In just seven seasons, Audi Sport stamped its authority on Formula E racing, gaining extensive technical experience and developing technology that is already benefiting the next chapter in the brand’s motorsport story.
20 August, 2021
After seven successful years Audi has now concluded its time as a factory entity in Formula E to focus on it next motorsport challenge – Dakar. A competitor in the all-electric formula from the very first race and the first German manufacturer to join series, Audi’s time in the formula not only yielded tremendous results, but also invaluable experience and technological advancements that are being employed in the next all-electric motorsport challenge.
Season 1 (2014/2015)
In 2014, Formula E opened up this all-new chapter in motorsport history, and Audi, with its partners ABT Sportsline and Schaeffler, supported this forward-thinking concept to promote electrified mobility right from the beginning.
The open-wheel single-seater racing car featured identical technology for all entrants in the inaugural season of the new international championship and at the first-ever E-Prix on the temporary city circuit at Beijing’s Olympic Park on 13 September 2014 the team achieved a sensational result, with Lucas di Grassi taking the inaugural win.
In the first four seasons the capacity of the lithium-ion batteries used in Formula E was not sufficient to cover the full racing distance, which meant that every driver had to use two cars in each race – literally switching over half way through each race.
In that first season, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler finished in third on the teams’ classification, while in the drivers’ championship, Lucas di Grassi likewise finished on the podium in third position. His teammate, Daniel Abt, who clinched his first Formula E podium – in third – in Miami during the season, finished the first Formula E season in just outside the top 10 in 11th. The electric motorsport journey was underway.
Season 2 (2015/2016)
From the second Formula E season onwards, each team was allowed to design and build the powertrain for their vehicles, with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler deploying its own combination of electric motor, gearbox and power electronics to the city circuits specifically created for this racing series as well. The output of the motor system increased identically for all participants – from 170 to 200kW in qualifying and from 150 to 170kW for the actual races.
The chassis and the specification battery remained the same for all teams and due to the limited charging volume, all drivers still have to pit during the race to switch to their second cars. For the first time the Formula E cars from Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler was fielded under a model name of its own – ABT Schaeffler FE01.
Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt remained the driving team and in Long Beach, both mounted the podium together for the first time – di Grassi as the winner, Abt in third. In Berlin the German, as runner-up, claimed a podium finish ahead of the third-placed South American for the first time.
This season, di Grassi went on to win three E-Prix and in the final race in London, narrowly missed claiming the championship, having to settle instead for the runners up position. Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler likewise finished the team’s classification in second spot.
Season 3 (2016/2017)
In Season 3 the technical ground rules in Formula E remained unchanged, but the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler electric powertrain was further refined with the car being designated the ABT Schaeffler FE02.
Once again it was Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt behind the wheel of the cars, the duo racing their way through an exotic lineup of locations including Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Montreal and New York City.
The competition and driving was every bit up to the exotic, globetrotting image of the formula, with exciting, down to the wire results that served to cement Formal E as a truly exciting motorsport. Lucas di Grassi became something of a specialist at coming from behind to snatch victories, while Daniel Abt was likewise right in the thick of things showing that the ABT Schaeffler FE02 was one to heart.
At the finale in Montreal, di Grassi crowned what was an outstanding season, by becoming the drivers’ champion, while Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler once again second place in the teams’ championship. Just three years in and already on top of the podium.
Season 4 (2017/2018)
In Formula E Season 4 Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler became an Audi factory team and as a result, Audi also became the first German car manufacturer to be involved in the increasingly attractive and acknowledged all-electric racing series.
Driving the new Audi e-tron FE04, the pairing of di Grassi and Abt set the pace for the season, the new car boasting 180 instead of 170kW.
In Mexico City that year, Daniel Abt recorded his first victory, and then went on to take pole position, fastest race lap and first place in the Berlin E-Prix. A dominant performance by both drivers throughout the season once again put the team in a strong position going into the final in New York and then produced a one-two win and a double podium in the two final races in New York City to secure the first Formula E teams’ title for Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. In addition, di Grassi claimed the runner-up’s spot for the second time 2015/2016.
Season 5 (2018/2019)
In Season 5 the second-generation cars changed the complexion of the series, with better battery capacity meaning only one car was needed to complete the full race distance.
The chassis was again provided by the specialised manufacturer Spark, while MGU03 motor-generator unit jointly developed by Audi and technology partner Schaeffler continued to be refined. It consisted of the motor, inverter, gearbox, parts of the rear suspension plus the related software.
Designated the Audi e-tron FE05, some 95 percent of Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s powertrain was new, with a10 percent weight saving over the previous model.
Extreme weather conditions at some races showed the e-technology was more than up to the challenges and victories in Mexico City and Berlin were highlights for the team and for di Grassi.
In addition to Audi Sport though, the Audi e-tron FE05 was also adopted by another team in Season 5, the Envision Virgin Racing also fielding the car from the=is season with great results.
Indeed, by the end of the season, the Audi race car was the most successful in the filed, with a total of 10 podium finishes, one pole position and eight extra points for the fastest race lap. Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler wrapped up the season in second place in the teams’ while di Grassi continued his run of podiums with third in the drivers’ classification.
Season 6 (2019/2020)
As was the case everywhere in the world, Covid-19 impacted the Formula E Championship dramatically, with racing stopped in Season 6 after just five races. For a time, the Formula remained in limbo, as was the case with motorsport and indeed sport all around the world. For a time there was no way of knowing when or even if racing would resume at all, but behind the scenes, the organisers were looking at ways to continue the racing should they get the green light.
Happily the green light was forthcoming and the plan was set I motion to host a compact calendar in Berlin to complete the season. This would see six races held over nine days at the Tempelhof airport site, with three different track layouts to provide the challenge and variety to drivers.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler tackled this final challenge with the first change to its driver pairing in the six years of Formula E, with DTM Champion René Rast joining Lucas di Grassi in the newly designed Audi e-tron FE06 for the condensed season end.
The Berlin races were a complete success, getting the series literally back on track and the teams back into the thick of the action. For Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler it meant another two podiums were added to the growing list of achievements and for René Rast, his first outing in the Audi e-tron FE06 netted him his first podium in the all-electric series – adding to his own impressive tally of motorsport successes.
At the ed of the intensive fin dish to the season, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler finished the season in sixth place.
Season 7 (2021)
Come season 7 and the effects of the pandemic were still being felt, and while Formula E was awarded full FIA world championship status, it still has to wait to get the season underway. Rather than start in late 2020 as would have been in keeping with past years, the season didn’t get underway until February this year, when Diriyah in Saudi Arabia got things underway.
For this season, Audi Sport unveiled the new Audi e-tron FE07 race car, featuring a new motor-generator unit – the MGU05 designed at Audi Sport’s Motorsport Competence Centre in Neuburg an der Donau. This unit was and is a significant leap forward for the brand, with its maximum permissible power output of 250kW in qualifying and 200kW in the race.
The season had its ups and downs, with the ups very much captured by the Mexican E-Prix in Puebla Lucas, where di Grassi and René Rast clinched a one-two win. Then, to top off the season, Lucas di Grassi effectively brought things full circle, winning on the last weekend of the season in the last season for the brand.
It was a hell of a ride and one that in many ways, paved the way forward for the next electrifying motorsport challenge – that of the Dakar Rally in January. Here, Audi Sport will take on the enormous challenge of becoming thew first manufacturer to win the gruelling desert rally with electric drive with the all-new RS Q e-tron.
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