ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team principal Hans-Jurgen Abt was left proud of his team’s “masterpiece” strategy at the Mexico City ePrix, which helped seal an unlikely victory for Lucas di Grassi.
The remarkable achievement of winning a Formula E race from 15th on the grid marked the lowest position a driver has won from so far in the all-electric series. The result also had major implications for the championship standings, with the gap between di Grassi and perennial rival Sebastien Buemi reduced to just five points, having stood at 29 pre-Mexico. So, just how did ABT and di Grassi pull off victory?
First-lap contact with Venturi’s Maro Engel appeared to have destabilised any chance of a recovery drive for di Grassi as the Brazilian limped around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez circuit with rear-wing damage. Having made little progress through the field with an ailing car, an inspired strategy call from the ABT squad to pit on just the third lap (and complete a full rear-wing change) laid the foundations for what would become one of the most dramatic Formula E races in the series’ three-year history.
“It was one of the most exciting ever,” team boss Abt commented in an official statement. “I can’t imagine anyone not on the edge of their seats in the final few laps. The Mexico ePrix has written a small piece of Formula E history. I am proud that we have made a contribution to this with our team. It is not the first time that we’ve jumped forward with a good race strategy – if you think back to Hong Kong, Lucas drove from 19th on the grid to the podium.
“But in Mexico, the racing drivers and the team delivered a masterpiece: the crew in the pits, because they had the courage to take an extremely risky strategy. The mechanics, because they remained cool during the unscheduled stop. And Lucas di Grassi, because he was incredibly focused, mistake-free and drove his laps with full control over the energy consumption.”
Di Grassi’s win may have sent shockwaves throughout the Formula E paddock but you would have been forgiven for thinking an ABT victory in Mexico would not have been much of a surprise at all as the chequered flag dropped at the end of Super Pole. While di Grassi was knocked out of qualifying after the group sessions with a time only good enough for P18, Daniel Abt went on to secure his second Formula E pole position. Or so he thought.
The German’s joy was short-lived as he was stripped of his first pole since the 2015 Long Beach ePrix after he fell foul of tyre pressure regulations (the mandated minimum pressure is 1.60-bar). It seemed like horrible echoes of the 2016 Mexico race all over again, where di Grassi was stripped of his race win for a technical infringement with his car.
As a result, Daniel Abt started from P18. Team principal (and Daniel’s dad) Abt insisted the recent strong form shown by the 24-year-old, who recovered to cross the line in seventh, will soon be rewarded with his maiden Formula E win.
“Not only were the team and I sorry for Daniel, but the fans as well. He once again pulled out a sensational performance in qualifying, beating his team mate for the third time in four races. In the race, he made up eleven positions and took points for P7. I know he doesn’t want to hear it anymore, but the deadlock will be broken soon and he will stand on top of the podium.”
ABT’s victory marked the first occasion in season three where Renault e.Dams (or Buemi for that matter) has failed to win a race. The French outfit may have locked-out the opening three rounds of the season but Abt believes the performance gap between teams is shrinking rather than increasing. He reinforced that his team must continue to seize every opportunity between now and the end of the season in Montreal in July.
“Just as many predicted before the season: the field is much closer together and many teams have come on leaps and bounds – instead of three or four, there are now a dozen candidates for victory each race. As expected, Renault is the team to beat. But as you can see: If we work hard, never give up and get a little bit of luck, then we can keep knocking on the door. When a chance comes, we want to seize it.”
Staff writer: Lewis Larkam