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SMITH: Lotterer’s Title Credentials

Sam Smith profiles Andre Lotterer and why he is a genuine title challenger this season…

Photo: Formula E

I had a bit of hunch a few weeks ago and initially vowed to keep it to myself, but when several others in the Formula E paddock agreed with my theory, I thought maybe I’d get it off my chest.

I believe that Andre Lotterer has a very good chance of being crowned the fifth ABB FIA Formula E Champion in around eight months’ time.

As so-called dark horses go, Lotterer isn’t particularly in the shadows, is he?

He’s a three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, FIA World Endurance Championship and Formula Nippon champion, to name just a few of his achievements.

However, one very senior paddock figure completely agreed with me.

Amusingly, he said that if Formula E was as backward as F1 and embraced online betting, then he’d have ‘a few quid’ on the Belgian/Peruvian-blooded racer this season.

So, what is pushing back against Lotterer forming a credible title campaign? I think there are three key hurdles Lotterer must overcome this season.

The first and probably most defining is the overall potency of external opposition, of course.

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, BMW i Andretti Motorsport and Envision Virgin Racing immediately come to mind, but there are others such as Mahindra Racing and Nissan e.dams that may, on occasion, be major threats.

Each of these teams can win races in Season Five, and in particular Antonio Felix da Costa and Lucas di Grassi have a good set of attributes to mount credible title campaigns.

Secondly, will DS Techeetah’s in-house active braking system have the upper hand on the LSP system which is being used by the vast majority of other teams?

Granted, it is not the overriding technical area which could prove completely decisive. The new tires, the quirks of learning the fresh hardware, and of course the new race formats, are just as crucial.

E-racing365 can reveal for the first time that the only two entries not using the proven LSP active system are DS Techeetah and Mahindra.

This is intriguing because Lotterer has prior experience of the LSP system, a close relative of which was used throughout Audi’s hybrid LMP1 years.

Lotterer has been very important to DS Techeetah’s development of their new car, as has development driver Stephane Sarrazin and of course the work of Jean-Eric Vergne and test driver James Rossiter.

But there just seems to be that quiet confidence in Lotterer which makes you think he believes a crack at the title this season is on.

The final hurdle is the not so insignificant matter of having reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne as a teammate.

Beating Vergne when he is focused and hungry takes a Herculean and persistent effort, so it will be intriguing to see if Lotterer can get the edge and then if the strong friendship they have cultivated away from the paddock continues with the same genuine affection.

“I have always been great friends with a lot of my teammates, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to go out and crush them on race day and vice versa,” Dario Franchitti told me last week.

“That’s just the way it works.

“You can still come away from a race and have a beer but it takes two characters with similar values to be able to do that and it kind of has to be mutual.”

If Vergne is as brilliant as he was last season, it’s going to be a very tough ask for Lotterer to exert supremacy.

Having said that, some of his laps last season were exquisite. His performances in qualifying at Santiago and Rome, and Super Pole in Zurich, are just three that spring to mind.

I don’t believe there has ever been a rookie who has ‘got’ Formula E so quickly. Then again, Mr. Vergne might have something to say about that after his debut heroics in taking pole at Punta del Este four years ago.

Franchitti stopped short of saying that Lotterer would challenge for the title but something in his voice resonated with me when I asked him about the DS Techeetah driver.

“What I like about Lotterer is that after he had a nightmare start at Hong Kong last year, he really went away and made sure he ‘got’ Formula E,” he said.

“I think we could see him evolve in to a really potent proposition this season. He seems the kind of character who just loves to win titles.”

A hunch is based on intuition rather than fact, so let’s enjoy Season Five and see just where it takes Lotterer and the others.

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Esteban García

    December 8, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I agree with you Sam. I think Lotterer can win the Fórmula E season five championship.
    He has a good team, is a great driver, battling with Vergne at Santiago was the very best of the season four in my view.
    What can he do is a big question with the new cars but I have no doubt in his conditions as a driver
    Cheers
    Esteban

  2. Avatar

    Ivan

    December 8, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Spot on Sam ! AL has the caliber to be any team’s #1 driver

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