Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler is set to throw everything at a title tilt as Formula E becomes an FIA World Championship in Season 7. The German manufacturer has designed and built a brand new powertrain in one of the company's "biggest ever undertakings", and drivers Lucas di Grassi and Rene Rast are as motivated as any to get their hands on World Championship silverware in 2020/21.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler will head into Season 7 - Formula E's first season as an FIA World Championship - with the same line-up that rounded out Season 6, with 2016/17 Formula E Champion Lucas di Grassi returning alongside Rene Rast, who stepped in from the marque's motorsport stable to compete in Berlin.
Di Grassi was one of only three full-time drivers to have finished every race in 2019/20 on the way to sixth in the championship. His race pace netted him the most progress, at just over six positions gained per race, of any driver. Qualifying proved to be somewhat of a thorn in the side for Audi through 2019/20, and limited the Brazilian to two visits to the rostrum.
Audi is pulling out all the stops this year with a first in-house designed-and-built Formula E powertrain in a bid to add to its title tally following di Grassi's 2016/17 triumph, and its own as a fully-fledged manufacturer outfit via the Teams' Championship in 2017/18 at the first time of asking.
Di Grassi is beyond ready to get back on track in Driyah, Saudi Arabia for the championship's first ever night races on February 26 & 27, and promises Formula E's return in a little over a week will give fans everything they've been waiting for since the chequered flag fell on Season 6.
“We only raced for one week in Formula E within a year," said the 36-year-old. "Of course, we were testing, but that’s not the same, because it lacks all of the routine of preparing for a race day, the tension and the adrenaline. So it’s high time for all of that to come back.
"We can definitely promise hard racing, close fights, many different winners and an exciting battle for the first official World Championship title right to the end - everything a motorsport fan’s heart desires.
"The World Championship title gives Formula E even greater significance worldwide. For us drivers and teams, the pressure is just as high as before the beginning of every season. The exciting question is: Will it be as close in Diriyah as it was during the testing in Valencia? With two races in one weekend, there’s also the added excitement of racing in the dark.
“We're waiting to see how well the track is lit in Diriyah. At Le Mans, for example, it’s pitch black at night. You can’t even see the apex of the corners. Hopefully that will be a bit different in Formula E, otherwise we might have to think about headlights on the cars after all!"
The Brazilian has been as busy as you might expect over the months between last season and this, driving e-mobility and sustainable technologies away from the circuit as well as in his on-track capacity with the unveiling of his own electric motor racing series, set to get underway before the end of 2021.
“The idea is to have a worldwide racing series of electric scooters, competing in the middle of cities. There’s a lot of prize money and attention around micromobility - it's a really exciting project. The first tests are underway and we're looking to have the first race before the end of 2021.”
Di Grassi's new teammate Rene Rast arrived on the scene at Tempelhof and immediately impressed, securing 29 points and a maiden podium in Round 10 whilst displaying a no-fear, combative driving style.
The multiple DTM champion, fresh off the back of a third Drivers' title in the German touring car series can barely contain his excitement as he prepares to strap himself into the e-tron FE07 and push for Formula E honours in a maiden full campaign in the championship.
“Fortunately, the break wasn’t that long for me: after the Formula E finale in August, the DTM season really got going with 16 races still remaining. It ended very well for me with the Drivers’ title in November,” said the 34-year-old.
“I've missed that tingling sensation you get one minute before a race starts. That feeling of knowning that from now on, you’re completely on your own and the battle is about to begin. Then, the 45 minutes pass like ten seconds.
"It's always been a dream of mine to compete at this level and those words alone are very special and trigger something in every racing driver. Formula E is ultra-competitive and impossible to predict - that’s what makes it so unique and so different from Formula 1.
"It’s always turbulent and more than half of all the teams and drivers can win. I'm really proud to be a part of this World Championship."
Published on 17th February 2021