As Audi prepare to begin its Formula E title defence, team principal Allan McNish has singled out Daniel Abt for praise, saying that the German’s performances were key to his team’s success last season.
Abt has been an ever-present with the team since his Formula E debut in 2014, initially driving for his father under the Abt Sportsline banner before a full takeover by Audi was completed last summer.
Since then, Abt’s performances have improved significantly, with the 25-year-old delivering his best ever championship position of fifth with victories in Mexico City and the team’s home race in Berlin.
“Daniel was a big key to [Audi’s success in season four] because I believed he had a lot more capability and results in him than he’d previously been able to show,” said McNish.
“That’s partly because of reliability problems when he was in podium positions, [which were] very frustrating for him. So I knew he could do it, but also we had to give him the car and especially the team to do it, which I think we did, and he delivered.”
McNish, who won Le Mans three times as an Audi driver and also raced in F1 with Toyota, believes that becoming a works Audi driver in Formula E gave Abt a new level of confidence and he maintains that not all drivers would have coped with the pressure that comes with such a role.
“Winning races is one thing, winning championships is another but [to be a works driver] you have to deal with different pressures, and it’s silly little pressures to be honest with you. It’s about racing in Riyadh on a Saturday and then going straight off to an e-tron launch event in a different country,” McNish explained.
“What is required from you [when driving for a manufacturer team] is so much more than just driving the car. It’s about all the preparation for the next year. It’s about working with the design engineers to ensure that the next car is much better than this one, and it’s the marketing. It’s having a global view of all that.
“That’s something that not everybody can cope with, likes, wants to do, or doesn’t compromise their racing. It’s one of the realities of life being a factory driver that probably 80% of your work is outside of the cockpit of driving the car.”
McNish pinpoints Abt’s breakthrough victory in Hong Kong as being the catalyst for his improvement, even though he was later stripped of it for a team technical infringement. McNish says he knew Abt would go on to win again following that weekend and has predicted there could be more to come this season.
“For every driver, you’ve got to win your first race, and once you win your first race, you understand how to win a race,” he said.
“He actually won his first race in Hong Kong [before later being disqualified], so for me, it wasn’t a surprise that he won again because he had broken down that barrier. Then came Mexico and Berlin, Berlin was stunning, so yes, it’s confidence but it’s also understanding and it’s self-assuredness.
“I think we were able to be part of his development last year, and don’t think we’re at the end of it to be honest, I think he’ll be able to do a lot more.”
Image credit: Formula E
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