With Audi becoming a factory team in Season 4, Hans Jürgen Abt steps aside from his role as Team Principal. Our editor Andrea Perilli caught up with the German to discuss his plans and expectations ahead of the start of the season.
The arrival of Season 4 has brought a lot of changes to the table. Audi taking over the ABT Schaeffler team is one of them. The German marque had already been involved with the winning squad, but it wasn’t until this season that it became a factory team. Among these changes, three-times Le Mans winner Allan McNish assumes the role of Team Principal, in replacement of Hans Jürgen Abt, a well-known figure within the paddock.
“Now that Audi has taken over our position on the grid a lot of positions have changed. Doesn’t go so much for me, as I haven’t been part of operations the years before. It was all in the hands of our sporting director Thomas Biermaier who will still be in charge next season. Our new team principal Allan McNish was already involved last season and is doing a perfect job”.
Abt is a man of many successes; in fact, the only title he did not win is the Teams’ Championship, but apart from that, a total of six wins, 634 points, 24 podiums, four pole positions, and three fastest laps have been achieved by the team during his time as Team Principal.
There is more to Abt than his team’s achievements on track. The tall German has conveyed several times his immense trust in both his drivers, standing tall in tough times the team went through, namely Lucas’ disqualifications in Berlin [S1] and Mexico City [S2].
Undeniably, Hans Jürgen has left his mark on the team. And while we will not see him as often as we are used to, he will still be around at some races, as he responded when asked about his position within the team for Season 4.
“I will come to a couple of races and enjoy the action from a guest‘s point of view”, he revealed. This season, he will have the chance to see his son Daniel in his first season as an Audi factory driver. The young German has been in the series since the first race back in 2014, and the recent announcement of him becoming a factory driver is certainly a major step on his career.
Lucas di Grassi will start his first Formula E race as the series’ reigning champion next Saturday 2nd December, on the streets of Hong Kong. Abt highlights the forerunner of the first race of the season: “When you are reigning champion your expectations are high – that’s the nature of the game. Our preparations were running smoothly and we had some good tests.
“But we will only know how good we are compared to our competitors in Hong Kong. Hard to predict anything but when Audi and ABT go racing they are racing for trophies and champagne”, he added.
For the past two seasons, di Grassi and Renault e.dams’ driver Sébastien Buemi have come close in the standings, with the title fight going right up to the season finale. In 2016, the Drivers’ Title was clinched by the latter; and in 2017, the Brazilian claimed victory on the streets of Montreal. “A lot of people expect the next duel between Lucas and Sébastien Buemi”, expresses the German when asked what we can expect this season.
“I think we will see a strong battle between at least 10 drivers for winning races and chasing for the title. Apart from the strong competition on track, I am looking forward to new cool locations like Zurich or São Paulo”.
Despite him not being Team Principal, his support will be key for the team, and there will surely be more than one occasion where we will see the German around at the races, enjoying the success that the Audi squad is obtaining on track.