Welcome to the country of watches, chocolate, and bank accounts with shady owners – Switzerland. After last year, when the confederation finally decided that circuit racing is safe enough, the ePrix is moved to the de facto capital city of Bern.
The championship is into its final phase with the top five covered in only 21 points. Even though the leading pair of Jean-Eric Vergne and Lucas di Grassi seem to be the strongest protagonists for the title, the following three (Lotterer, da Costa and Frijns) desperately need to outperform the duo on top of the standings.
The track itself looks as if a child drew by memory the
Mexican track Hermanos Rodriguez. The young lad was probably hitting puberty,
as he drew a pit lane in the strange form that everyone can guess.
Joke aside, the circuit looks all right – old-school with all those trees around, and with pleasant denivelation of 50 meters. A couple of chicanes less, and it would be perfect! Especially the very tight one after the start line – is a recipe for disaster… The other one before the start line is quite narrow – 2.5 Gen2 widths… Seems that overtaking will be hard – strategy for using Attack Mode and Fan Boost will be imperative!
The track surface was as clean as it could be, but quali group one as always got the short end of the stick. As expected, the Techeetahs were fast, and especially JEV – he managed to set a time good enough to go to the super pole! On the other end of luck was Lucas di Grassi with a terrible lap and a 19th position – he’ll start from Zurich! The championship leader continued showing his amazing pace, obliterating everyone else with three tenths in Super Pole! The other guys on the front starting rows are gathered in 48 thousands – Mitch Evans, Seb Buemi and young Pascal Wehrlein!
A solid start by JEV. He stays in front of an angry pack, heading towards the chicane. Seb Buemi gets on the side of Mitch Evans as they start steering the chicane. That’s a downhill, bumpy and narrow chicane which is the first corner after the race start – what could go wrong? Everything, as expected, and here is a brief event summary of the next 3 seconds:
Mr. Vergne goes comfortably around the serpentine curve, with Buemi half a Gen2 ahead of Evans. The Jaguar pushes the Nissan to the outside of the curve, and the latter slows down dramatically, when going on top of the curbs, before he proceeds. Robin Frijns is spun in mid-field, torpedoed by Jerome d’Ambrosio. Behind, Pascal Wehrlein has half a Dragon on his outside, and the going too slow around the corner Jaguar in front. Trying to avoid him (overtake impossible), the young German swerves to avoid collision with the Swiss ahead, but Seb Buemi’s rear kisses the front of the Mahindra into a spin! Together with Maxi Gunther they create a perfect barricade!
The lucky and cheeky ones go through the other side of the TecPro barriers of the fake chicane, getting a ton of positions. Most of the cars are stuck in the traffic jam and the inevitable…
RED FLAG, Sorry.
… is waved! Race control announces to the drivers that the start order will be used for the re-start, as there’s no timing lines between the start line and the chicane. Makes sense, but we can all sympathize for Lucas di Grassi and Antonio Felix da Costa that gained eleven places!
The cars stop and there are piles of nose cones, duct tape and prayers applied. We get a piece of reality-TV as the cameras follow a furious Brazilian driver and have glimpses of quite relaxed Seb Buemi and mostly – Jean-Eric Vergne.
A lap behind the safety car, and then re-start.
Turn one, and all drivers are behaving like monks passing through a brothel – attentive, but fast… Mitch Evans is glued to the back of JEV’s Techeetah, and they start pulling away from Seb Buemi, who’s getting some distance between him and Pascal, followed by Max Gunther… The two Germans are probably quite happy about the restart in grid order. The second-placed Australian is putting all the pressure possible to the leading Frenchman, but he’s played this game quite a few times before – it’s unlikely that he’ll break.
37 mins before finish, the Fan Boost results come – Lucas and Antonio Felix certainly need all the help they can get in 18th and 19th; the winner as always is a Belgian guy, currently occupying 14th position.
Vergne puts out his experience, choosing the perfect line in front of the faster Evans – can he keep him behind? A brief yellow flag in courtesy of Edo Mortara, who uses Alex Sims’ BMW as a hand brake – naughty and deserving a penalty, just as the appearing drive-through penalty for Jerome D’Ambrosio for his shenanigans on the race start – he’ll lose the point for tenth place at which he’s running…
30 minutes before finish, and Sam Bird does his specialty – pass from the outside to Max Gunther in turn 3! If there’s highlights of the best passes of the season – he’ll be heavily featured. Great stuff from the Britton, now in fifth and running together with Wehrlein and Buemi in the battle for the lowest place on the podium. The latter activates Attack Mode – probably in hope to get away from them and get to Evans.
Pascal is passed by Bird, and it seems his Mahindra has a problem, as he halts on the track! A heart-brake for the young and talented German! Meanwhile top three are all in Attack Mode – JEV shows his great skill, not allowing to be passed from the outside on few occasions.
Full course yellow pauses the action, as the marshals need to remove the Mahindra stopped on track.
Green flag with 21,5 minutes before finish! Last Attack Mode for the second-placed Australian – he has a lap before the leader activates his in defense! Three pass attempts and a fastest lap later – the answer is no… JEV’s defensive driving is spot on! Top five are all using the last additional juice in their batteries – halos are glowing in the setting sun – a beautiful sight!
15 mins ‘till end and Andre Lotterer puts a decisive move over Daniel Abt for sixth, aided by AM, and another for fifth over Max Gunther! Meanwhile – second to fourth are in less than a second – a great premise for a battle.
We are shown a panoramic view of the city, and even an almost blind man can notice the heavy rains pouring over Bern, just a few kilometers away… Six minutes to go, and we have no changes in top five – JEV, EVA, BUE, BIR and Andre Lotterer, who activates his last Attack Mode with eight tenths to the man in front. He is probably quite keen on passing Bird, taking into account their history from Hong Kong, when the Britton put his nose in leading Andre’s tire… Sam Bird is the last of the latest breakers, which makes the pass quite hard. Few attempts and a mistake later – Lotterer is in fourth, probably giggling under the helmet!
Two minutes and a lap to go and there goes the message – “Slight rain in turn 1”! Water is pouring heavy as the umbrellas of the spectators change one use for the other! JEV will be the first to encounter the tricky conditions, with Mitch Evans stalking behind! Top four manage to go around with almost no space between them in so tricky conditions – great skills.
JEV wins with 0,16 sec margin over Evans, and third place is for home-country hero Seb Buemi – the guys most deserving to be there!
The reigning champion tightens his grip around this season’s trophy, with Lucas di Grassi salvaging only 2 points for ninth place. The Brazilian is now 32 points behind. The fellow Techeetah of Andre Lotterer finished 4th, but was demoted to 14th after a penalty for pitting in for repairs after the big pile-up in the first corner of the race and exiting under red lights. The German now is in fourth place, a point behind Mitch Evans, who rocketed three places up to third in the championship.
Until next time over the Atlantic, where the season will end with the traditional double-header in New York, where, rephrasing a titan of the commentary in motorsport – “everything can happen, and it probably will.”