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Originally seen on Audi.com, courtesy of Audi Germany® and Audi Life.
Next season. Next level.
As of season four, Audi is the first fully factory-sponsored German car manufacturer competing in Formula E. With new racing cars and the reigning champion at the wheel. The hype around the purely electric racing class has not only been ignited within Audi, but also among the fans beside the track. There is probably no one who knows more about that than the defending champion–Audi Sport® driver Lucas di Grassi. We had a Q&A at this year’s IAA.
Editor: This is now the fourth season of Formula E. As a driver who has been there since the very beginning, what is the fascination of Formula E for you?
Lucas di Grassi: As a racing driver, the competitive element appeals to me, of course. I want to drive in order to measure myself against my opponents—and ideally to win. What’s great about Formula E is that it offers exactly that and also has a good message, which is conveyed by the fully electric racing cars. That is the powertrain of the future, and Formula E is bringing it to life today. In addition to that, there are the special racing locations in the middle of cities.
So Formula E can be described as a kind of ambassador for future mobility. Is it also the future of motorsport in this segment then?
Yes, exactly. Formula E is an ambassador for electric powertrains and future mobility. The development is still exciting. Motorsport has always followed certain rules or desires dictated by the automotive industry. Formula E is a bit of an exception in that regard. I’m sure not many people expected the success initially, and now other major car manufacturers are getting involved. One thing that could be significant for the development is the more widespread availability of alternative drives in road transport. That could give motorsport with combustion engines a special position, as fully electric drives and similar systems will become more of an everyday thing. However, one component will remain constant in motorsport—the driver behind the wheel. It will always be about who controls the vehicle best.
It was announced that you have taken on the role of director of the Roborace series. This is a format in which the racing cars must master the course through automated driving, without a human at the wheel. How does that fit in with your point of view?
Roborace is not intended to replace the traditional motorsport with drivers, but rather to complement it. Projects like this provide a good platform to implement, test and further develop new technologies. It is a kind of showcase. Innovative technologies that are also being considered for series-produced cars are transferred to the world of racing. Of course, the road has different demands to the racetrack, but both can learn from each other. The aim is also to give the public access to this technology before it goes into series production—with a certain element of entertainment, too.
So we can put it like this: Formula E is the ambassador for purely electric drive systems, with Roborace performing the same function for automated driving?
Correct. For me, both embody the mobility of tomorrow.
New York, Hong Kong, Rome, Berlin: Formula E makes use of big stages in the middle of major cities around the globe. However, racing is not only about the backdrop, but also the crowd. What is your experience of the fan support?
Fans are an important part of sport—and that applies to Formula E too, of course. It is not only long-standing motorsport fans who come to the races, but also people whose interest in it was first piqued by Formula E. The good thing about Formula E is that the races do take place right there in the cities themselves and are therefore easy to reach. The low noise levels mean it is also a family-friendly sport. You often see parents with children in the crowd. And of course there are also exciting interactive features for fans, such as the FanBoost. That means you are not only a fan, but can also be involved in the racing action in a small way.
In which country or city are the fans most enthusiastic?
Definitely in Mexico. Racing in front of 50,000 cheering and shouting fans is quite something. As a Brazilian, I personally would like to see something similar in São Paulo in the coming season. But seriously, the level of attention is growing, and that’s great.
Is there a city you would like to see in the racing calendar?
If I had to pick one, then definitely Tokyo in Japan. It is one of my favorite cities. The people there not only love motorsport, but also technology. Of course, that fits perfectly with Formula E.
To finish, let’s think beyond next season. What would you like to see happen in your sport in the future, from a general point of view?
More bravery in terms of thinking in different or new ways. Even though Formula E is a new, young racing series, it hangs on to certain motorsport traditions. I see potential to move away from that and go down our own new paths: in the design of the racing car, for example. As previously mentioned, we will see what the future brings. I think we have lots of exciting Formula E moments ahead of us. And beyond that, electrifying moments that the new series models will bring to the road in the coming years.
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Race calendar: The dates of Formula E 2018
May 19 - Berlin
June 10 - Zurich
July 14, 15 - New York
July 28, 29 - New York