Formula E: Allan McNish Interview

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Allan McNisch | Photo Audi Media
Allan McNisch | Pho­to Audi Media

It’s a luxury to have two fast and aggressive drivers in the team”

 

 

By Audi Media Cen­ter

 

In his first sea­son as Audi team prin­ci­pal in For­mu­la E, Allan McNish (48) expe­ri­enced a roller­coast­er of emo­tions and a hap­py end­ing with the 2017/2018 teams’ title. In this inter­view the three-time Le Mans win­ner talks about his dark­est moments, best deci­sions, his thoughts on the future of For­mu­la E and why it is a lux­u­ry to have two aggres­sive dri­vers like Daniel Abt and Lucas di Gras­si in the team.

The first For­mu­la E sea­son with you being the team prin­ci­pal was a thriller until the very last lap. Has your heart rate come down a lit­tle bit since then?

I went on hol­i­day with my fam­i­ly straight after the sea­son finale in New York. Ahead of that week­end I didn’t know whether it would be a hap­py begin­ning of the hol­i­day or a rather frus­trat­ing one. After the results we achieved, luck­i­ly it became a kind of cel­e­bra­tion hol­i­day. It was impor­tant to get away and switch off. Since I came back, New York has already been out of my mind and there is full focus on Riyadh and sea­son five.

Cham­pi­on of For­mu­la E – how does that sound to you?

Sounds pret­ty cool, doesn’t it? It is great what we have achieved. But for me it is much more cru­cial how we had to achieve it: It wasn’t by design – that’s for sure if you look at the start of the sea­son, but it was by a fan­tas­tic fight-back from both of our dri­vers and the entire team. This is some­thing I will for sure nev­er for­get.

Twelve points after four races into the sea­son – what were you think­ing at that time?

I remem­ber walk­ing out of the pad­dock in San­ti­a­go after anoth­er race with zero points. Daniel got hit on the first lap and Lucas had to stop with an invert­er prob­lem. It looked as if all of the poten­tial that we had seen in pre-sea­son test­ing was just slip­ping away and so was the cham­pi­onship. At that moment, I would have nev­er ever thought that we would keep the cham­pi­onship fight open until the last race, nev­er mind win the title at the last gasp.

What do you think is the biggest chal­lenge being a team prin­ci­pal in For­mu­la E?

Com­ing into this posi­tion in Audi’s first year in For­mu­la E was def­i­nite­ly a learn­ing process. And it start­ed off with the big chal­lenge of keep­ing every­body in the team focused when we expe­ri­enced tough times like we did in Mar­rakesh or San­ti­a­go. I’ve been in motor­sport for quite a while and I know that some­times you can try what­ev­er you want and things just go wrong. But there is always a switchover point and we had to make sure that every­one kept their eyes on the goal. The team and the dri­vers were noth­ing but excep­tion­al in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. They def­i­nite­ly made my life a lot eas­i­er then.

Can you name a best deci­sion in your new role?

Well, the best per­son­al deci­sion I made was to take the role because I am real­ly enjoy­ing it. One of the best deci­sions we made as a team was to con­firm and give Daniel the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prove his per­for­mance as an Audi fac­to­ry dri­ver. He grew up a lot, he showed the speed he had before but he also showed the expe­ri­ence that he had gained. I am pleased that we were able to give him a good tech­ni­cal pack­age and sup­port in terms of engi­neer­ing. I am sure he will build up on that con­fi­dence and make anoth­er step next year. The two race wins to his cred­it are just the begin­ning and there is much more to come.

And what would you write into the school report of Lucas di Gras­si after this sea­son?

 

 

 

Being on the podi­um sev­en times in a row once we got rid of the tech­ni­cal prob­lems clear­ly shows his lev­el of per­for­mance, con­sis­ten­cy and deter­mi­na­tion. The year prob­a­bly start­ed off in the worst way pos­si­ble for Lucas and our team and end­ed with more podi­ums in one sea­son than any oth­er team in the his­to­ry in For­mu­la E achieved. And I think we all agree that the com­pe­ti­tion was real­ly tough with a lot of great dri­vers and excel­lent teams out there. And once again he stood out as one of the best. Who­ev­er took the big tro­phies for dri­vers’ and teams’ titles in New York thor­ough­ly deserved it.

How do you mod­er­ate the sit­u­a­tion that Daniel is chas­ing the much more expe­ri­enced Lucas?

For me the way to look at it is very sim­ple: We need to have two fast, aggres­sive, hard-charg­ing dri­vers and we need to have cars that deliv­er them race wins. If we do have that, we have the chance of tak­ing some titles. If we don’t, we don’t. And then some­times we might have the occa­sion that the two guys are at the front at the same time and unfor­tu­nate­ly in motor­sport only one can win. I much pre­fer to have a sit­u­a­tion like this than not to be com­pet­i­tive at all. From my per­spec­tive, it’s a lux­u­ry to have two dri­vers and a team that are so pas­sion­ate to win. Daniel stepped up very well and prob­a­bly a lit­tle more than Lucas expect­ed. Now they are push­ing each oth­er and that is exact­ly what we want and need.

How do you rate For­mu­la E – con­sid­er­ing it is still kind of a start-up?

 

 

I was not an instant believ­er that the cham­pi­onship would flour­ish to the same lev­el it has. Main­ly because I have seen a lot of cham­pi­onships come and go in their first cou­ple of years. For­mu­la E has been able to get that momen­tum much more than I, plus 95 per­cent of the motor­sport com­mu­ni­ty expect­ed. Now, For­mu­la E has to ensure that it stays clear with its DNA – and that is city street rac­ing, tak­ing the rac­ing to the fans, close and hard com­pe­ti­tion, focus and the effi­cien­cy of elec­tric dri­ve­trains. At the same time, the series needs to evolve with the tech­nol­o­gy that is avail­able and make sure that it stays the excit­ing For­mu­la E that we have today. I don’t think For­mu­la E should com­pete with For­mu­la 1. It should make its own road and fol­low it.

What do you expect from the future now with more big play­ers like BMW, Mer­cedes and Porsche join­ing?

It’s not that the com­pe­ti­tion is low at the moment, but I think it will get much more intense. Right now, you have quite a con­sis­tent grid in For­mu­la E and you can rough­ly work out which cir­cuit is going to be strong for which team. When the oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers step in we might have a big­ger fluc­tu­a­tion through the course of the sea­son with guys at the front in one race and at the back in the next one. I can only see it strength­en­ing the com­pet­i­tive ele­ment of the series. It will be hard­er to get a con­sis­tent sea­son togeth­er for every­one which is great news for the fans and a tough sto­ry for the teams. But that makes vic­to­ries even sweet­er.

Sea­son 5 starts in the mid­dle of Decem­ber. What is your sched­ule in terms of prepa­ra­tions?

Our new Audi e-tron FE05 has been run­ning since the first group test with the oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers in March. Since then, we have done a cou­ple of pri­vate tests with Lucas and Daniel. From our per­spec­tive, we know where we are rel­a­tive to our­selves and rel­a­tive to what our goals were – which is fol­low­ing in line. How­ev­er, the good and the bad thing is that we don’t know where any­body else is. So, it will be excit­ing to see all the teams at the only offi­cial For­mu­la E test in Valen­cia in the mid­dle of Octo­ber. I believe that the new car is a big step for­ward – visu­al­ly as every­one can see, but also in terms of bat­tery, per­for­mance or regen­er­a­tion. Daniel and Lucas enjoy dri­ving it a lit­tle bit more than the gen­er­a­tion one car.

The all-new Audi e-tron is just about to get on the road. How do you like it?

At Audi, motor­sport has always been a leader pri­or to the tech­nol­o­gy com­ing to the road. That was the same with all our rac­ing pro­grams in the past. e-tron tech­nol­o­gy has been suc­ces­ful on track at Le Mans with us since 2012, is now in For­mu­la E and will be on the road for the cus­tomers lat­er this year. This again shows the way we at Audi are devel­op­ing road cars through push­ing the bound­aries in rac­ing. Per­son­al­ly, I have already put my name down for an Audi e-tron and I hope I will get it as soon as pos­si­ble.

Mais Sobre For­mu­la E

 

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