After two years away from the ABT Motorsport family, Lucas di Grassi has finally returned, with it having been confirmed that the Brazilian will race for the ABT CUPRA Formula E Team in 2024.
The expected announcement was made by the Kempten-based team on Friday morning, with it having been widely known that a move to ABT was on the cards following his sudden departure from Mahindra Racing. Di Grassi will partner Nico Müller for Formula E’s centurion campaign, with the Swiss driver having been retained for another year.
Di Grassi returning to ABT is somewhat of a fairytale story, as the Brazilian raced for the side from season one until they left the championship at the end of season seven.
During that time, Di Grassi, of course, claimed the season three title as well as 12 victories along the way. In many ways, his most famous victory of the lot for ABT was Formula E’s inaugural event back in Beijing in 2014.
The 39-year-old is the sport’s most experienced driver with 116 starts to his name, whilst he’s also the championship’s oldest competitor. He returns to ABT on the back of a massively disappointing season with Mahindra, who struggled in the opening campaign of the Gen3 era.
The Indian manufacturer ultimately didn’t develop a competitive enough package, something which resulted in Di Grassi spending the bulk of the season towards the back. His season nine highlight was without a shadow of a doubt the season-opener, where he not only secured the first pole position of the Gen3 era but he brought home a podium on his Mahindra debut.
Above: Di Grassi converted pole in the S9 opener in Mexico City into a podium finish – Credit: Sam Bloxham courtesy of FIA Formula E
Season nine just went dramatically downhill from there, with the lowest of the lows having been the Cape Town E-Prix, where Mahindra withdrew from the event due to concerns about the safety of their rear suspension. In doing so, this ended Di Grassi’s run of having started in every Formula E race.
He at least returned to the points in Rome, before recently deciding with Mahindra that they didn’t share the same targets anymore, which has resulted in the Banbury-based team signing Nyck de Vries and Edoardo Mortara. Whilst ABT are, of course, Mahindra’s customer team, Di Grassi is more familiar with the team and their set up, having competed for them for seven seasons.
The familiar environment should work in Di Grassi’s and ABT’s favour, given that they both know what to expect from one another. Similar to Mahindra, ABT are in the early stages of a long-term project, having finished last in the 2022/23 Constructors’ Championship.
It has been reported though, that ABT could turn to a new powertrain supplier for season 11, so potentially a huge improvement is on the cards in the not so distant future, something which might have convinced Di Grassi to jump ship for the third consecutive season.
Di Grassi is ultimately delighted to be back with ABT on a multi-year contract, with him having “endless memories” with the German outfit.
“It just feels great to be back with ABT,” said Di Grassi. “Not only did I win two titles with this team, but I also have endless memories with all the people who work there with so much passion.
“I couldn’t be more excited to return after two years and I’m really looking forward to working together. Together, we will give our all to get back, step by step, the results that the whole team deserves.”
Above: Di Grassi (left) and ABT CUPRA Team Principal Thomas Biermaier (right) – Credit: ABT CUPRA Formula E Team
Whilst Di Grassi has taken Robin Frijns’ seat after the Dutchman rejoined Envision Racing, Müller has stayed exactly where he is for the new season. The Swiss driver impressed in his comeback campaign, although he did take some time to get fully back up to speed.
Six races is roughly what it took Müller to settle back into the sport and into the Gen3 era, as he suddenly shot to the front in Berlin, as did Frijns. Having been the backmarkers all season, Frijns and Müller magically claimed a 1-2 on the grid ahead of the second race of the Berlin double-header – ABT’s home race.
This was a monumental moment for the outfit, given just how weak they’d been compared to those around them. Whilst Frijns failed to convert pole into a top-10 finish, Müller was on hand to bring his car home in a brilliant P9, securing the team their first top-10 finish since returning to the sport in season nine.
Points in Berlin gave Müller and the team a much-needed confidence boost, as he went onto claim the team their best result of the season in Rome R1, where he salvaged P6. He backed this up with 10th place in Rome R2. The 31-year-old made it three points finishes in the last four races of season nine, as he secured eighth spot in the London E-Prix finale.
Above: Müller’s P6 in the second race in Rome was the team’s best result of the 2022/23 season – Credit: Sam Bloxham courtesy of FIA Formula E
In what was a very challenging season, which included withdrawing from Cape Town along with Mahindra and a huge 27G shunt for Müller in Portland, the Swiss driver proved that hard work and determination does result in significant progress.
Retaining Müller was seemingly a no-brainer for ABT given the role he played in scoring 71% of the team’s points in season nine. With their driver line-up for season 10 complete, ABT can now fully focus on pre-season testing at the end of October.
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