Hans-Jürgen Abt: “Formula E is a model for success”

ABT Sportsline was the only German team to tackle the Formula E adventure. Team Boss Hans-Jürgen Abt draws a positive balance after the first season – from the sporting aspects, but also from the perspective of fans, partners and the media.

Having had time to reflect, how satisfied are you with third place in both the drivers and teams’ classification in Formula E?

Hans-Jürgen Abt: “We started the season with the goal of winning races to be in a position to fight for the title. We achieved both. The battle to see who would be the first Formula E Champion went down to the wire, anything could have happened. We are proud to play a major role as a team and with Lucas (di Grassi) and Daniel (Abt) in this high-calibre field. It goes without saying that we wanted the title and did everything in our power to achieve this – but we are pleased with third place.”

What was the reason for the biggest trophy not ending up in Kempten?

“One thing is clear; whoever is at the top after eleven races is a worthy Champion – the goes for both the drivers’ and teams’ classifications. As a fair sportsman you have to recognize this. We had a good year, but unfortunately not a perfect one. Lucas finished on the podium six times in the eleven races; this was more often than the first and second placed drivers in the championship. But he also had to stomach two serious setbacks: in Buenos Aires the suspension broke when he was leading and he could do absolute nothing about being disqualified after winning in Berlin. This was two sets of 25 points, which really hurt us all.”

How do you refocus the drivers and team after such incidents?

“There’s not much to say about this. Lucas is not just an incredibly strong driver; he also has a fantastic personality. Just how he treated the mechanics after being disqualified in Berlin, how he built them back up and gave them his trust and confidence is worthy of merit and not something you encounter every day. The entire team produced exactly the right answer just two weeks later in Moscow with yet another podium finish.”

Is this team spirit a secret to your success?

“Teamwork plays a major role within the squad. You can’t win races without mutual trust and absolute professionalism. Take the pit stops for example, which are enormously important in Formula E – you can make up time, but also lose the whole race if you return to the track too soon. On average, Daniel and Lucas made the best stops among all the drivers and our race crew the best stops from all the teams. A great performance of which I am very proud.”

What’s your take on the first Formula E season?

“Our expectations were high, but we still exceeded them. We enjoyed ten events at fascinating venues and despite the great challenges faced, the organization was always near perfect – for this we can only offer our heartfelt thanks to the Formula E team around Alejandro Agag, Alberto Longo and Ali Russell. However, what’s even more impressive is that the guys are never satisfied, but in fact always want more. It sets them apart that they value the opinions of the teams and see the series as a joint project for all those involved.”

How satisfied are you with the feedback from the fans and partners?

“I’m absolutely delighted by the enthusiasm shown by the fans. Over the course of the weekend at the last event in London there were 60,000 people in Battersea Park to see Formula E live. We had almost 400,000 people at the tracks in the first season. These are impressive numbers for a new racing series in its debut season. In the future we’ll also do everything to give the spectators an unforgettable day. Our partners deserve a big thank you! They were very brave, because after all the inaugural season for Formula E was for all involved – teams, drivers and sponsors – a big adventure. However, all our sponsors lived and breathed the subject of Formula E and immersed themselves completely in it. This alone means that we are already raring to go next year.”

And the feedback from the media?

“Without a shadow of a doubt Formula E is a model for success. For those keen on numbers: in the first season around 6,700 hours of reports about Formula E were broadcast worldwide, almost 190 million people watched the TV programs, and multiples thereof if you include the reports in the News programs. At the races we regularly had between 250 and 400 media representatives as guests. There are still plenty more impressive figures from where these came from. Nevertheless, I’m also delighted about other things: motorsport, or more specifically, a report about Formula E made it onto the pages of the Greenpeace magazine – and even as title headline. Our topic reaches and inspires completely new target groups.”

ABT joins the grid next season as a dedicated manufacturer. How far along are the preparations?

“We are right in the middle. Our new car, which is called the ‘ABT Schaeffler FE01’, had its shakedown on June 11 and since then has completed more tests in southern Germany and Hungary. Both Daniel and Lucas have already tested the new components; other dates are due to follow over the coming weeks. Obviously it’s a very special moment when a new car turns a wheel for the first time. But we also see just how much work lies ahead of us over the forthcoming weeks. The entire team is doing its utmost so that we are as well sorted as possible in Beijing in October.”

What design will the new car have?

“The current state of play is that every important partner will remain onboard, there may well be one or two surprises to announce. We’ll develop our new design when everybody has expressed their wishes. The most important thing at the moment is that our car is fast.”