In the first of a new series of columns, factory Audi driver Lucas di Grassi shares his experiences from last weekend’s opening round at Silverstone and this thoughts on the rest of the WEC season.
Welcome to my first column for Motorsport.com. It is always a pleasure to tell fans the inside story of my racing with Audi Sport Team Joest.
Firstly, it is always a pleasure to drive at Silverstone. Though it’s not my home race, it feels like it because I have spent so much time in the UK ever since I came over to compete in F3 back in 2004. I used to live in Oxford, and I did a lot of testing at the track when I was with the Renault F1 team in 2008-09.
On the whole, it was a very positive weekend for the team at Silverstone. Personally I felt I had to perform after what happened last year with the rain and the accident, so I wanted to take a very strong result for the #8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro I share with Loic Duval and Oli Jarvis.
We had a pretty smooth time during Friday’s free practice sessions, the team taking P1 and P2. I was quickest in the first session, and then the #7 guys were top in the second one.
Everything was going to plan, with all the new upgrades on the 2015 R18 e-tron quattro, and I have to say all the engineers back at base in Germany have done a fantastic job since last year.
We placed third in qualifying; I set the fastest lap, a 1m40.180s. We knew that we had a one-lap pace disadvantage against the Porsches and Toyotas over a single lap because of the way they charge their batteries prior to the quick laps. But we were close to the Porsches and it was a very encouraging session for the team.
The race was very enjoyable in the first two hours. There was some really great racing going on and I hope the fans enjoyed it. Once we caught the traffic early on, it was a great fight with first Dumas and then Buemi.
Basically, everyone other than Webber at the front was having a big battle - all of the racing was pretty fair and as a driver this is nice, because you can go for it but trust the other guys to race clean.
I had a great battle with Benoit Treluyer - I overtook him, he overtook me and we both went for it again and again. We had a situation at turn one and we both went wide slightly, but this is part of racing and we were pushing all the time. We did not compromise each other much at all.
Everything was going well until I had contact with a GT car at Becketts. It was four laps before my pit stop on the second stint, and we ended up losing one lap because there was some damage to the back of our Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
This is just racing sometimes. It was one of those things that happen occasionally, and it just caught the very end of the car and damaged the bodywork.
This was the first disappointment for us, and then we had a small problem with the front hood, which lost us further time when Loic was in the pits. Oli then got time in the car and did a triple stint and we eventually finished P5 to at least collect some good points.
We had the pace, and if you take the best laps from the first two hours and also what Loic then achieved, we would have been there at the end for sure. Benoit did the fastest lap but I was just 0.039s away from him and we actually set those two fastest lap overall at the same time, on lap 26.
So, in a way, it was big-time frustration because I am sure we could have fought for the win. But of course, it was a great start to the season for the team because the #7 car won.
What we saw at Silverstone was that we have a great all-round package with this car. For this year we have six sets of tyres for qualifying and the race. This means that the most consistent car has an advantage, and this has helped because the Audi R18 e-tron quattro was good when we double stinted the tyres.
We have made very positive steps in many areas for this season - the aerodynamics, the suspension, the decision to go up to 4MJ. We also have many more upgrades coming during the season, and the team is determined to follow up this win with many more.
It will be tough of course, because Porsche and Toyota will be hurting after Silverstone and I think it will be a case of certain circuits suiting different cars all season.
I hope our luck will change in Spa, and for sure we will be determined to translate the promise we showed with the #8 car at Silverstone into a top result. Whatever happens, it is going to be a mega season in the WEC.
For me, I am enjoying a few rare days at home in Brazil now. These days, with my Audi Sport and Abt Formula E commitments, I spend about nine months of the year away from Brazil and in hotel rooms!
So this is a good opportunity for a short time to see friends and family, because from the Spa WEC race I then have Monaco, Berlin and Moscow Formula E races close together, as well as the Le Mans test day.
Then it is Le Mans and the London Formula E finale all by the end of June. Busy, busy, busy, but it is racing and I love it so much that I will never complain!
Until next time, after Spa.