Speed. Consistency. Intelligence. Likeability. There are few drivers in the world that meet those criteria but Lucas di Grassi might just be one of them. His unique blend of speed and superb race craft alongside his charming and approachable personality got me thinking; is he the complete Formula E driver?…
To many, Lucas di Grassi would have been an equally deserving winner of the first Formula E championship. Whilst he ultimately finished 11 points shy of Nelson Piquet, his performances throughout the season were arguably the most consistent of the top drivers. Speaking to him at Donington, I got the feeling that Di Grassi shared the same feeling.
‘I think it was a good season as a whole. I was maybe the only driver to fight for a podium at every race, from the first race to the end. Of course there was the disqualification in Berlin and the suspension failure in Buenos Aires. That cost us at least 40 or 50 points and probably the championship. I believe I did a good job. This year we just need to make sure that the small mistakes don’t happen again.’
Were it not for his controversial disqualification from the Berlin ePrix, which he dominated after he took the lead at turn 2, Di Grassi would likely have won the championship with relative ease. A mechanical failure at Argentina also prevented him from taking away big points – these were not driver errors but simply factors outside of his control. There was still a sense of frustration in his voice as he reflected on that weekend.
‘It was a change in a part of the car that had no influence on the performance of the car. That decision for me was completely wrong and I still think it was wrong. That’s the past though and now I just need to make sure that we don’t have the same problem again.’
Di Grassi’s confidence and body language during pre-season testing revealed a lot to me during our short catch up. He was as relaxed as always but full of self-belief. There was almost an aura of invulnerability around him as I pressed him on why both Buemi and Prost scored more points than him through fastest laps and pole positions.
‘If you look at my average qualifying position it was maybe the best, or at least one of the best when you consider that I started last in Malaysia. I don’t think it’s a weak point. It was just a case of missing out by a few hundredths or maybe we were just unlucky. In the end that was the only reason. We were consistently fast everywhere and that’s what matters for the championship – to be consistently fast at every track. It doesn’t matter if I take two poles and then qualify in 20th..it makes no sense. We have to make sure we spend every race at the top.’
It’s hard to disagree with that assertion.
Standing in the pit lane I could see him meticulously working away with the engineers, providing feedback on the car before setting another quick lap. One engineer even commented that the level of feedback he provided was superb. He’s a driver who feels at home in the team and someone who they look to as a team leader. Let’s not forget that he scored over 80% of the Audi Sport ABT’s points last year.
I also pressed him on the on-going story that unfolded last year between Nelson Piquet Jr and himself. The pair exchanged a few words over the final few races after Piquet accused Di Grassi of blocking him during his qualifying run in Monaco. As far as Lucas is concerned, any tension is, and shall remain, in the past.
‘We spoke at the Gala and during this test..I don’t think we have any problems with each other. It all started because of the qualifying in Monaco but I don’t think that’s relevant any more.’
Mention Formula E to someone and they’ll likely bring up names like Piquet, Prost, Villeneuve and Senna, but I strongly believe that one of the strongest drivers in the pit lane is one whose name doesn’t evoke memories of a previous era of motorsport. Lucas di Grassi is the real deal; he’s humble and articulate but also consistently fast. In Di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT know that they can challenge for the drivers championship; it’s just up to them to deliver him a capable car.
‘The goal is the championship. We need to score as many points as possible. If that’s enough to win the championship then great, if not maybe I need to work harder.’
Written by: Anil Parmar