Why Formula E's inaugural Zurich E-Prix surpassed expectations

The first motor race in Switzerland since 1954 "surpassed our expectations", according the Formula E event's CEO Pascal Derron - and it was easy to see why, says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Why Formula E's inaugural Zurich E-Prix surpassed expectations

After a 64-year absence from the country following the Swiss motorsport ban prompted by the 1955 Le Mans disaster, the inaugural Zurich E-Prix last weekend was a big moment for motorsport and FE deserves credit for pulling it off, seeing as its existence even required a change of Swiss law.

The historical significance was clearly not lost on the competitors. On Monday morning, race winner Lucas di Grassi was tweeting pictures of the start of the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten alongside the Zurich race start. Audi team principal Allan McNish "sent an email to the main heads of department in Audi after [the race] with a picture of it just saying - 'look, it's a historic moment'".

The two full-season Swiss FE drivers - as well as nearby resident Nick Heidfeld, who travelled in by train just because he could - were also clearly pleased to finally have a race on home soil.

Sebastien Buemi - running a modified helmet design to prominently display the Swiss flag - recalled how he previously "could never dream" of a Swiss-based race while climbing the single seater ladder. Edoardo Mortara, who was enjoying his second home event of the season after Rome thanks to his dual nationality, said it was simply "amazing to be racing here".

In practical terms, the event came together at the very last minute - but this was purely to keep the disruption to the city and its residents to an absolute minimum.

The race ran on a Sunday so that the road closures needed to put the final walls and barriers in place, as well as allow the shakedown running, could come into effect. Extra seating areas and fan amenities popped up overnight on Saturday, as everything appeared to be in place come race day.

It was a busy paddock - sponsor tours regularly packed the pitlane - and the organisers claim 160,000 attended the eVillage fan zone, which was free to enter.

When the sessions were in action, people crammed against the barriers to watch - only reserved grandstand seating required tickets - and others watched out of windows in the office buildings and homes that lined the 1.531-mile circuit.

As well as fans, the race attracted many motorsport stars - from Emerson Fittipaldi, who drove FE's demo car ahead of the race, to Mark Webber and Peter Sauber - and other celebrities including supermodel Naomi Campbell.

FIA president Jean Todt also visited the latest city to join the location-list of the governing body's "baby" championship.

"It's a historic moment," he told Autosport. "To bring Formula E to a city like Zurich is absolutely fascinating and very rewarding for all who have been able to participate."

Naturally, there were some complaints reported regarding the disruption to locals, but the vibes for motor racing's return to Switzerland seemed pretty positive.

"As in every city race, there are critical voices," said Derron.

"On the other hand, we applied an integrative approach for the residents living in the heart of the city of Zurich. One example is the personal invitation of all residents living in the inner circle of the race or directly outside of the track.

"The event [included] a pitlane walk one day before the race. We expected maybe 200 residents participating. At the end, we had more than 1400 residents, often families with kids, who arrived driven by curiosity and left the pit lane with a lot of impressions.

"Therefore, residents will become even more important in preparation of the Zurich E-Prix 2019, which is planned for June 9, 2019."

Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch described the race as a useful way highlight the benefits of e-mobility to the city's residents, while Derron added that it "surpassed our expectations". The number of people visiting the eVillage was "a great success for all involved," he continued. "We are happy."

Overall, and even though the race was tame by FE's standards, the first Zurich ePrix was an accomplished feat - and particularly rewarding for the electric championship's many Swiss-based sponsors and their guests.

shares
comments
Promoted: Formula E and Modis offer technology work placement

Previous article

Promoted: Formula E and Modis offer technology work placement

Next article

Formula E drivers baffled by 'huge crime' Zurich yellow penalties

Formula E drivers baffled by 'huge crime' Zurich yellow penalties
Load comments
Why electric racing cars should be four-wheel drive Plus

Why electric racing cars should be four-wheel drive

OPINION: Circuit racing has traditionally favoured front- or rear-wheel-drive setups, eschewing the equal distribution of power. But for Formula E and other electric-powered series, our columnist believes it’s a perfect fit

Formula E
Oct 13, 2021
How motorsport's most prominent power couple found joint success Plus

How motorsport's most prominent power couple found joint success

The Wolffs have carved their own paths in motorsport, leading their respective teams to success in Formula 1 and Formula E. But the two came together last month as their drivers finished first and second in the FE drivers' championship - a feat they are hugely proud of. In a rare joint interview, they reflect on a remarkable season

Formula E
Sep 21, 2021
The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21 Plus

The top 10 Formula E drivers of 2020-21

OPINION: The 2021 Formula E campaign was one without a narrative for much of the season, with no single car or driver able to break away from the pack. That makes choosing a top 10 especially difficult, particularly as the qualifying format meant some worthy performers were unable to enjoy their day in the sun

Formula E
Sep 19, 2021
How Mercedes and De Vries achieved Formula E glory the hard way Plus

How Mercedes and De Vries achieved Formula E glory the hard way

When Nyck de Vries dominated the first race of what would be the most controversial and unpredictable Formula E season to date, it looked as though Mercedes was in for a cakewalk. But as the campaign wore on, the path to a title double became increasingly rocky. Neither driver or team would be assured of the crown until the closing stages of the very final race on a weekend of struggle in Berlin

Formula E
Sep 17, 2021
The Formula E 'loan' deal that will keep its original missionary winning Plus

The Formula E 'loan' deal that will keep its original missionary winning

OPINION: The departure of Audi from Formula E meant its long-time driver Lucas di Grassi would need to find a new berth to stay on the grid. His deal at Venturi Racing will ensure the championship's first-ever race winner will remain competitive into the final year of the current Gen2 ruleset - although it may not be a long-term fit

Formula E
Sep 15, 2021
The problems laid bare by Mercedes' impending Formula E departure Plus

The problems laid bare by Mercedes' impending Formula E departure

Mercedes' planned withdrawal from Formula E at the end of the 2022 season will contribute to the big hole left by fellow automotive manufacturers Audi and BMW on their departures. Although the team may stick around under a different guise, the exit of the now-reigning teams' champion underlines FE's current issues...

Formula E
Aug 18, 2021
The F1 dilemma facing Mercedes' new world champion Plus

The F1 dilemma facing Mercedes' new world champion

After clinching the Formula E title at the Berlin finale, Nyck de Vries is a driver in demand. Although Mercedes would love to keep a reigning champion at the team, the allure of a Williams F1 drive may be too much for de Vries to ignore should a potential deal come to pass

Formula E
Aug 17, 2021
How de Vries claimed Formula E title glory as Mercedes exit bombshell looms Plus

How de Vries claimed Formula E title glory as Mercedes exit bombshell looms

As Formula E lined up to complete its seventh season at Berlin's Tempelhof Airport, all eyes were on who would be its first official FIA world champion. Despite Nyck de Vries' title lead heading into the weekend looking all but secure, the Dutchman held on - and enjoyed a good dollop of fortune - to secure a championship double for Mercedes

Formula E
Aug 16, 2021