Esteban Garcia spoke to on how plans to banish the demons from last year’s race and build momentum against their fancied German rivals.



What are you thoughts about this race and this new venue?


It’s fantastic to be back in Chile. Last year we race din Santiago for the first time. It was right in the centre of downtown. It produced a fantastic event, and it’s good to eb back here because Chile is a big part of the electric car industry, the wider car industry. Also to be in this particular park is something we can build on for the long-term future of the race. Looking at the event, it’s going to be very different to the first two races we had. Riyadh and Marrakech were very cold, and this we’ve got 38°C air temperature, and the track will be about 50°C, so I think from that point of very we’re in new territory for every manufacturer and team, so I’m looking forward to this weekend.


How will the race be in these conditions? Will it hurt the batteries? And the tyres on the track surfaces?


It’s definitely going to be difficult because of the temperature. For the car we run now one race with one car — we don’t have the car swap like we did last year. Therefore we’re more efficient. However, you still have to manage the energy and you still have to manage the temperatures. Therefore that’s one point that we’ll be focusing on. When it comes to tyres, they’re impacted only by the track temperature. They don’t’ care about the air temperature. This is a tyre that is designed to run in cold, in hot, in wet, in dry. Here we’re on the dry and very hot, so it’ll be tough on the tyre. Finally, it’ll be tough on the driver as well because he’s got to manage everything with his right foot. Wee know with electric cars, they’ve got very big acceleration, so therefore wheel spin is something that I think you’ll see a little bit of coming out of the hairpins here in Santiago.


What’s your view on this new season with Audi? Battling against Mercedes in HWA, against BMW, against DS Techeetah — it’s a very strong grid with strong teams and strong manufacturers.


Every year the development of the championship is going up in terms of the places we race, in terms of the competition — the drivers, the teams, the manufactures — and this year is I think at the peak so far. Next year I think will be even harder. But you’re right — we’ve got to prepare for the future. This year we’re trying to defend our teams title. We’ve develop da new engine and drivetrain, the electric motor. We also supply Envision Virgin Racing. They are a very competitive team. They were fighting for the championship last year as well. We know their strengths, and it’s better they’re driving an Audi than driving against Audi. So we’re very pleased about that association and relationship, which I’m sure will develop. For us here on this side, we’ve got Lucas and Daniel, the same pairing that gave us the teams title last year, but we want to win the drivers title as well this year.


Last year’s Santiago ePrix was a tough one for you…


It was bad. It was one of the worst races, honestly, for me, because we had a technical problem with Lucas when he was fighting for the podium. Daniel on the first lap got hit by Nick Heidfeld and damaged the car, so we had one car out after half a lap and we had the other car that stopped on the circuit. I also had a problem with my back, so I left Santiago — it was a low point of the season, honestly. So this year I hope that it’s starting to be a high point.


But after Santiago Audi grew a lot, and that victory by Daniel Abt in Berlin was astonishing.


But Mexico was good as well! Mexico was a really important race for us because we had the very bad race here, then we went to Mexico. Daniel got his first victory, which opened his doors, his mind. He knew he could win. Also Lucas got his first point of the season. Then from that race Lucas finished on the podium every race, so it was a fantastic turnaround point for us. So we hope that Mexico is going to be the same, but we hope that maybe we’ll star it there. I don’t want the same result as I had last year!



You said the Santiago race last year was the worst, a low point. As a driver did you help Di Grassi and Abt, did you give them advice?


Yeah, you always do. We’re a team in that respect. I raced for such a long time. I know that the team is only as good as its motivation and it’s only as good as the energy that’s inside it, and from that point of view we always have to support each other. There are times when we’re stronger in some areas and weaker in others, but we always have to try and support it. What I do know is that when you’ve got a downward momentum you just keep working, working, working and then it starts to be an upward momentum, then it continues up. That’s what we were able to achieve. But it wasn’t down to one person; there were a lot of people in Neuberg in our factory in Germany who were working so hard to make sure that we solved out problems. It was the people here at the circuit, Lucas and Daniel driving, but there were a lot of people back at home spending a lot of hours in the office.


What’s you opinion about attack mode as a team principal? It changes racing a lot.


I like it. I like it as a fan. Let me start with the fan, because it changes a lot of things and it’s exciting for the whole race because of people using it at different points. In Marrakech it took away the chance of a podium for us because Luca had saved an attack mode, then the safety car came out and he could only use one lap of it. Normally it would be three laps of attack mode, but he could only use one lap, and so it was a little frustrating., But overall I think it’s a good concept because it brings in strategy. It’s like penalty kicks in a football season. You maybe have one in a game that goes against you, but over the season it will average out, and I still believe we can strategically use it to our advantage very well. Our drivers, I think, have got a good brain on them and I think our strategy guys are good as well.


Did you have any problems with Di Grassi in Marrakech? He was strong early but fell apart in the end.


No. There were two things there. One was the Virigns and the Mahindra he was racing used their attack modes, the second one. They all used one and then they sued the second one to move ahead and he saved his second attack mode, so he didn’t have that 12 per cent of extra performance. But it’s true that we were stronger at the beginning than we were at the end. We worked a little bit on that on the Sunday in the test with Nico Muller and Jamie Green, and I think we’ll be better here.


Two DTM drivers… How have they adapted?


Yeah, but Nico has been helping us through last year as well. Jamie was his first time, but it’s good to always get new ideas, new vision, into it, and both we know very well.


What’s your opinion on female participation in the Ad Diriyah test. Is it good for the category?


I think in general we saw by the performance of Tatiana, for example, In Marrakech — not Riyadh, but in Marrakech — she was quick, there’s no question. I’ve watched he in Formula Three and in other formulas. I think in that respect the momentum of the female driver is coming to the point where the male driver will be looking over his shoulder very quickly if not already. The idea, the principle, I think was good to offer it up. For us as Audi we were focusing on a little bit of a different topic — that it was the first race of the season and a new car, and there were a lot of new aspect to it, so for us there were more resources focused on one — but certainly for the future from a female point of view I think you’ll see more women drivers coming in generally to our sport from karting, and that is a positive momentum.



What do you prefer: driver, team manager or commentator?


Tough! I love motorsport. It’s my life, it’s my passion. Honestly, I thought there was nothing that could beat standing on the podium having won Le Mans but picking up the trophy for the teams championship in New York last year was something pretty special as well but in a very different way. The commentary is like you sitting at home watching television. It’s like shouting at the television. We’re all commentators in our heart, it’s just that I have the opportunity to do it to the audience. So at the end of the day this is where I live. This is my life, it’s at a racing circuit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s with a helmet on or a helmet off or with a microphone. It’s my house.


Images: ABB Formula E and Audi