Noor Amylia Hilda travelled from her home in Malaysia to Switzerland for the 2018 Zurich E-Prix, the first motorsport event in the country for over 60 years. Here’s her impressions of the race, which was won by Lucas di Grassi.
There’s nothing quite like arriving at your destination only to be greeted by a huge poster advertising the event that you’ve traveled far and wide to attend, giving the promise of an exciting weekend ahead.
That was my first impression upon arriving at Zurich Airport where I was greeted by a huge poster advertising the Zurich EPrix in arrivals. The event was a major historical occasion for Switzerland; the return of motor racing after more than 60 years. The sport had been banned after the tragedy at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1955, when 83 spectators were killed.
The event also marked yet another remarkable coup for the all-electric championship; hosting a street race in a country where mowing your lawn on a Sunday can get you in trouble with the law. Nevertheless, the city council welcomed the event with open arms and it was a major success in terms of turnout.
Arrival & Thunderstorms
I arrived early in the morning and checked into the Four Points by Sheraton in Sihlcity, a hotel located in central Zurich and only 10 minutes by tram to the Formula E circuit near Lake Zurich.
Switzerland is possibly the priciest country on the Formula E calendar but thankfully, the trams offer an affordable way of getting around. Nonetheless, my first ever visit to Switzerland was everything I expected it to be. It has a uniquely European ambience that’s quite laid back but also bustling at the same time as I was staying right in the middle of the city centre.
Towards late afternoon, there was a massive downpour and plenty of chat in the Paddock about whether we were going to see the first wet race in the history of Formula E, but as always, rain was nowhere to be seen throughout the entire race weekend. Classic Formula E!
Media Day with Felipe Massa
Getting to the media centre generally involves a bit of a trial and error journey, but the Zurich EPrix was by far one of the most well-organized events that I have ever attended. Despite the long walk from the accreditation centre to the media centre, there were plenty of signposts and personnel to help you find your way.
The paddock was also unique. The team garages were housed in makeshift wooden structures, giving the paddock a bit of a Swiss chalet feel (minus the fireplace and fur rug). It’s been said that the structures will be recycled and used at other rounds in the Formula E calendar. Another notable feature of the weekend were the cobblestones that lined the pitlane that made the pitstops even more interesting than usual.
The stars of the weekend were none other than Swiss residents Sebastian Buemi, Nick Heidfeld (who proudly tweeted about his commute to work from his Zurich apartment) and Edoardo Mortara, who is of Italian and Swiss heritage. Former Formula 1 driver and now broadcaster, Marc Surer was also in the paddock to show his support for the return of motor racing in his home country as well as Susie Wolff who was spotted in the Venturi garage.
Later in the day, Felipe Massa gave a press conference, his first media appearance in a Formula E paddock after the announcement that he’d be driving for Venturi in Season 5. Later in the day I took part in a roundtable interview with the Brazilian who admitted that joining Formula E is a way to accomplish a few of his personal goals. Surely for someone as competitive as Massa, it’s obvious his career won’t be ending after his retirement from Formula 1.
Making history on race day
The E-Village was already buzzing with activity very early in the morning as families tried out the interactive activities or just lounged about near the lake. It was definitely a unique and relaxing atmosphere compared to some of the other European locations.
The first practice session was already underway when I arrived at the track and although it may look picturesque and calm on the outside, the atmosphere was tense in the garages as new circuits can add a bit more uncertainty in terms of performance and teams try to get acquainted with the track surface and layout. It was obvious that some of the turns were confusing for the drivers and the circuit was quite tight and bumpy in some parts.
Qualifying saw Panasonic Jaguar Racing score their first ever pole position thanks to Mitch Evans. Unfortunately, the Kiwi didn’t manage to keep up the pace during the race. Nevertheless, it was good to see a show of pace from the British team, the newest on the grid.
It was a triumphant win for Lucas di Grassi in the end. Sam Bird came in a close second while Jerome d’Ambrosio of Dragon scored a long overdue but deserving podium for the American team. The celebrations carried on after the podium ceremony with Lucas di Grassi and a few other Audi Abt Schaeffler team members jumping into the lake! It was a historic day in the heart of Zurich and one that I will fondly remember.