Daniel Abt started Formula E’s fourth season as a man under pressure to deliver after three underwhelming seasons.
There were suggestions from those on social media that he was only there because his dad, Hans-Jurgen Abt, owned the team.
With Audi taking over the ABT entry for Season 4, the pressure was on Daniel Abt to prove he was there on talent and not because his dad used to own the team. At the team launch before the season started, Abt was announced as a factory Audi driver for the upcoming season.
The pressure was ramped up even more.
Abt entered Formula E with a respectable junior formula record to his name. He won the ADAC Formel Masters in 2009 before finishing runner-up to Tom Dillmann in the German F3 Cup in 2010. He beat Kevin Magnussen (third) and Felix Rosenqvist (fifth) in the same season.
For 2011, Abt moved into the Formula 3 Euro Series. A seventh-place finish, behind Rosenqvist, champion Roberto Merhi, DTM champion Marco Wittmann and Daniel Juncadella (among others) was enough for Abt to secure a GP3 seat for 2012.
In GP3, Abt finished second behind now Formula E driver Mitch Evans and ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa. He missed out on the title by two points to Evans, finishing with 149.5 points.
While GP2 was not as much of a success for Abt, a move to Formula E to race for the ABT Schaeffler outfit followed.
Is it really a surprise that Abt’s form has suddenly got a lot better? Perhaps not. Throughout the first three seasons of Formula E, Abt had his moments where his potential shone through. At the first Long Beach ePrix, in 2015, he claimed his first pole position.
The following year, at the same circuit, he claimed his second podium in Formula E (his first came at the Miami ePrix in 2015).
And in Hong Kong in Season 4, he claimed a victory on track before he was disqualified due to an issue with the technical passport of his car. While he also won in Mexico to claim his (second) first victory of his Formula E career, the win in Berlin was perhaps one of the most dominant drives in Formula E so far.
It was so dominant that Abt became only the third driver in Formula E to pick up maximum points on offer from a race weekend. Season 2 champion Sebastien Buemi picked up the full points haul at the opening race of Season 2 in Beijing while Felix Rosenqvist picked up his maximum at the second Hong Kong ePrix in Season 4.
It was also the first time a driver had led every single lap of the race.
And for Abt, it was his chance to show his potential that had, for the most part, been unfulfilled in Formula E.
He claimed pole position at the Tempelhof Airport circuit by two-and-a-half tenths from NIO’s Oliver Turvey, an early sign of what was to come from the Kempten-born driver. Qualifying shows Abt a full second ahead of team-mate and reigning champion Lucas di Grassi, but this doesn’t tell the full story. Di Grassi made a mistake at the hairpin and lost 0.8 seconds.
When the pair put in clean laps in groups qualifying, the gap was just a tenth.
When di Grassi crossed the start/finish line in second place on Lap 12 of 45, Abt was 3.696s clear at the front of the field. It remained close to four seconds until lap 16 when the gap started closing: 3.3s, 3.5s, 3.4s, 3.3s. Abt increased the gap to 3.7s on Lap 22 just before the pit stops took place.
Just as well he gained those four tenths on his team-mate too. Di Grassi’s pit stop was completed in 29.850s – the second fastest. Abt’s was completed in 33.196s, 3.3 seconds slower than di Grassi’s stop.
The battle for the lead was on with di Grassi now only a second behind Abt. Three laps after the pit stops, the gap started to increase: 1.2s, 1.4s, 1.9s, 2.5s on lap 29 of 45. Abt had withstood the pressure of his team-mate to claim a comfortable lead for the second half of the race.
But he was not only controlling the race, he was dominating it. The gap kept increasing between Abt and di Grassi – with the winning margin at 6.758s at the finish line. And it could have been more had Abt not had to wait for Sebastien Buemi to pass his garage in the pits.
Perhaps Season 4 is where the Abt his junior record suggested we would see has finally appeared. It has been a long time coming in Formula E, but with two race wins (and a third on-track win) under his belt, Abt is showing the best of his ability on a more consistent basis.
We’re now seeing his potential start to be fulfilled.