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VARSHA: An Insane Weekend in Paris

Formula E commentator Bob Varsha shares his thoughts after the Paris E-Prix…

Photo: Formula E

Many thanks to e-racing365 for allowing me another opportunity to offer my thoughts here in Season Five of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

This a perfect opportunity, coming as it does after a Paris E-Prix that was a milestone race in so many ways, including our eighth different winner in as many races.

The first fully wet race in series history after 52 previous dry afternoons was incredible, tense and chaotic.

Actually, “wet” doesn’t begin to describe the conditions. As fellow commentator Dario Franchitti put it, we saw four seasons of weather over the course of an hour: sun, rain, hail, wind, warm, cold.

The series mood was upbeat coming into Paris due to news that agreement had been reached on a new three-year extension for what is virtually everyone’s favorite event.

Whether that remains true once London returns to the series next season remains to be seen, given what I’m hearing about the planned indoor-outdoor hybrid circuit. It’ll have to be something really special to top the charms of the City of Light.

The first sign that this would be no ordinary weekend came in the very first practice, run on a drying surface and shortened by red flags.

When veterans like Sebastien Buemi, Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi wind up in the fence, you know this shortish 1.2-mile track is showing a nasty side I don’t recall from three previous Paris races.

The qualifying format, which this season divides the field into four groups and sends them on track in the order of the championship standings, has been controversial.

Drivers in the first group, the top five men in points, have typically been, let’s say, vocal in their displeasure over being obliged to sweep the circuit and enhance the available grip for those who follow.

A few, to be fair, such as Jerome d’Ambrosio and Antonio Felix da Costa, have pointed out that being among the top five in points and having to qualify first is, all things considered, a good problem to have.

But the complaints reached a point before qualifying in Paris that one of my colleagues, who shall remain nameless, challenged practice leader (and Rome E-Prix winner) Mitch Evans to avoid airing the “first out sucks” excuse in our interview should he qualify poorly.

Evans promptly timed in 18th, and Mitch never bitched. Good on him.

Here is my complete race report: insane.

You can find the details elsewhere, but I thought watching elite pros of Formula E struggling with constantly changing conditions of weather, grip, and competition was massively entertaining.

Apparently the big Parisian crowd thought so, too. Few that I could see abandoned the field in the wet, blustery conditions, and the energy for the podium was as high-voltage as ever.

There was elation for some, including our eighth straight new winner Robin Frijns, runner-up and new Voestalpine Euro standings leader Andre Lotterer, and third place Daniel Abt.

As always, there was disaster for others, such as Nissan e.dams teammates Oliver Rowland and Sebastien Buemi, who started from the front row but finished 12th and 15th in their team’s home race.

I said at the top of our broadcast that the championship standings for both drivers and teams were likely to be shredded, and so it was: Frijns takes his first ever lead in the drivers’ title chase, while DS Techeetah hangs on among the teams.

The top ten drivers and the top four teams are covered by one race weekend’s worth of points with just five rounds to go.

The ‘Generation 2 era’ in Formula E is shaping up, I’m guessing, even better than anyone could have predicted.

Next up, Monaco. The principality is cool and all but, like the return of the London E-Prix, something really special is going to have to happen to top what we’ve seen thus far.

Something like new winner number nine.

Bob Varsha is a veteran American broadcaster with more than 30 years of experience covering international motorsports, including Formula 1, the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA. Varsha is currently the host of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship broadcasts.



  1. Avatar

    Kris G.

    May 5, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Was a crazy race indeed and a good commentary from Bob Varsha as has became common place in FE. Concern to the qualifying format and all talking among leader drivers about it, do believe that was this format that allowed us to have a very unpredictable race and tight fight for the championship; who ever thought of did a great job implementing it!

  2. Avatar

    Old Trombone

    May 5, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Many thanks to E-Racing365 for allowing us to read the thoughts of Bob Varsha!

    Sir Bob, Lord Varsha of the Motorsport Microphone, you have graced the world of powered competition to a higher degree of polish than any other. I’ve been reviewing all the IMSA races from the 1980’s/90’s that are available on YT, and the greatest hero of them all is you, sir. Your appearance on the scene just ramped up the quality immeasurably, right from your first days as a young warbler. Chris Economaki would make a thing out of Jaguar wood-grain road-car interiors vs bare-metal race-car interiors, Dave Despain would comically attempt to climb into the “passenger” seat of a 962, and you sir would focus on the tech like winglets, shocks, procedures, etc, the sort of stuff engineering fans love. One of my personal favorite moments is Miami 1990 when you are with David Hobbs, he’s meandering around side-issues, and you have to say: “please David, we’ll get to it…” (IMSA 1990 Miami 2 of 4) (look at the very beginning, 35secs – 45secs)

    I have watched and thoroughly enjoyed Formula E right from the first race. Their commentators are young and enthusiastic, just like the series itself. And again, just like IMSA, your arrival on the team took a burgeoning, improving, thing, and immediately elevated the tone quality to peerless polished perfection, flagship of the fleet. To the Admiral of Auto Racing, Thanks very much for your leadership!

  3. Avatar

    Old Trombone

    May 5, 2019 at 11:24 am

    The championship top-5 whingers should join Sebastian Ogier’s choir, right? I love the way surface conditions can improve the racing spectacle, and the whinging and whining just adds more spectacle. I wish they would use the technique in IMSA during FCY’s. Line up the cars in race-order, and make them follow the safety-car through the worst parts of the off-line rubber marbles and clean them off the track. Two things would get better: 1, at the green, the leaders would have horrible tires and those behind could overtake and gain lost laps back, and 2, the track’s usable braking area would be much wider after each FCY, again facilitating overtaking. The WRC and FE have shown the way, let’s use it everywhere!

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