"Finally at the finish line after 10 years" - di Grassi & Sette Camara looking forward to Formula E home race in Sao Paulo
After three failed attempts to lure the Formula E to Brazil, it should finally succeed next weekend (March 25): the first E-Prix in Sao Paulo! Local heroes Lucas di Grassi (Mahindra) and Sergio Sette Camara (Nio 333) in particular are looking forward to their home race. After years of teething problems, it is a "huge honor" to finally be able to drive in front of their own fans..
For weeks, Lucas di Grassi has been rushing from one press appointment to the next. In Sao Paulo, there is hardly a radio station and hardly a newspaper left in which the Brazilian has not yet beaten the advertising drum for the Formula E race. The 38-year-old is eloquent and full of passion for the E-Prix. That makes him a grateful interview partner - and the ideal ambassador for the electric series in Brazil.
Formula E had already tried several times to gain a foothold in South America's largest country. Before Season 1, Rio de Janeiro was part of the race calendar, before the inaugural race was moved to Beijing and logistical problems threw a spanner in the organizer:s works. In 2018, Sao Paulo was supposed to succeed, but delays in the privatization of the planned venue again caused problems. In 2021, plans for a new attempt in Rio de Janeiro fizzled due to political interference. So now the fourth attempt - again in Sao Paulo.
"Huge honor" after years of work by Lucas di Grassi.
"I'm from the city, born and raised just a few minutes (from the track)," di Grassi said, explaining the reasons for his anticipation of the home race. "Racing in front of my home fans has been a dream since my first Formula E race. It's been within reach a couple of times and hasn't quite worked out, but after ten years of hard work and perseverance, we're finally getting there. This will be very emotional for me - and a huge honor!"
The champion of the 2016/17 Formula E season can make good use of the support of "his" fans. Di Grassi starts the Brazil weekend in an extremely unfavorable championship position: He scored only 18 points in the first four race weekends, all thanks to his pole position and the surprising podium at the opener in Mexico City.
His results since then: 13th, 15th, 14th. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding Mahindra's rear suspensions: Due to safety concerns, his race team most recently withdrew from the Cape Town E-Prix, di Grassi missed a race start for the first time in his Formula E career.
Mahindra strengthens suspension after Cape Town debacle.
In recent weeks, while di Grassi toured Sao Paulo, the Indian manufacturer has been working flat out on technical improvements. The wishbones have been strengthened so that the problem should no longer occur. At least in theory. For the time being, it remains to be seen whether the adjustments will work on the probably very bumpy high-speed track at the Sambadrome. The German team ABT Cupra, which sources its suspensions and powertrains from Mahindra, is also hoping for a turnaround..
Sergio Sette Camara, the second Brazilian driver in the Formula E field, is also looking forward to his home race - even though the Belo Horizonte-born racer grew up some seven and a half hours' drive away from the race venue. "The motorsport culture in Brazil is very big," says Sette Camara. "It passes from grandparents to parents to children."
"I remember watching races with my grandfather, my father and my uncle, and they were all strongly influenced by Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet sr. They passed that on to us kids, and we learned to appreciate our idols. Again, I grew up with Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa and saw him win races with Ferrari. That's when I thought, 'Wow, he's driving the famous red car and winning races.' I want to do that one day - it's doable!'"
Nio 333 in best starting position in 5 years
Sette Camara went through a couple of junior series and made it to Formula 2 before moving to Formula E in 2020. There he does not drive a red car (anymore), but also the blue-white bolide of Nio 333 was already good for several surprises this season. In qualifying in particular, Sette Camara and his teammate Dan Ticktum impressed the chiefs of the British-Chinese racing team. "Both have a lot of potential - despite their young age," team boss Alex Hui recently praised his duo in an interview on the official Formula E website.
"Sergio is a very, very hard worker. He builds a lot of detail into his feedback on the car, which helps us tremendously." It is precisely this feedback that Nio 333 is likely to need in order to be successful on race Saturday in Sao Paulo (race start 18:00 (CET), live on ProSieben). In the team standings, the racing team is in 8th position overall thanks to a fifth-place finish by Sette Camara in Hyderabad (India), its best finish since the 2017/18 season.