15 Jun 20

Lucas Di Grassi: ‘People quickly realised Formula E was the future’

Di Grassi: "We need to make sure the best option for people is the most sustainable one – that’s the win-win situation we’re chasing. Every single project that I'm involved in is somehow striving to create a better long-term future for humankind."

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler's Lucas Di Grassi has been a fixture in Formula E since day one, as the first driver to commit to the series and now one of its most successful.

The 2016/17 champion also had a hand its foundation, alongside Founder and CEO Alejandro Agag.

For Formula E, and for Di Grassi, it's about more than motorsport. The race is just as much about the advancement of pioneering, cleaner, more sustainable technology as it is silverware.

The future

“In the beginning, pretty much all the drivers talked bull**** about Formula E. They quickly realised that this is the future,” said the Brazilian.

"I researched and saw the industry was about to shift, and I knew how important Formula E would become from there. Without it, I may be unemployed by now!

“The series is very special to me because I’ve been there from the very start and helped create it, together with Alejandro (Agag). 

“It’s a real source of pride for me to be involved with something that has such a big impact in promoting good clean energy and a better future for all. 

“On-track, it is one of the most, if not the most, difficult series I ever competed in. The cars are very similar, the circuits are extremely difficult, and the format of the series makes it very hard mentally. Winning is a huge challenge.”

Trailer: And We Go Green - the feature-length documentary on Formula E

The Sao Paolo native is one of four featured drivers in the new feature-length Formula E documentary “And We Go Green”, co-directed by Fisher Stevens, Malcolm Venville and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. His perspective makes for an interesting insight given his experience of the early days.

The film follows those formative steps, where Di Grassi was on hand to test an all-new electric race car for the all-new electric race series, as well as the journey through Season 4 towards the present-day Gen2 iteration.

"A five-year development programme in the real world, aiming to create a 10 per cent efficiency saving from the motors, was completed in just a year of competition in Formula E."

“The Gen1 car had to use technology that would be capable, as nobody had produced an electric racing car like it before,” added Di Grassi.

“So, it was relatively simple – pretty basic in fact – but with scope for teams to make improvements and develop things.

“As soon as the technical restraints were opened up, you saw performance and efficiency improvements right away.

"A five-year development programme in the real world, aiming to create a 10 per cent efficiency saving from the motors, was completed in just a year of competition in Formula E.

“By Season 4, we had the big step coming with Gen2, which you see in the film. By then, people had learned best practices – what was right and what didn’t work quite so well – so a leap forward was possible.

“Moving from two cars to a single car was huge and I expect the same, or an even bigger step, for Gen3 in a couple of years’ time.

Formula E launch

Fast track

The rate of development on-track has pushed progress on apace away from the circuit.

Di Grassi believes the cost and practicality crossover point with traditionally-powered road vehicles is imminent, meaning electric vehicles become the only logical option – a vital turning point.

“As technology develops, electric cars will be able to go faster and further. The pace of development is incredible.

"The point at which electric cars are cheaper, safer and easier to operate than combustion-engined cars is not far away at all and Formula E is accelerating that process.
"Combustion won’t be able to keep up."

"The point at which electric cars are cheaper, safer and easier to operate than combustion-engined cars is not far away at all and Formula E is accelerating that process. Combustion won’t be able to keep up.

“The purpose is to create a better, cleaner, safer future for mankind with innovation and technology.

"In general, people will naturally go for convenience and necessity, as well as the cheapest, best solution for them.

“So, we need to create technology that fills this gap and serves this purpose, then, the best option will be the most sustainable one – that’s the win-win situation to chase.”

perfect formula

Electric cars have long been Di Grassi's passion, and his means of expressing that passion is Formula E, where he sits atop the all-time points-scorers chart with a title, 10 wins and 31 podiums to his name.

“I was interested in electric cars since I first drove one in Las Vegas,” said the 35-year-old. “I was amazed at the torque and power and my first thought was ‘why aren’t there more on the road?’

“I’ve mostly raced endurance and Formula 1 in my career, so it’s completely different. In Formula E, you have to be spot on at all times – no mistakes.

“One error and you’re in the concrete barriers and your race is done. It’s an extremely pressured scenario, and it’s very difficult to handle alongside everybody’s competitive nature.

“On top of the normal racing – accelerating, driving the right line, trying to overtake – you’re having to manage your energy.

Magic in Mexico City - Di Grassi wins at the last

“You can force your rivals to expend more energy if you’re trying to overtake them. If you’re clever you can apply pressure that way.

"Then, of course, there’s FANBOOST and Attack Mode. So, there’s a lot of different components to manage during a short, 45-minute race.

“The combination of strategy, energy management, complexity, concentration, lack of margin for error and competitive pressure is what makes Formula E unique.

“Putting that all together, the best single moment of my Formula E career for me came after I won the title.

"The most dramatic moment was in Mexico City last year, where I won the race literally sideways over the line with 100,000 crazy Mexicans cheering.

"It was an amazing moment for Formula E, I think, and definitely for myself.”

HONEST INSIGHT

With Lucas, Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing), Andre Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche), Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) and more starring, the film gives an honest insight into the inner workings of a top-tier racing driver, with all the pressures they face at and between races laid bare.

In fact, Di Grassi was intrigued see his own development as a person during filming when he watched the picture back.

“We had a fun time recording the film,” he said. “I became good friends with Fisher Stevens. He is an incredible guy and an amazing director.

"Working with him was very interesting. He made it quite straightforward; quite easy on us. At least for me, it was pretty natural."

"The separation, pressure, commitment, financials, politics and everything else is all part of it. It’s good to shine a light on how we move through these waters."

“I’d just been crowned champion, so it was a good moment, personally. However, the season started badly. 

"I looked back at the film and see how my personality was that year - it helped me learn from watching just how everything evolved during the season.

“The documentary really shows the raw part of the life of a racing driver backstage, what we go through and how we prepare for races.

"It uncovers our principles and beliefs, too, as well as how we are as individuals. We are all very different away from the circuit with our own personality and way of life.

“The separation, pressure, commitment, financials, politics and everything else is all part of it. It’s good to shine a light on how we move through these waters.”

Watch the full feature-length Formula E documentary 'And We Go Green'