experience
For a completely different sense of preparation for your own drive on the Formula E Berlin race track in the BMW i8, talk with BMW i8 Safety Car driver Bruno Correia. He has also been involved in the racing series since the beginning and is proud of the fact that he has not even damaged the BMW i8.
It’s always interesting to learn what a safety car driver looks out for, what the challenges are on the race track at Tempelhofer Feld and how you have to deal with the different surfaces on the apron. BMW not only provides the safety car, but was then also responsible for BMW i8 VIP Driving Experience, the BMW i8 driving experience.
Together with a BMW i8 Driving Experience test driver, we then went to the original course for the Formula E Berlin Grand Prix race the day before the race. After an initial introduction to the difficulties of the track, the recommended braking points for the track and the correct position of the steering wheel, the own BMW i8 driving experience could then be collected on the track.
How does the BMW i8 Hybrid with 366 hp accelerate on the track, how is the braking behavior in the first corner after the start and finish and how do centrifugal forces feel in the hairpin. Interesting new BMW i8 driving experience!
I can only tell you – it was incredibly fun to also get a personal connection to the track, the test drivers and the manufacturers for once, and also a glimpse of where technology is going in cars, sound in cars and e-mobility.
If you’ve only been standing on the side of the track as a spectator so far, you experience the race tracks and the BMW i8 in a completely different way again, braking much later than you actually would have done and first realizing how narrow a track is. When you hear from the drivers afterwards, “Berlin is okay – there’s really a lot of room,” then you really want to know what the feeling is like in a tight street circuit like Monte Carlo or in July in New York or Montreal at the next races.
The final event of the evening was the Formula E Berlin Grand Prix VIP Event at the SAGE Restaurant in Berlin, with many great conversations, interesting people and an upcycling fashion show by young designers. So there was again a combination of technology, lifestyle and fashion and a perfect end to an incredible day, which the employees of Harman Kardon by Harman organized fantastically.
Not only was I able to learn an incredible amount about the Formula E Grand Prix Series, but also about the developments and connections of car and audio, the long partnership of Harman Kardon and the developments for cars, teams and drivers and the close bond.
As if the Formula E Berlin day wasn’t already perfect, there was a nice surprise from the staff in the room before, after a short night, it was straight back to the track the next day for the Formula E Berlin Grand Prix, practice runs, qualifying and of course the race.
As a VIP guest of Harman Kardon in cooperation with BMWi and the MS Amlin Andretti Racing Team, an incredible day awaits me also on the second day of Formula E Berlin, which I will describe to you shortly… and of course I will tell you what was waiting for me in the room.
But what I can already say as a conclusion of the first day is that Formula E Berlin not only has a different sound – the “sound of the future” – but above all is open for visitors, for new media and is close… and that is wonderful…