“I can’t wait to race in Sao Paulo," says Formula E's first centurion, Season 3 champion di Grassi - who has been wall-to-wall with the media since Cape Town promoting the series' first trip to Brazil and his storied Formula E past.
"It's been a dream since the first Formula E race for me, back in 2013. It has been close a couple of times and hasn’t quite happened but after 10 years of hard work and persistence it’s finally happening in Season 9 and for the start of GEN3 – it’s very emotional for me to be racing there. I’m from Sao Paulo, I was born just a few minutes away and grew up there. It’s going to be amazing racing in front of my home fans.
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"The circuit at the Sambadrome looks like it will be amazing and the thousands of people that like to join carnival and spend some time in Brazil will be able to stay for the race, Zero Summit and the big music festival happening all on the same weekend. I’m sure the passionate Brazilians will fill up the grandstands!
"It's really incredible to see it's finally happening. Brazil is such a huge market for Formula E and we have had incredible drivers like Felipe Massa and Bruno Senna and it's been a long time getting this together. Hopefully we can put a good show for the Brazilian people.
"I've raced here in Formula 1 and in the World Endurance Championship. It was an amazing experience at Sao Paulo in F1 in front of that crowd and then three years with Audi in WEC. That's where I got my drive in Formula E and being back here in this latest chapter is great - a third World Championship event I've raced in, in Brazil.
READ MORE: The full Julius Baer Sao Paulo E-Prix preview
The world's leading electric racing series is heading to the most populous city in in the Americas, the western hemisphere and the southern hemisphere, at 21.6 million people. Di Grassi feels the appetite is there in Brazil for the transition to EVs given a comparitively green electricity mix to many nations - but the driver feels more can be done in terms of helping Brazilians make the transition more cost-effectively.
"We are not running power plants on coal or gas or any fossil fuels," says di Grassi. "The downside is that the electric cars can be very expensive for the Brazilian market, for the average income, so we need some form of incentives to start the market here for a small period of time to get the market growing, and then more work needs to be done commercially - the use of EVs in public transport, as taxis and the like will be the best use cases for EVs."
Sette Camara: 'I've been waiting for a home race since forever'
Sergio Sette Camara is in his third season of Formula E and the NIO 333 driver is scoring points at the resurgent Anglo-Chinese team at the start of the GEN3 era. Like di Grassi, he can't wait to turn on the style in front of his friends, family and home support.
I've been waiting for a home race since forever," says Sette Camara. "I've been doing Formula E for almost three years and when I was in Formula 2, we never had a race there. So, it's the first time I'm going to experience racing at home in a big championship. I've done some hobby races there but it is not the same thing, so it'll be my first time. I think I'm going to like it a lot being there with my family and friends - and I can't wait.
"I'm from Belo Horizonte, which is about 500km from Sao Paulo. Brazil is a continental, huge country. Racing gets concentrated in some centres. As a kid competing, you have to race in the regional championship and that's where you get to the level where I was flying out to Sao Paulo every month at least once or twice to race there."
Home race ready 👊— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) March 23, 2023
🇧🇷 Excited, @sergiosettecama? #SaoPauloEPrix pic.twitter.com/gnLGw35o56
"It's not the stereotype people have in Brazil of the beautiful beaches and nature with the rainforests because it is one of the biggest urban centres and biggest cities in the world. You'll find everything there; amazing restaurants, all the big stores and international brands - everything. It's cosmopolitan and provides everything from entertainment to food and the experiences of a proper world city.
"On the same weekend as Formula E, there is also a huge music festival called Lollapalooza - one of the biggest in South America, if not the biggest. It's like a Tomorrowland type thing so you can kind of imagine how the city is that it can host two massive events like this and Formula E over the same weekend - there's just such huge deamand for it and not every city in the world would be able to do that. It's a nice place.
"When I was a kid, I was watching Formula 1," said NIO 333's Sergio Sette Camara. "The culture is very big in Brazil and the reason for that is it goes from grandparents to parents and into the children.
"I remember watching races with my grandpa, my father and my uncle and they were all influenced a lot by Emerson Fittipaldi; Nelson Piquet (Sr.) too. Of course, they pass that on to us kids and we really learned to appreciate our idols.
"The driver that were really at the top when I was a kid was Felipe Massa because he was at Ferrari, winning races. You saw that and thought "wow, he's driving the famous red car and winning races; that's what I can be - that's doable". I really think he was the one that inspired me - alongside Rubens (Barrichello) because they were winning races and at the top level of motorsport when I was a kid.
"I was there at Interlagos at the last corner in 2008 where he lost out on the F1 title to Lewis (Hamilton) at the end. It took 10 minutes for the whole crowd to realise what had happened."