Paris joins Formula E calendar
The ePrix races in view of Eiffel Tower
A sell-out 20,000 crowd expected
"Shows France is strong", says driver
Formula E can expect a certain je ne sais quoi as the championship prepares to electrify the original City of Light, Saturday.
The sell-out Paris ePrix is being held for the very first time on 23 April and the French capital becomes the 12th global city to join the series alongside heavyweights Beijing, Berlin, Moscow and London.
There may not have been a Formula One race in France since 2008 but the first-ever motor race was held in France in the 1890s and the global governing body, the FIA, has its headquarters in Paris, so it seems fitting that the sport’s newest racing series is finally returning to its roots.
“We’ve got the DNA of motorsport in France,” said French driver Jean-Eric Vergne, who races for the DS Virgin Racing team. “This sends a signal that France is here.”
The circuit wends through the city’s ritzy seventh arrondissement passing cafés on street corners and historic landmarks, including the Hotel del Invalides, where Napoleon Bonaparte is laid to rest.
If the Formula E field strain their heads just a little they can even get a glimpse of the world-famous Eiffel Tower from the track.
As the shortest circuit on the Season Two calendar, the 1.9-kilometer (1.2-mile) track is definitely bijou but with two long straights there are perfect places to pass.
Building work was still taking place on the eve of the ePrix and there were worries it could be a race to the finish line for the constructors too.
The drivers had a close-up look during their Friday afternoon track walk with Bruno Senna of Mahindra Racing saying it looked particularly bumpy in places.
The Paris ePrix is the first major global sporting event to be staged in the French capital since last November’s terror attacks. The European football championships will be held in various cities, including Paris, in June/July.
“After what happened in Paris in the last few months it’s very important to show that we can organize a big event like this one,” said Alain Prost, a four-time F1 world champion, and co-founder of the Renault e.Dams team.
“It shows that France is a strong country,” added Vergne, who was born in Pontoise, close to Paris. “It is a strong signal that goes beyond motorsport.”
Paris provides another opportunity to build support for Formula E, now in its second season, and its ethos of bringing racing to the heart of the cities and showcasing electric power.
“The concept of Formula E is to promote electric, environmentally friendly technology,” explained Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi.
“The market for electric vehicles is mainly in downtown cities. If you look at cities that we race in around the world to promote the message of Formula E, Paris is for sure in the top three.”
As things stand
The Paris street race also brings the championship back to its European heartland for the second half of the season, with just five races to go.
After winning the last race in Long Beach, Abt Schaeffler driver Di Grassi goes into Paris with a one-point lead over Renault e.Dams racer Sebastien Buemi.
“It’s been a very successful year,” says Di Grassi, who was stripped of his race win in Mexico City because his car was found to be under the required minimum weight. “Six races, six podiums.
“But I’m not thinking about the championship. We still don’t have the fastest car. I really think we are the underdogs.”
Renault boss Prost is hoping for a dose of va va voom at the home race for the team, which features Buemi and his son Nicolas.
“It’s our country and we want to win,” said Prost. “We are coming back to Europe and this is the second beginning of the season.”
For Paris, the ePrix brings another fresh start too.
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