Postcard from the 2019 Swiss E-Prix, Bern
Making a welcome return to Switzerland, the penultimate round of the 2019 Formula E Championship, took place on a fourteen corner, 2.75km “street circuit” layout, overlooking the historic city of Bern and the River Aare. Home to 142,500 people and since 1983, a UNESCO World Heritage location, the “all-electric” series, utilised an exhibition hall adjacent to the Bern Expo as it’s paddock and press centre, whilst the residents of the nearby Laubeggstrasse, had a direct view of the U-shaped pit-lane and FIA Scrutineering area.
Bern and motorsport share a long history, dating back to 1934, when the Swiss Grand Prix was held in the Bremgarten area of the city, less than 500 metres from the aforementioned pit-lane exit. Initially a Formula One Grand Prix until 1939, from 1947-1954, it was a round of the European Championship.
Most successful driver/team of the Grosse Preisder Schweiz was Germany’s Rudolf Caracciolaand Mercedes…fitting then that in 2020, the “Silver Arrows” will join the Formula E entry, alongside long-time rivals Porsche.
The second longest (after Rome) track on the calendar, was praised by many drivers, for it’s steep inclines and descents and it was clear that as with most “street circuits”, successful qualifying would be paramount. Several teams highlighted the need to optimise brake balance, energy management and aerodynamic performance in the event’s Shakedown, but already the visibly compact first corner, was causing concern.
With eight global vehicle manufacturers and three highly regarded race preparation/development companies, providing a 22 car field and entries for series regulars, including 2019 Le Mans winner Sebastien Buemi, double DTM Champion Gary Paffett and highly respected former F1 racer, Felipe Massa, anticipation was high, for an exciting race.
Starting from pole position, DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne lead the opening lap, ahead of Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Mitch Evans and Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams). As a result of a collision between Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein and Geox Dragon’s Max Gunther at the first corner, the race was red-flagged…..Wehrlein’s team-mate Jerome d’Ambrosio and Robert Frijns stranded on the exit.
With a second start required and 44 mins of racing remaining, competitors re-formed in their original grid order, behind the safety car….ensuring all,safely cleared the first corner. Vergne and Evans quickly established a considerable lead over their competition, the latter never more than a car length behind the former Toro Rosso F1 racer.
Alongside Vergne and Evans, Andre Lotterer and sometime AF Corse Ferrari driver Sam Bird, were the undoubted stars of the race, driving their cars with considerable skill and precision, over the undulating and demanding street course.
Making use of his “Fanboost”, Sebastien Buemiattempted to overtake Evans for second place with thirty-eight minutes completed, closely followed by Bird and Lotterer. With less than three minutes remaining, intermittent heavy rain led to slippery conditions, as Vergne retained his lead, to win,with Evans less than two metres behind, a closing Buemi third and an elated Lotterer fourth.
The penultimate round of the 2019 ABB Formula E Championship, presented by Julius Baer was an excellent weekend of racing in one of Switzerland’s most welcoming cities, set against the stunning backdrop of the Bernese Alps and the River Aare.
Launched at the beginning of the ‘18/’19 season, the Gen2 single-seater, has made Formula E intothe pre-eminent global championship for electrically powered vehicles and with the first presentation of the Extreme E off-roader at this years Goodwood Festival of Speed and the imminent arrival of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche’s in the ‘19/’20 series, my tickets for the 2020 finale in London’s Docklands are already booked!! See you there…