After the 1955 Le Mans disaster, Switzerland banned motorsports entirely. Any sport that could kill 83 spectators and injure 180 more was deemed reckless and irresponsible, and the Swiss government refused to have that kind of catastrophe take place on their own soil. But now, after over six decades, Formula E is changing that by bringing electric racing to the streets of Zürich.
Changing the way we traditionally think about motorsport is kind of Formula E’s thing. Before FE came on the scene, electric racing was pretty much unthinkable (or, at the least, very uncool). Now, it’s starting to catch on. Former Formula One drivers like Felipe Massa are signing up to drive, other electric sports are popping up just about every year, and the fan base is growing steadily as more and more big-name manufacturers join the sport. They’ve made a lot of people rethink their preconceived notions about what racing can be—including Switzerland.
In 2007, the lower house of the Swiss parliament tried to lift the ban, but they were unsuccessful in their appeal. They approved a law in 2015 to allow all-electric racing, but it just seemed impossible. Even when Formula E announced their intention of racing there upon the release of the 2017-18 season schedule, it was too good to be true. Motorsport fans just waited for the event to fall through.
But FE is an appealing prospect to break the ban. As early as 2015, the Swiss ePrix Lugano Association was trying to push hosting a race. It was intended to be held in Lugano as something of a marketing tool for the city to highlight their sustainable projects and push for green energy. They even sent Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro on a show run through the streets of Geneva to drum up support. And while Lugano’s streets never saw an electric race, Zürich’s will.
Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag noted that several factors brought this event together:
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the core fundamentals of Formula E – driving the electric revolution and sustainable mobility. Following the recent law changes this race was also made possible with the instrumental support of our Swiss partner, Julius Baer.
“I would like to express our gratitude to their CEO, Boris Collardi, and his entire team for their continued belief in Formula E – we’ve again been able to break new grounds in the world of motorsport.”
Even more noteworthy is the fact that the race is here to stay. Organizers of the event extended an initial six-year contract to last until 2027. That kind of commitment is huge for a country that just started opening their minds to a possibility of a race.
The race is taking place this Sunday, June 10 (rather than FE’s usual Saturday, to accommodate the halt of public transit) on FS1 at 11:30 AM. You aren’t going to want to miss it.
Formula E’s continued push to page the paths of history is paying off. The Zürich ePrix is a historic event, and one that can take a proud place on the list of FE’s accomplishments.