With the 85th Geneva International Motor Show beginning this week, the powers that be at Formula E secured a nice slice of the headlines, as former IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro took to the streets in the SRT_01E machine.
A former “affiliated driver” with the Sauber Formula One team, de Silvestro took the Michelin-shod Formula E car from TAG Heuer’s Geneva office, through the Quai-du-Général-Guisan and across the Pont du Mont Blanc Bridge, before drawing to a stop on the Quai du Mont-Blanc.
Along the way, de Silvestro discovered a waiting Nick Heidfeld outside the Julius Baer building in the Swiss city. All very nice, which featured numerous opportunities for photographs aplenty throughout the speedy trip.
However, the running of the Formula E machine was not strictly the most interesting point of the day, but rather the announcement that a new law that is to allow motor racing back on Swiss grounds – as long as it is restricted to electric vehicles only – is being considered once again following a motion by MP Fathi Derder.
For the likes of Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag, this marks an important step and opens an opportunity for the Spaniard to bank a race where all other categories have failed. “We would never have dreamed of getting an ePrix in Switzerland off the ground without TAG Heuer and Jean-Claude Biver’s continuing support,” said Agag in a statement released today.
There is little doubt that the presence of Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer – a founding partner of the Formula E Championship – have helped push the politics along. Agag added: “We are very proud to have TAG Heuer as a founding partner, and thankful that they are able to assist us in this exciting challenge. If the race takes place, TAG Heuer will definitely be our title sponsor. The ePrix will strengthen our close relationship with this country, which is the home market of our Global Partner Bank Julius Baer. They have been fully behind us since the very first race in Beijing.”
Motor racing has been absent from Swiss lands since 1954, with the axe brought down on the sport after the following year’s disaster during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, although hill climbs and rallying are permitted. Although there were a pair of Swiss Grand Prix in later years, these events took place at the Dijon circuit in eastern France, close to the Swiss border.
For de Silvestro, to have the opportunity to be the pilot who brought the face of motorsport back to her native Switzerland, it was an important opportunity. “It was a special moment for me to drive the Formula E car here in the streets of Geneva on the day which celebrates the return of motorsport in Switzerland.”
Citing her inexperience of the Formula E machine, de Silvestro added: “The first feeling I had is that there was no noise! For a driver every new challenge is a great experience and this was even more special; the acceleration of this car is really good and I had a lot of fun. I am sure that the American fans will love to see Formula E in Miami and Long Beach in the next weeks.”