Marking the comeback of circuit racing in Switzerland after a 64-year hiatus, championship-winning racing driver Emerson Fittipaldi is set to drive the official ABB FIA Formula E Championship car on the streets of Zurich on Sunday, June 10, ahead of the inaugural Julius Baer Zurich E-Prix.
“It’s the present and the future — I’m very excited to see what it feels like,” says Fittipaldi. “When Alejandro [Agag] asked me a few days ago, do you want to drive the car, I said, ‘of course I want to!”
With a career spanning Formula 1 — in which he clinched two world championship titles — Indianapolis 500, Champ Car and endurance racing, Formula E will be Fittipaldi’s first foray into all-electric street racing. “It will be very interesting for me, I raced all types of formulas, all over the world but this will be the first time I’m driving an electric racing car.”
But the Brazilian driver is no stranger to the Swiss streets. “When I was in Formula 1, I lived in Lausanne for 11 years. It’s a big breakthrough to have a street race in Zurich because we know that it was forbidden many, many years ago. Now, coming back, to be racing in downtown Zurich is a very powerful thing.”
Taking his first Formula 1 world championship title in 1972 with Lotus before claiming the title again in 1974 with McLaren, Fittipaldi’s drive in the Formula E car will be his first single-seater drive since piloting Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus in 2012.
“The Swiss have always loved the tradition of motor racing,” he says with a knowing smile. “One of my idols was Fangio. When he used to come to Europe in the mid-1970s, he used to call me and I had dinners with him. He used to tell me stories of the Bern Grand Prix, on the streets with cobblestones, racing against Stirling Moss. It was amazing to hear the stories of Fangio about racing in Switzerland, which makes it even more of a historic moment to come back to racing after so many years.”
After winning the 1954 Grand Prix at the Bremgarten circuit in Switzerland in 1954, circuit racing was banned by the country following the Le Mans disaster in 1955. But all that would change in 2015, however, when the law changed to permit fully-electric racing, which paved the way for Formula E on the streets of Zurich.
“I’ve been watching [Formula E] already — I was at the very first race in Beijing, China and then I went to the race in Battersea, London,” he says. “My son was so excited just to watch because for the new generation, it’s just fantastic. He’s very excited to be here and I think that’s great for the sport.”