It’s official: Audi has taken over ABT Sportsline’s slot in Formula E for season 4. This factory commitment solidifies the brand’s spot as the first German auto maker to race in the famous electric vehicle racing series. This is not a surprising move when considering Audi’s and ABT Sportsline’s history together.
The car company, famous for its four rings, has a history of sponsoring the ABT Sportsline’s team with financial and technical support. This isn’t anything new – Audi has been sponsoring the team since Formula E’s first season in 2014. Furthermore, they increased their support for the current season, giving the squad access to their high-tech facility, the Competence Center Motorsport in Neuburg, Germany. In fact, Audi’s growing interest in electric motorsports in the last year explains their quitting Le Mans to focus on all-electric Formula E.
Dr. Peter Mertens, Member of the Board of Management at Audi, says Audi supports the Formula E team with developing the new powertrain. They have also been helping with other off-track tasks, he says, and confirms that this move is a clear commitment of Audi’s brand to electric automobiles.
Audi’s move to fully control the Formula E team is a natural progression of their relationship of the last few years. Upon announcing the takeover of ABT Sportsline’s entry slot, Audi has shown its intention toward a full-fledged factory commitment. Most noteworthy, the team name will be slightly changed to become “Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler”. Schaeffler will remain as the technology partner for the car’s electromotive powertrain. Together, Schaeffler and Audi are developing the new powertrain for Formula E’s next season. Reportedly, the project is on-schedule, and testing is successfully underway.
Audi isn’t buying up a losing team, though. Not even close. The current team’s drivers, Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi, have won 23 podium places, including five victories, in the 29 races held to date. At eight of twelve races completed, the team is holding down the runner-up place in the current championship season, in both the drivers’ and teams’ standings. That’s certainly impressive, and it may have to do with Audi’s continued partnership and support.
A Clean Competition
Audi isn’t the biggest name at Formula E, though they are the newest on the roster. They join the teams of well-known automakers: Renault, Jaguar, Citroen, and Mahindra, to name a few. These giants will compete against newer automakers like NextEV/Nio and Faraday Future.
Soon, Audi won’t be the only German automaker at the Formula E racetracks either. BMW has recently announced a full push to join Formula E, with dedicated factory production, in Formula E’s fifth season (the 2018-2019 season).
At the moment, all manufacturers for Formula E are granted only a few freedoms. They are able to customize the motor, the transmission, their respective suspension components, and software. This means that teams can potentially influence their ultimate win or loss of the championship during the development season.
Formula E’s Season 5 is also highly anticipated because the teams will add onto their small list of manufacturer freedoms: their own powertrain. Although all cars are still required to use the same chassis, they will be able to customize the powertrain more than in the past. Spark Racing Technologies is at the forefront of the excitement ever since they created the new chassis. They recently released the first images of the concept for the next-gen all-electric race car.
A Formula for Success at Audi
Formula E’s short history gives team owner Hans-Jürgen Abt hope. He believes Formula E has developed strongly over its young life. He says Formula E teams cannot compete with full strength without the financial and technological support of an automotive manufacturer. The team owner is excited to join forces with Audi.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to continue this success story in Formula E as well.
Audi will officially take over in Formula E’s fourth season, which begins on December 2 in Hong Kong. The 2017-2018 season will take the teams all over the world. They will race in North and South America, Africa, Rome, Paris, as well as other tracks.
In July 15 and 16, Formula E teams compete in New York City. They will be racing with a view of the iconic Manhattan skyline. Montreal will host the last two rounds two weeks later, at the end of July.