This was probably the most anticipated race of the 2017-18 Formula E calendar. After taking a 63-year hiatus from hosting circuit events on their turf, the Swiss have allowed racecars to once again grace their streets. Formula E took the action to Zurich this weekend and put together an interesting circuit layout that included a really long straight and even parts of the road with tram lines on them. Watching the cars in practice revealed that it would be a quick circuit but a bumpy one as many drivers seemed to be working hard to keep their machines from twitching off the racing line as they hurtled down the straights.
Jean-Eric Vergne had a chance to seal the Championship this race but a terrible qualifying performance saw him start 17th on the grid. His only contender now, Sam Bird, managed to make it to the Super Pole shootout and secured the third spot on the starting grid. Berlin’s power-duo in the Audis didn’t have the best of qualifying either with Daniel Abt starting in ninth and Lucas Di Grassi in sixth but posed a serious threat to the front-runners. Mitch Evans managed to claim his and the Jaguar team’s first pole in Formula E at the first ever Zurich E Prix. Andre Lotterer did well enough to qualify second fastest after the Super Pole shootout while the Dragon Racing cars came through with Jerome d’Ambrosio and Jose Maria Lopez qualifying fourth and fifth fastest respectively. Native racer Sebastian Buemi started seventh on the grid just ahead of teammate Nico Prost in eighth while Felix Rosenqvist qualified tenth fastest in his Mahindra, his teammate Nick Heidfeld starting 13th on the grid.
Evans got a strong start with Lotterer and Bird getting feisty early on in the race, allowing the Jaguar to build a small lead. The Dragon Racing cars had the challenge of defending against an in-form Di Grassi but it wasn’t long before the Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler man mounted his charge up the order. His teammate Daniel Abt, however, had a bit of an incident on Lap 1 when he hit the kerb and his sudden deceleration led to Nelson Piquet Jr slamming into the back of him, spewing debris onto the track. Both cars were ordered to come into the pits for repairs just a couple of laps later and rejoined at the back of the pack. Vergne meanwhile was doing a fantastic job of manoeuvering his Techeetah past the middle order while using his battery power quite conservatively. However, as he was trying to pass the Mahindra of Rosenqvist, the two collided and the Swede was forced into the barrier, creating more debris onto the track just around the midway point and a full course yellow was declared. Until this point, Di Grassi had managed to work his way up to P1 and stayed there after his pit stop. Mitch Evans was running in second with Lotterer and Buemi battling for third and Bird was struggling with his DS Virgin car in P5. Both the Dragon cars had dropped down a few positions while Vergne who had done a stellar job to get from P17 to P7, but a slow car change and rejoined the track in P9.
At this point in the race, Lucas di Grassi was sure to win and Jean-Eric Vergne (JEV) seemed to have negated the opening that Bird might have had after the French racer’s poor qualifying. The Brit was running out of podium contention and it was almost a settled matter but then one small announcement from the officials changed everything. With just a few laps remaining, the stewards slapped a drive-through penalty for speeding under the full course yellow to all the front-runners save two. Evans, JEV, Lotterer, Lopez and Buemi, all had to give up their track positions and serve their penalties while Lucas and Sam were the good boys who got to stay out on track. As a result, Lucas Di Grassi was finally able to clinch his first win of Season 4, Sam Bird finished second and was able to narrow the gap to JEV in the championship with two races to go and d’Ambrosio took the third spot on the podium.
Lotterer finished fourth while Buemi used his fanboost in the last moments to move up to fifth. Evans was trying to get to the finish on his last bit of energy when he was passed by Heidfeld who took P6 and the Kiwi had to settle for P7 which is a disappointing result after the start that he had. JEV meanwhile had dropped down to finish 10th after serving his drive-through penalty behind Da Costa in P8 and Oliver Turvey in P9. A decent performance from the Nio racer after his terrible result in qualifying. We had four DNFs in this chaotic race around the peaceful Zurich lakeside but Rosenqvist wasn’t one of them as the Swede did manage to finish the race in P15.
The season and the title come down to the last two races on the Formula E calendar – a double round at the NYC circuit next month, one where Sam Bird had dominated the year before. With JEV’s lead down to just 23 points, this could once again go down to the wire for him and for Techeetah in the constructor’s championship who is facing title contention from Audi after the German’s recent point scoring run from both their drivers. Stay tuned for more Formula E as we head into the season finale in New York next month and be sure to subscribe to the Auto Loons for the latest updates.
Full race standings:
- L. Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler – 51m19.811s
- S. Bird DS Virgin Racing +7.542
- J. D’Ambrosio Dragon Racing +16.822
- A. Lotterer Techeetah +20.295
- S. Buemi Renault E.DAMS +26.692
- N. Heidfeld Mahindra Racing +28.059
- M. Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing +30.631
- A. Da Costa MS&AD Andretti Formula E +31.301
- O. Turvey Nio Formula E Team +32.180
- J. Vergne Techeetah +32.833
- M. Engel Venturi Formula E Team +34.604
- J. Lopez Dragon Racing +35.206
- D. Abt Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler +46.222
- S. Sarazzin MS&AD Andretti Formula E +1:09.505
- F. Rosenqvist Mahinda Racing +1 Lap
- A. Lynn DS Virgin Racing +1 Lap
- N. Prost Renault E.DAMS DNF
- L. Filippi Nio Formula E Team DNF
- N. Piquet Jr. Panasonic Jaguar Racing DNF
- E. Mortara Venturi Formula E Team DNF