"Change has been for the better," says Lucas de Grassi on his shift from F1 to Formula E
The veteran Formula E racer Lucas di Grassi will eye his second podium finish with new employers Mahindra Racing at the Hyderabad ePrix.
Practise makes perfect, right? This aphorism could be used to best describe Formula E racer Lucas di Grassi, who has been in the fray since the inception of the new style of racing in electric cars. He is often monikered as 'Mr. Formula E', a compliment to which the man himself took kindly.
"Thanks for the 'Mr. Formula E' compliment (laughs). I believe Formula E has potential to change motorsport. We have gone from different technologies to new cars. It has grown very fast in the past 10 years, but not on the same level as Formula 1, which is around 70 years old. It takes time to create a sport, but I feel it becoming stronger as electric vehicles are the future," Lucas told The Bridge in a roundtable conversation.
Grassi, set to take part in India's first-ever Formula E race in the Hyderabad ePrix, was the winner of the first-ever Formula E race, the 2014 Beijing E-Prix, which warrants the fact that he has really been involved in this championship since the early days. Moreover, he is said to have played a key role in the foundation of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, along with the other founders.
Naturally, the now 38-year-old racer was the first driver to pledge his allegiance to this flourishing concept, which was then just an idea.
However, it wasn't always electric parts for Lucas. There was a time when the Brazilian was zooming on racecourses in fuel-powered cars in the F2 and F1 circuits. While his stint on the F1 circuit was short when he drove with Virgin Racing back in 2010, he has had vast experiences in the GP2, now known as F2, circuits.
Nonetheless, it's always hard to transition from that world of Formula 1 to the more nascent universe that is Formula E. However, di Grassi doesn't mind the change at all.
"Definitely for the better (shift from F1 to FE). I've been in FE since the start, and there are a lot of differences in the driving, cars and strategy. It's actually easier to speak about similarities than differences. It's just another racing car and you try to go as fast as you can," he explained.
"India is a huge market"
While this isn't the first time that the veteran racer has come to India, he has nothing but heaps of praise to say about the capabilities the country has in order to take Formula E to the next level.
"India is a very important country in the world. It is important to bring electronic vehicles to India, and Mahindra is doing that, whether it be tractors or tuk-tuks. India is a huge market for all companies to showcase their vehicles, so having a race in India is huge. For us, it is like a home race," Lucas said.
The Hyderabad ePrix is set to take place on the 11th of February. Being from Sao Paulo, Brazil, di Grassi certainly won't have a problem racing in the heat, but is wary of the challenges the new circuit might pose.
"I haven't driven on it yet, but my understanding is that it is a fast track and has many overtaking opportunities," he analysed.
After coming third from pole position in the Mexico City ePrix, which took place last month, Lucas di Grassi would be eyeing another podium finish with his new employers in Mahindra Racing. "It's been good so far. I was in pole position in Mexico and came third. The last race in Riyadh wasn't good, but we can do better. It's a fascinating company to work with," he commented on his new experience.
Indian Jehan Daruvala is currently the third reserve driver for Mahindra in the FE Championship. The Brazilian was quizzed whether he had crossed paths with the local boy. "He's a great kid, still developing, learning in every race, every time we are on the simulator. Whether he has a future in Formula E, only time will tell. We need more Indian drivers in FE. India needs to push more on both the driving side and the engineering side," Grassi concluded.