“What I’m actually wanting ahead to is preventing for the championship after season 10. That is the place I wish to get again to and though nothing is 100% sure, I’m very sure that Abt will make the perfect choice.”
Lucas di Grassi’s return to Abt Cupra forward of the upcoming 2023-24 Components E marketing campaign may be a shock when wanting on the uncooked statistics as, on paper, di Grassi has moved from the second-worst crew to the worst primarily based on final season’s ultimate classification.
Mahindra completed 20 factors away from its buyer outfit Abt, however each had been comprehensively behind the efficiency of different groups as the previous outfit suffered quite a few delays to its improvement of the brand new Gen3 machine whereas the latter made a late choice to rejoin the Components E grid after a 12 months away.
Beforehand Abt and di Grassi loved an extended and profitable relationship collectively that neither facet significantly needed to finish. However Audi withdrawing its involvement from the crew, which subsequently withdrew from Components E in 2021 signalled the tip of a partnership that had lasted seven years, yielding a drivers’ title for di Grassi in 2016-17 and the groups’ crown a 12 months later.
Di Grassi was pressured to search out employment elsewhere, becoming a member of Venturi – the place he recorded one win and fifth within the standings, earlier than switching to Mahindra final season for what was hoped by each events to be the beginning of a long-term endeavour. The marketing campaign began brightly, with di Grassi bagging pole within the Mexico Metropolis season opener and ending on the rostrum – crushed solely by Porsche powertrain customers Jake Dennis and Pascal Wehrlein.
However thereafter his marketing campaign crumbled, because the Brazilian solely reached the factors twice extra throughout 15 races, whereas the crew additionally parted methods with Oliver Rowland – now again at Nissan – after the midway level of the season.
The lacklustre efficiency of the crew stemmed again to the departure of long-standing crew principal Dilbagh Gill in September 2022, a time when the event of the brand new Gen3 machine was at a important section. Though ex-FIA man Frederic Bertrand took over on the helm, di Grassi believes very important momentum was misplaced as properly, whereas a common change in course meant it was at all times going to be on the backfoot.
Di Grassi claimed a shock pole for the Mexico season opener, however the the rest of his season at Mahindra was disappointing
Photograph by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images
“The 4 months we had no management was very, essential as a result of it was main as much as a brand new automobile, advanced automobile, so we had been delayed with all the things,” says di Grassi. “When Fred got here onboard, you first want to come back into the corporate, perceive the issues after which begin making the selections. Regardless who you place there, it’s a gradual course of.”
He provides: “I had agreed with Dilbagh we’d make some modifications very quick however, as he left, I couldn’t after which I didn’t wish to wait one other 12 months or extra. I needed to go to an setting that I knew I might be aggressive.
“I’ve a number of extra years in entrance of me. I feel I did an excellent season final 12 months, however I should be in the proper setting, I should be aggressive whereas I feel I nonetheless can win races and championships. I can not wait 5 years for the crew to be aggressive once more.”
“I do know operationally Abt may be very, very robust. I feel it is one of many strongest in Components E” Lucas di Grassi
The 39-year-old is among the most profitable drivers on the grid, at the moment tied on probably the most wins within the all-electric championship alongside Sebastien Buemi with 13. One in all solely 5 drivers to have competed in additional than 100 races, he has extremely missed just one Components E race, when each Mahindra and Abt vehicles withdrew from the Cape Town E-Prix due to suspension failure concerns last season.
Even with their previous success collectively, the choice to maneuver again to Abt may seem to be a roll of the cube for di Grassi, however he has causes to be optimistic. Even throughout a season the place it completed final, there have been glimmers of hope that Abt might as soon as once more attain the entrance in Components E as Nico Muller, who’s remaining with the crew for a second season, claimed three factors finishes within the ultimate 4 races of the marketing campaign to underline the crew’s continued progress.
However the spotlight got here in qualifying for the second Berlin E-Prix when, in moist circumstances, Muller and team-mate Robin Frijns pulled off the shock of the season by locking out the entrance row. The session had been the primary time all of the groups had run in fully moist circumstances collectively and highlighted that, whereas it could have been behind its rivals on pure efficiency, from an engineering perspective Abt was as robust as ever.
That could be a level which has drawn di Grassi again to the crew, as he says: “I do know operationally Abt may be very, very robust. I feel it’s the strongest crew, if not the strongest crew, [then] one of many strongest in Components E.”
A surprising moist qualifying in Berlin put each Abt vehicles on the entrance row within the spotlight of the crew’s Components E return
Photograph by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images
At an age when many drivers could be contemplating retirement, di Grassi is already wanting past the upcoming season – which will get beneath means with pre-season testing in Valencia subsequent week. The ex-Virgin Components 1 driver has focused the 2024-25 marketing campaign, when an evolution of the Gen3 automobile is because of be put into service, as a time when he may have the ability to race on the entrance in Components E, whereas Abt can have had a second season beneath its belt since returning.
It is clear that regardless of the frustration of the newest marketing campaign, di Grassi states he’s as hungry as ever to win races and problem for the championship. There aren’t any plans but to comply with his former Audi LMP1 team-mate Andre Lotterer in stepping away from single-seater racing.
“In the meanwhile I wish to stay within the championship so long as I’m aggressive, that’s my goal,” says di Grassi. “I don’t have a timeframe in thoughts, so far as I feel I can win races I’ll nonetheless be there. That might be two, three, 4, 5 years, I don’t know. In the meanwhile I’m planning for let’s say the subsequent two years to see the place I’m after which to maneuver with that.
“And if I’m not aggressive for any motive, let’s say for consecutive seasons and I really feel that I’m not hungry anymore for any motive, the automobile isn’t aggressive, then additionally there could be no drawback [in retiring]. It’s most unlikely that I’d change sequence.
“I’ve achieved my profession in an excellent means from F1 to the World Endurance Championship to Components E, and Components E is a championship that I helped to create. I really like everyone there so ultimately I feel it’s virtually sure that I’ll end my profession in Components E within the subsequent three, 4, 5 years.”
Photograph by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Di Grassi recognises that success might not come immediately, however is assured he can get again to successful methods at Abt