Circuit type: Temporary street course
The all-electric Formula E series raced on the streets of Switzerland's largest city for the first time in 2018, marking the return of top-level competitive racing to Swiss soil for the first time in 63 years.
Racing had previously been forbidden in Switzerland for decades, with the last event taking place at the Bremgarten circuit in 1954. However, a law change in 2015 lifted restrictions on fully-electric racing and paved the way for Formula E to bring electrifying wheel-to-wheel action to the streets of Zürich.
The Julius Baer Zürich E-Prix's temporary city circuit is 2.46 km long and runs along the lake promenade, through the banking quarter and Zürich city centre. The layout features eleven corners in total and a mixed selection of challenges, including a hairpin bend, several 90-degree curves, wide and narrow sections as well as two high-speed sections and a chicane.
Unlike most street circuits, it was not designed by a professional consultant; instead local councillor Roger Tognella and his son Andrin used Google Earth to map out where the course should go, taking account of their local knowledge of busy city traffic routes. "We were in Graubünden in our house. On a rainy day, we used Google Earth to check out where to go," explains Tognella Sr. "In my 14 years in city politics, I dealt with many traffic issues. That's why I knew exactly which roads were out of the question. Public transport lines were a major constraint. In the end, we liked the variant on the lake best."
The circuit starts at Enge harbor, directly on the beautiful Lake Zurich, heading along the Mythenquai past the pit lane, reaching speeds of up to 220 km/h. The course then takes a right behind the Arboretum into General-Guisan-Quai, followed by a 90-degree left turn, after which the course continues along the Stockerstrasse.
After taking another two 90-degree left turns, the course then goes along Dreikönigstrasse and Genferstrasse. The course then turns right into Gotthardstrasse and then takes another left into Alfred-Escher-Strasse, which is the back-straight taking drivers back to the Enge harbour via a hairpin bend.
An unusual feature are the pit garages which, while being temporary constructions, are clad in traditional Swiss-chalet style wooden panelling.
The first race proved a hug hit with fans, with around 150,000 pouring in, many of them to watch motorsport on Swiss soil for the first time. Jaguar's Mitch Evans won the first pole position of his career and he maintained his start line advantage in the early going, before being overtaken by eventual winner, Audi's Lucas di Grassi. Sam Bird finished second for Virgin and Dragon driver Jérôme d'Ambrosio came in third.
The race had been expected to continue on the Zürich streets for a number of seasons but the event was cancelled at short notice when the City Council denied it a permit, despite the first race success. Council bosses cited concerns that the proposed date fell while two festivals were taking place, leaving the streets too crowded. For 2019, the race has moved to the Swiss capital, Bern, though the door remains open for a return to Zürich in the future.
The Julius Baer Zurich E-Prix was located in the Enge harbour area of Switzerland's largest city. Zurich Airport serves numerous international destinations and has its own train station, with the journey to the city centre taking just 10 minutes. With its main railway station, Zurich also has the largest railway station in Switzerland – with direct connections to other Swiss cities and the surrounding countries.