Interview with Edoardo Mortara, Vice World Champion ABB FIA Formula E 2020–21

We had the pleasure of welcoming Swiss racing drivers to New York. They came to NYC to measure their strength against international competitors at the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship 2021 race and demonstrate the performance of electric-powered race cars. On this occasion, we were fortunate enough to interview Edoardo Mortara, who has since been crowned Vice World Champion ABB FIA Formula E 2020–21.

Last month, during the seventh season of ABB FIA Formula E World Championship the race came to Brooklyn once again. It was contested by twelve teams with two drivers each. Two amazing Swiss racing drivers were part of the competing athletes. Edoardo Mortara and Sébastien Buemi.

See the messages they’ve shared with us before the race:

We are very proud of our Swiss racers: Sébastien Buemi bringing back memories, when he won the NYC E-Prix back in 2019 and Edoardo Mortara who just before the NYC races celebrated an outstanding double podium weekend in Puebla, and continued on to become Vice World Champion of the FIA Formula E race 2020–21.

The Consulate General of Switzerland in New York had the opportunity to speak with Edoardo Mortara at more length once he got into town. He shared personal insights about his upbringing, his passion for the sport, the importance of electronic mobility and his strong appreciation for Switzerland. Check out the interview below.

  • Who is Edoardo Mortara — you are Swiss from Geneva and also Italian — how did this mixed upbringing influence you and contribute to your interest in racecar driving? When did you know you wanted to become a racing driver — and how did you go about it?

I grew up in Geneva. Strange enough I didn’t have the Swiss citizenship — even if I grew up there. I actually became Swiss only five years ago.

How did I start racing: My father and my uncles from my mother’s side were racing in rallies. So racing was always a passion in the family. And I remember my uncles and my dad putting me on a GoKart when I was seven years old. And I enjoyed it very much. I started racing when I was 10 always loved it and was fortunate enough to make a living out of it.

  • What does your mother think of it? ;)

She was fine with it. My parents have always supported me and I’m very grateful for that. Switzerland was also a good place to look for financial backing when I was starting out in racing too.

  • How do you prepare for a race? Training / nutrition/how many hours of driving/week?

We are not allowed to test with the cars, so we will have probably 4–5 days a year. We do lots of preparation in the simulator though to learn the different tracks. The rest of the time we are trying to stay as fit as possible, so eating healthily and staying active is very important. We also have to be quite light, weight is a big enemy in motor sports. So if you’re tall like me, you need to be careful with your weight — the right kind of food and exercise is critical to me.

  • What does Switzerland mean to you?

It means home. I grew up there. All my family is there. I have the chance to have a daughter who was born there and probably she will grow up there, too. Switzerland is home. I enjoy where I am living. I feel very lucky to live in very good comfort. Also, there are incredible landscapes, beautiful mountains and beautiful lakes. So yeah, I feel extremely lucky to be living in Switzerland.

  • How do you train to stay fit?

I always need to find a sport with an objective. So I was playing football, when I was younger, then I moved to martial arts and now I’m playing racket sports. And when I do something, I normally do it with quite a lot of passion. Now I play for example paddle, a racket sport, pretty much every day because I love it and it helps me to stay fit. I play sometimes even two or three games a day, so it’s like four or five hours of that every day. It helps to develop reflexes, you run a lot, and you sweat a lot. So it’s perfect to stay fit.

  • After being crowned Mr. Macau in 2017 why did you switched to Formula E, what is different, what makes Formula E special?

Firstly, Formula E is one of the most professional motorsport championship. It is a world championship. The level is extremely high. Very good drivers, very good teams. And when you have the chance to compete in such championships it’s obviously a chance you need to take. I was previously racing in DTM, which was also highly professional. But the championship went down and I had to move somewhere else and I’m extremely happy to have done it in Formula E.

  • Sustainability is an important issue for our time and for Switzerland. How do you see the future of electric mobility?

I think it’s a necessity and if you follow what is happening with governments and what is happening around the world — there is an electrification of all vehicles and there is a big transition coming in the next years — I think we will see a lot more electric vehicles and obviously that has an impact on our Formula E championship. Motorsport championships are always a reflection of the automobile industry and so Formula E will become more and more important if they take the right decisions to promote electric mobility.

Are there things you miss from previous less-sustainable cars?

Sure. With the cars that we are driving now the autonomy of the batteries isn’t fantastic. The power at the moment is not great. We don’t have a lot of grip from the tires. We don’t have any aerial downforce. Some of what I just mentioned are decisions that were taken by the championship to have more show on track — so less downforce, less grip from the tires. We use four season tires, we don’t use slicks. Let’s say compared to all the other motorsports championship.

But regarding the engines and the batteries we are only at the beginning of the development of the electrical components. We just need to understand that there have been over 100 years of development for normal combustion engines. For the electrical engines it has been like 10–15 years. So I’m sure we will see a big ramp up in terms of performances and stuff like that. And I think what we are doing now is very important for the industry. We are boosting the development. And I’m pretty sure that the cars that we’re driving now will become more and more spectacular. So what we might be missing now, will for sure be corrected in the next years.

  • Congratulations for winning in Puebla, that pushed you to the top of the standings, tell us about your emotions, did this make it easier or more difficult for you to proceed in the championship? How do you cope with pressure?

That win in Puebla was fantastic for us. It was a double podium weekend for us. We were coming from difficult race weekends in Valencia and Monaco where the performances weren’t great. And having that kind of weekends are obviously boosting your motivation up and it actually put me back in the championship title. So we are obviously very happy. But it is not really changing anything for me. I always try to do my best race after race. All situations can be different. What I like to say is that performances are not always linked to the results. Results always also depend on other factors, let’s say on luck, the performance of the team and of the car. The only thing I can influence is my own performance and I always try to do the best. The rest is not really on me, but these other factors have a quite a big impact on the results.

  • What impact did Covid have on Formula E?

Covid had a huge impact on motorsports in general and on Formula E especially. We were not really able to continue season 6, so last year, we had to find a way to finish the second part of the season having 6 races in Berlin. A lot of races were cancelled. We had to cope with specific rules. Actually, we still are here in New York. For example, we have to get tested, we have to prove vaccination, and we have to be extremely careful with Covid. But I think Formula E is coping quite well with it, because we’re still able to race and that’s the most important thing for us.

  • How does the New York track compare to other racing tracks?

New York is a city race track. Quite bumpy, very challenging. You have a lot of heavy braking zones and you have a lot of walls, so you need to drive close to the walls. But I would say it’s not so different to the other racing tracks that we are going to. We are used to go to other city racing tracks and New York is one of them.

  • What do you like about New York?

What I like in general is the opportunity to go racing in big cities like that. We are in Brooklyn, so close to the city and therefore a lot of people can come to see us and enjoy the race. And I think that is the most important. Because we are doing it for the fans, for the people.

  • There was a Formula E race in Bern 2 years ago, could you imagine one in Geneva?

The last experiences in Switzerland weren’t that great unfortunately, because of the public. I was extremely disappointed. The events were very well organized but we faced a lot of protests. So I would obviously love to have a race in Geneva, but I doubt that it will happen because of what happened in Zürich and Bern.

  • And maybe a last question, circling back to childhood and children with ambitions for racing, what is your advice?

I think in life in general you need to be extremely determined and motivated and you need to have a goal and try to achieve it. Even if this goal doesn’t seem reachable, you should still go for it. And if they tell you that you should stop dreaming and be more realistic, I think this is the completely wrong approach. You should set yourself very high goals and never stop dreaming about them.

Images: © Edoardo Mortara

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