ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport

Lucas di Grassi
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Lucas di Grassi ‘likely’ to make Le Mans, WEC appearances in 2017

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Lucas di Grassi says that he is “likely” to race in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans despite Audi’s withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of 2016.

Di Grassi previously balanced duties between Audi’s LMP1 team and with its affiliated ABT Schaeffler operation in Formula E, with the latter now becoming his priority for 2017.

A number of drivers involved in both WEC and Formula E face dilemmas over which to prioritize later in the year.

Most notably, the New York Formula E double-header clashes with WEC’s visit to the Nürburgring, ruling out a number of drivers from the electric event including Sebastien Buemi, Jose Maria Lopez and Sam Bird.

Di Grassi believes it will be hard for Formula E to avoid clashing with other series as it expands, and thinks that drivers will need to fully commit to the championship down the line.

“With Formula E expanding, I think it will be hard not to have clashes in the future. I hope there are no clashes,” di Grassi told NBC Sports.

“For me with Audi, they told me: ‘The priority is Formula E. If you want to do one or two other races, you can.’ They even told me if you want to do WEC, you can, but the priority is Formula E. You have to miss the WEC.

“It’s a very clear, straightforward view for us, for ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport. For the team the priority is Formula E. That I understand and I agree that Formula E is getting to a level where it is getting very complicated, very detail oriented, so you need to focus on that.”

When asked if he would be racing at Le Mans and making other WEC appearances, di Grassi said it was “likely”.

“My interest is in the Pro categories. Either LMP1 or GTE Pro,” di Grassi added.

“I think GTE is the future. P1, you have very little cars, only two manufacturers. For GTE the tendency is to grow. GTE is very interesting in a career point of view.

“But still to be discussed if Audi would release me or not to do it.

“But normally Audi understand quite well if I want to do another race in which they don’t compete.”

Audi set for factory Formula E entry from season four

ABT Schaeffler FE02
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Audi is set to upscale its involvement in Formula E with the ABT Schaeffler team to a factory entry from the 2017/18 season.

Audi has been present in Formula E since its inception in 2014, supporting the ABT team by supplying it with factory driver Lucas di Grassi and offering the team access to its facilities at Neuburg in Germany.

In a bid to keep up with the works backing of manufacturers such as Renault, DS, and Jaguar, Audi will step up its support for ABT from season three before becoming a factory entry from season four.

“Electric mobility is one of the key topics in our industry. We intend to evolve into one of the leading premium car manufacturers in this field,” Audi board member Dr. Stefan Knirsch said.

“By 2025, every fourth Audi should be an electric vehicle. The first model for this is planned to be an SUV we’re going to present in 2018.

“In the light of these plans, adapting our motorsport program and taking up a commitment in a fully electric racing series is only a logical move.”

Audi motorsport chief Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich added: “Audi has consistently been using motorsport to test and develop new technologies further for subsequent use in production.

“With quattro drive we revolutionized rally racing and subsequently set standards in circuit racing as well. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi was the first manufacturer to have achieved victories with a TFSI engine, a TDI and a hybrid race car, so writing motorsport history on several occasions.

“Now we intend to repeat this in fully electric racing. Formula E with its races being held in the hearts of major cities is an ideal stage for this purpose and Team ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport a logical partner for us.”

Audi will offer the ABT team increased financial and technical support from the forthcoming Formula E season, set to start in Hong Kong on October 9. The team will also sport the Audi logo on its car from the second round of Formula E collective testing at Donington Park next week.

Abt quickest on final day of first Donington Formula E test

PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA - NOVEMBER 22: Daniel Abt of Germany and Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team prepares during the Formula E Championship race on November 22, 2014 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.  (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
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Daniel Abt made the most of drab conditions at Donington Park on Thursday to close out the first collective Formula E pre-season test at the top of the timesheets.

Overnight rain left the track damp at the start of the morning session, and although the skies remained overcast throughout the day, times were just a few tenths off the benchmark set on Wednesday by Jean-Eric Vergne.

Abt’s fastest lap of 1:30.073 from the morning session held out as the fastest time overall on Thursday despite a late flurry of full-power laps in the afternoon.

Nick Heidfeld finished the day second for Mahindra ahead of Nico Prost, while afternoon leader Vergne was fourth-fastest in the overall timesheets.

Jaguar Racing continued its driver evaluation by drafting in Ford WEC driver Harry Tincknell to partner Adam Carroll. Tincknell finished with a fastest lap of 1:33.927, good enough for P16 in the morning session.

Thursday also saw Indy Lights title contender Dean Stoneman make his first Formula E appearance, driving for NextEV in place of Oliver Turvey – en route to Japan for Super GT – and Nelson Piquet Jr. – who had to leave early to go to the Red Bull GRC event.

Collective Formula E testing resumes at Donington Park next month, with another three days of running scheduled from September 5-7.

Buemi angry with ‘disrespectful’ di Grassi after FE clash

2015/2016 FIA Formula E Championship.
London ePrix, Battersea Park, London, United Kingdom.
Saturday 2 July 2016.

Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT/Formula E
ref: Digital Image _FER4574
© FIA Formula E
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LONDON, UK – Fresh from his FIA Formula E championship victory on Sunday at Battersea Park, Sebastien Buemi made no secret of his annoyance with Lucas di Grassi following their clash on the first lap of the race.

Di Grassi hit the back of Buemi’s car at Turn 3 on the first lap, having been level on points heading into the race. Both managed to continue, switching cars to try and pick up the two bonus points on offer for setting the fastest lap.

Amid suspect tactics and accusations of blocking on hot laps, Buemi ultimately recorded the fastest time to score the two points needed – despite finishing 17 laps down in P15.

Although Buemi was pleased to have won the title, he conceded that it was not done in the manner that he would have liked.

“The most important thing in the end is that we won both championships,” Buemi said.

“I just came back from race direction. I had a look at the video and I am actually really sad. Firstly, to win it that way and second of all to see what Lucas did.

“He went between Nico and the wall and there was 5 cm. And when he braked, he had two options: either go to the right and nail the back of my car. He nailed it perfectly, but a little bit too strong because we both went out.

“I just came from race direction and he said I brake tested him. I was quite impressed he could actually say that. If you look at my braking, I braked very late.

“I think what he did is more than unacceptable. And then the fastest lap thing is the worst of the worst. We will never know if he did it on purpose or not, he will always say he didn’t do it on purpose, but then the fastest lap story, this of course he did on purpose.”

Buemi was particularly annoyed by the accusation from di Grassi that he braked 50 metres early at Turn 3.

“Of course you are always going to brake in a different way because the brakes are cold, the tires are cold and we don’t have any formation lap,” Buemi said.

“I had a look at the footage, what he said is actually disrespectful. First of all, he is lying and then he is trying to blame someone else.

“Honestly, I have zero respect for the guy. We will see what race direction says but I am very happy with what I have done, because I did the right thing.”

In the end, the stewards deemed di Grassi to have caused a collision, resulting in a 50-second post-race time penalty that had no bearing on his final position or the championship result.

Di Grassi: No reason for Abt to let me past late in Berlin

LONG BEACH, CA - APRIL 2: In this handout image supplied by Formula E, Lucas Di Grassi (BRA), ABT Audi Sport FE01 and Daniel Abt (GER), ABT Audi Sport FE01 congratulate each other during the Long Beach Formula E race at Long Beach Street Circuit on April 2, 2016 in Long Beach, California. (Photo by Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E via Getty Images)
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BERLIN, Germany – Lucas di Grassi has defended ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport teammate Daniel Abt’s decision to not to let him past on the final lap of the Formula E race in Berlin, saying that the German deserved to finish second.

Di Grassi arrived in Berlin with an 11 point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship, but will head to the season finale in London with an advantage of just one after title rival Sebastien Buemi won Saturday’s race.

Di Grassi fought from eighth on the grid to run third late on behind Abt, who was asked by the team to move aside for his teammate with three laps to go.

Abt explained after the race that he tried to let di Grassi past on the penultimate lap, but he was too far away. On the last lap, he opted not to as he was wary of also losing a position to Renault e.dams driver Nicolas Prost in fourth place.

“I think Lucas has the tools he needs to win it by himself. He’s an amazing racing driver,” Abt said.

“He again managed to finish on the podium, I don’t know how he always does it.”

Despite being denied an extra three championship points that could prove crucial in the title fight against Buemi, di Grassi said that he did not expect or want to be given the position, believing that team orders should only be used when absolutely necessary.

“I’m not a big fan of team orders unless it’s the last race and the event and really necessary for winning a title or something like this,” di Grassi said.

“Daniel did a great qualifying, a great race. He deserved a second place and it would be unfair to change place. I didn’t receive any call and I didn’t ask for any place change. I would never do that unless it was extremely necessary.

“That’s how I behave and I think how the team should behave. Unless it’s the last lap, there should be no team orders. Everybody is racing themselves and that’s how racing should be. So I’m very happy.”

The final two races of the Formula E season take place in London on July 2 and 3.