Twitter Facebook Youtube

Closed Circuit: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler in Hong Kong

A bittersweet start to the season for the newly-rebranded Audi factory team – Daniel Abt showed strongly all weekend and took their (and his) first win on the Sunday, only to lose it to scrutineering issues.

THE TEAM

Always associated with Audi, this season the marque finally take over Abt-Schaeffler as their factory team, keeping Season 3 champion and long-time Audi driver Lucas di Grassi alongside younger teammate Daniel Abt, brought into the Audi factory fold.

Initial predictions this year were that the Audi car would be comfortably dominant – maybe shown in Abt reaching Super Pole both days. However, usually dominant Di Grassi was well down the grid, missing out on the top 5 both days and starting Sunday’s race from 13th.

Di Grassi missed out on points both days, seemingly struggling with the car and involved in incidents. Meanwhile Abt seemed to have seriously stepped up to Audi putting their faith in him as a factory driver, in contention for a podium both days and taking what looked like his – and Audi’s – first win on the Sunday after Edoardo Mortara’s Venturi span.

However, scrutineering determined Abt’s car to have incorrect power train elements in it. It’s extremely unlikely the different parts would have given him any advantage but homologation demands that parts are not changed from those listed on the car’s technical passport, so a few hours after the podium the win was disqualified.

Team mate comparison: qualifying
  • Lucas di Grassi
  • Daniel Abt

Team mate comparison: race
  • Lucas di Grassi
  • Daniel Abt

“Daniel (Abt) drove fantastically on both days and absolutely deserves this victory,” says Allan McNish, Team Principal of Team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. “What we are apparently suspected of is a administrative mistake in the car’s passport that didn’t give us any advantage at all.”


Allan McNish, Team Principal

Championship standings
  • Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler

Lucas di Grassi

Saturday

Di Grassi’s Saturday was at best mixed – and dogged with issues. Narrowly missing out on Super Pole saw him sixth on the grid, in a race with a highly disrupted start. Unfortunately, Di Grassi was one of the losers to the disruption – clashing with Sebastien Buemi until he had to pit with damage, never recovering a points-scoring position.

Lack of pace was attributed to electronic issues on his second car (Di Grassi was substantially slower than his teammate) and overall the day seemed just unlucky for the reigning champion.

Sunday

A grim Saturday was not much made up for on Sunday. Di Grassi, who has never failed to come away from the first two races of a Formula E season without a podium, previously, will enter the third round of Season 4 without a single point after another issue-laden day.

Qualifying just seemed to go wrong for him, only managing 13th on his timed lap, promoted to 12th by Sam Bird’s penalty.

In the race, Di Grassi again suffered issues and a battery management problem on his second car saw him stop at the side of the track while he re-cycled the system. Having dropped back to last, the best finish he could manage was 14th, behind rookie Andre Lotterer.

Saturday

Sunday

Best time in FP1: 1:03.969 (P4)

Best time in FP2: 1:03.166 (P3)

Best time in qualifying: 1:03.773 (P6)

Best time in race: 1:05.056 (lap 9)

Pit stop time and difference to minimum pit stop time: 1:03.735s (+26.735s)

Best time in FP3: 1:02.380s (P3)

Best time in qualifying: 1:03.346s (P13, moved up to P12 by Bird’s penalty)

Best time in race: 1:03.928 (lap 27)

Pit stop time and difference to minimum pit stop time: 37.575s (+0.575s)

“Zero points is a bitter result because the car was really fast in the race, but sometimes you have days like this.”

Championship standings
  • Lucas di Grassi

Daniel Abt

Saturday
Abt had an arguably excellent Saturday – having been in a mostly-supporting role for much of the last three seasons, compared to championship contending teammate di Grassi, he beat his teammate to Super Pole.

Qualifying fifth, elevated to fourth by a penalty, he was immediately in contention for a podium during the race and rapidly moved up to third.

However, Abt’s luck once again seemed to run out when a problem on his second car meant he had to spend 20 seconds longer in the pits than the minimum time, while the car was fully restarted.

Abt put in some storming laps to recover – but was unable to move back up to a podium place, despite getting within 17 seconds of the lead. He finished a frustrated fifth, although with his teammate out of the points it was still a valuable scoring position.

Sunday
If Saturday had frustrated Abt, the Sunday seemed destined to right matters. Competing on his 25th birthday, Abt once again reached Super Pole, out qualifying his teammate by nine places in fourth.

Moved up to third after Mitch Evans’ Super Pole time was deleted for exceeding 200kw, a podium seemed certain for Abt. When Rosenqvist spun out of the lead, following the safety car start, Abt would have been almost guaranteed his best-ever placing.

Following Mortara for a subsequent 42 laps, it seemed pure destiny that two-and-a-half laps from the end, the Venturi driver also span and handed Abt his first race win.

Elated though Abt and the team were – it was not to be. The win was stripped from him following his car failing scrutineering, being shown to have incorrect parts in the power train. A heartbreaking moment for both Abt and Audi, after a brilliantly dominant weekend for the new Audi factory driver.

Saturday

Sunday

Best time in FP1: 1:03.856 (P3)

Best time in FP2: 1:03.113 (P2)

Best time in qualifying: 1:03.561 (P4, P5 in Super Pole)

Best time in race: 1:04.320 (lap 27)

Pit stop time and difference to minimum pit stop time: 56.529s (+19.529s)

Best time in FP3: 1:02.638s (P7)

Best time in qualifying: 1:03.715 (P2, P5 Super Pole)

Best time in race: 1:04.501 (lap 35)

Pit stop time and difference to minimum pit stop time: 37.638s (+0.638s)

“I don’t think the odds on me were very good or a lot of people would have bet on me. As I said, I think what really helped me is that Audi gave me the trust and the belief that we can achieve good things together. Coming into the season it gave me an extra motivation, an extra confidence also. Maybe that was why I could perform the way I did this weekend. Of course they also did an incredible job that is capable of winning. Overall I think we can be very proud. I’m now a little part of Audi’s history. I’m not unhappy, but I want to make sure that we have more success together.”

Championship standings
  • Daniel Abt

Image courtesy of Audi Communications Motorsport