Audi has “rolled with the punches” and provided evidence it can still “take the race” to its opposition by securing its first Formula E win for over two years with Lucas di Grassi’s victory at Puebla.
That’s according to team principal Allan McNish, who also thinks that the team has emerged from some “dark times” recently in its final season before exiting FE as Audi prepares to focus on the Dakar Rally and a Le Mans return instead.
Until Saturday, the works Audi team’s last victory had come on home turf at the Tempelhof Airfield in Berlin when di Grassi won in May 2019.
When Pascal Wehrlein was disqualified at Puebla, Audi claimed its third-ever 1-2 finish in Formula E. Its previous formation finishes came at Berlin and New York City in the 2017/18 season.
Audi had been close to a win at the first Rome E-Prix this April but di Grassi retired due to a failure on his car while in the lead.
At Puebla, di Grassi and Rene Rast had qualified eighth and ninth respectively but it was far from a strong session for both drivers as di Grassi struggled with front grip and Rast made an error at Turn 1 which cost him 0.7s.
But they built strong races after tailing each other in the opening running to save energy and then moving up into the top six positions.
Rast though got caught out on his first attack mode execution and dropped to as low as 10th position but then came back through exploiting a slightly better energy situation than his team-mate to latch on to di Grassi’s tail. They then pulled off similar moves on Edoardo Mortara’s Venturi Mercedes to take second and third positions.
“That was crucial because we knew at that stage there was a chance Wehrlein could have issues as we saw he was under investigation,” McNish told The Race.
“We weren’t ever going to be in a position to catch Wehrlein because he had that gap but we were aware there could be a disqualification because we have been through things like Hong Kong [in 2017 when Daniel Abt was disqualified for an administrative issue] ourselves before.
“I do feel for Pascal and that team, because as I say, we’ve been there.”
Di Grassi also expressed sympathy for Wehrlein, who had dominated the race from pole position.
“I feel very sorry for Pascal, I think he drove a great race, but this has happened to me a few times and my last one was Rome,” he said.
“We have been very unlucky in Rome, and today very lucky. So I think it just balances out.”
McNish confessed that he and the Audi team had taken greatest satisfaction from showing that its e-tron FE07 package was capable of victory and in so doing become the first completely 100% in-house designed Audi to take a Formula E win.
“I think there’s a sense of satisfaction that we’ve actually delivered what we know and have known we’ve been able to deliver, but for different reasons, it’s never quite all hooked up,” said McNish.
“We had the team picture on the podium, and I just said to everybody, ‘enjoy the feeling’.
“Because we’ve had some really tough times, we’ve had some dark times where we’ve had to dig deep and steal ourselves and fight back.
“At times, the punches felt like they just kept on coming but we rolled with them and came out the other side well.”
While the Envision Virgin Racing team has attained results this season as an Audi customer, the full manufacturer version of Audi has struggled to do likewise despite being in good positions on several occasions.
“Fundamentally the car’s good, fundamentally we’re a good team, fundamentally we’ve got the right drivers and fundamentally we can win races,” McNish said.
“But this championships not all about that. There’s a lot of other factors. Some you control, some you definitely don’t control.
“But when the chances come you’ve got to take them and we proved we can do that today.”