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HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

by SCMP

2017 FIA Formula E HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

We are breathing down Formula One’s neck, says Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi as Hong Kong E-Prix beckons

Defending champion says electric series is already the second most important in the world – and is catching up quickly with F1

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 10:28am

Lucas di Grassi saw the eyebrows being raised when news came out that he had joined the fledgling FIA Formula E circuit back in 2012.

The Brazilian was the first driver – and just the third person overall – to sign on for what to many back then was still the great unknown.

Five years and three successful series later and Di Grassi is counting his blessings. He returns to Hong Kong fresh from his first Formula E title and from the off-season announcement that the 33-year-old had committed himself even further to the future of electric motoring by taking on the role of chief executive of driverless racing series initiative Roborace.

“In terms of teams, drivers and manufacturers, Formula E is already the second most important series in the world and we are getting close to Formula One very quickly,” said Di Grassi.

Watch: Lucas di Grassi’s sensational season

“The world is focusing on electric cars. All the manufacturers are pushing in the same direction and so are countries. Everybody is now focusing on electric technology and so Formula E is the place to be.”

It all fell into place for Di Grassi last season, starting with a breathtaking 19th-to-second drive in the season opener around the Central Harbourfront and culminating in the assured, confident drive in the final race of the season that saw him finish seventh and collect the six points he needed to secure his first Formula E title.

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“The feeling was very difficult to describe,” said Di Grassi. “It was the sum of all the effort I have put in across my motorsport career. Lots of dedication, teamwork, physical training all exploded in one moment. It’s something I will never forget.

“It was a weekend with a lot of pressure. I hadn’t managed to win the first two times so I was under pressure. It was the least expected of the three seasons, to be honest. But we took every point we could.”

There was high drama along the way, including a leg broken while playing a charity football match. It didn’t stop the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler ace, or even slow him down, as days after the incident he took to the Berlin ePrix double-header and duly won the first race.

“It was painful to race in those two races in Berlin but we managed,” said Di Grassi. “I’d played a charity match – I am Brazilian after all so we play football whenever we can – and there was a bad tackle from a kid who just got too excited. But I knew I had to keep driving if I was going to compete for the championship and that’s what I did.”

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The Sao Paolo-born Di Grassi came to Formula E after years of competing at the very highest levels of motorsport, through stints with Renault and Virgin in Formula One, a memorable victory at the Formula Three Macau Grand Prix in 2005, and stellar runners-up performances in the FIA World Endurance Championship (2016) and the Le Mans 24-Hours (2014).

Di Grassi won the first-ever Formula E race – in Beijing in September 2014 – and since then he has mounted the podium a record 20 times, winning a total of six races.

He’s now gone 3-2-1 in the driver’s championship across Formula E’s three seasons – and comes to Hong Kong determined to hold on to his crown.

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“We have been transitioning as a team, with new people coming in,” said Di Grassi. “So I have had one week of holidays and that’s it.

“We have been working hard to ensure the team comes to Hong Kong in a good position. It’s a track that has everything so I am excited to be coming back.”