Confirmed: Contract between ABT & Mahindra cancelled! Cupra would be "awesome" for Lucas di Grassi
Although the German ABT team is only just starting its second season with powertrain supplier Mahindra, its departure is already imminent. As a spokesperson for the team confirmed to e-Formula.news, the contract between the Kempten-based team and the Indian manufacturer has already been terminated. ABT will do "whatever it takes" to fight for titles again, says Lucas di Grassi.
"We can confirm that ABT and Mahindra have terminated their contract prematurely by mutual agreement at the end of Season 10," said the ABT team. The separation had already been hinted at in recent weeks.
"We are currently in talks," confirmed Lucas di Grassi a few days ago in an exclusive interview with e-Formula.news. "As a driver, I obviously have no influence on what the manufacturers do. But I know that ABT wants to win again. They will do what it takes. And they will find the right powertrain for next year - whether from Mahindra or someone else."
Obviously it will be someone else. And as early as next season. Formula E will then introduce its revised Gen3.5 car with all-wheel drive. For ABT, this is a good opportunity for a change of scenery, as the inferior Mahindra drive system means that no top results can be expected in the 2024 season, which is just beginning this weekend in Mexico.
A decision on who ABT will partner with from season 11 could be announced soon. The regular deadline for teams to apply to potential drive partners ends on Monday (15 January). But who could be considered? With the exception of the re-branded ERT team (formerly Nio 333 Racing), which has a similarly inefficient drive system to Mahindra, all other manufacturers already have one customer team and could reject an application from ABT.
Who, if not Mahindra?
Of course, a collaboration with Porsche as a brand of the Volkswagen Group, with which the private team from the Allgäu region has always had a close relationship, would make sense. However, Porsche would then have to support a second customer team in addition to Andretti, which would be a first in Formula E and could also create even more pressure under its own roof. However, as Porsche revealed to e-Formula.news, there is nothing to be said against a second customer team.
What is conceivable, however, is that ABT title sponsor Cupra could register as a manufacturer with the FIA. In view of the short term, not yet with its own development, but as a partner of Porsche, as the two Stellantis brands Maserati and DS Automobiles do. Formula E revised its regulations specifically for this option.
The up-and-coming brand already revealed to us a year ago when it entered the electric series that Cupra wants to expand its Formula E involvement. In theory, it would only have to pay a fee to the FIA and achieve unity within its own group in order to enter Formula E with a manufacturer status like Maserati.
So Cupra could theoretically compete next year as the manufacturer of ABT. The team would then have the efficient Porsche powertrain and could possibly fight for victories directly - given Porsche and the Volkswagen Group would agree.
Porsche-Cupra alliance "could actually be very interesting"
"That would be awesome," says di Grassi, alluding to the reigning world champion team Envision, which beat its own manufacturer Jaguar in 2023. "With good leadership and outstanding operations, you can achieve anything - even be better than the manufacturer team. We at ABT could also fight for championships again with the right powertrain."
A Volkswagen manufacturing alliance between Porsche and Cupra would make sense from di Grassi's point of view: "That could actually be very interesting. I see no reason not to do it. It's always good to have healthy competition in-house. If Cupra teamed up with Porsche, it would probably be good for them because they could race straight away."
If Cupra even wanted to get involved in powertrain development itself, however, it would need more time to prepare an entry. "It's an extremely complex matter," says di Grassi. "You need the right motorsport know-how and have to start with a blank sheet of paper. And then you also have to design a good powertrain first. I don't know if they (Cupra) really do that."