Many factors come together to make Allan McNish who he is today – three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Team Principal of Audi’s new Formula E factory team, Audi ambassador, and proud Scot – all of which contribute to him being a man with strong opinions, particularly where the Four Rings and motorsport are concerned.

Ahead of the Formula E season opener in Hong Kong, McNish sat down to share his thoughts on a variety of topics from reflecting on his own career to examining why Audi feels Formula E is important and the skills that future electric racing stars will need to hone to stand out.

On the rapid rise of Formula E’s importance in the world of motorsport: “I think there has been a quick switch, which took (the World Endurance Championship) by surprise (which has seen Audi and Porsche leave LMP1 for Formula E). I think it took Formula E by surprise, to be honest. And it took the whole industry by surprise. I don’t think the car industry would have anticipated five years ago the number of focuses on battery electric vehicles that we have today. I think it was a difficult thing to predict.”


On why his transition from driver to team principal was a natural one: “With Audi and I, it works. I understand the system, I understand the way they work. It’s clear, and it’s a good relationship, very strong. (And) I knew within motorsport I wanted to be involved in different areas. I wasn’t necessary 100% sure which ones, but I knew, motorsports being my life, I’m not going to switch it off.

“One thing I still do in the background to this day is I coordinate group motorsport, which is Ducati, Lamborghini, and Audi. That’s taken a little bit of a back-step at the moment while we push (the Formula E) program forward. When you pull all of those experiences together, I’m not sure you’re 100% prepared jumping into anything like that. But I think I’ve got enough background and also enough support. It’s not something I’m nervous about or worried about.”

On the unique skills a Formula E driver needs to master:“It’s the recuperation. In a gasoline engine you would lift off, say, 300 yards from the corner and coast because that’s the most efficient way to do it, and then you would brake. With (Formula E), you’re lifting off say at 300 and that recuperates energy, but as well you can force it a little bit more. You can pull a paddle on the steering wheel. It’s the trick of doing that. The natural instinct – and this is where I would have to adapt with my driving style – you charge to the corner, you brake as late as you can and get into the corner. My natural style was attack, and I attacked the braking point like hell, got in, got on the throttle. There were times in races where we needed to push like hell, and that was me. There were times when you didn’t, and if I was in the car I had to work at it. Tom Christensen was the guy in our team who that was his ideal thing. If we knew we were at a strategy point, we would switch it around for the strengths. Lap time wise I could gain in some areas, efficiency wise he could gain in others. But together as a collective, we were a bloody good team. Now, it’s got to be one driver. That’s the thing.”


On whether he misses race driving:“When I stopped at the end of 2013, four years ago last weekend, I was ready to stop. I was done. I’d ticked all my boxes. In the final race we’d won the world championship, and that was it. It was instant. I’ve not had a regret. I’ve had maybe five minutes at Le Mans in 2014 where the first session went out and I thought, argh! And then I drove the safety car in between the two sessions. It was an R8 V10 Plus. I gave it a lap, and one of the board members of the ACO was passenger. He’s an older gentleman, and he thought it was just going to be a gentle lap. It was a get-it-out-of-the-system lap. He came in and he was sweating like he’d done a double stint. And that was it. That was the only ever tinge I’ve ever had.”

On why Audi thinks being involved in Formula E is important: “You need to have a reason to do it. You come back to that tagline, and Vorsprung durch Technik from the German side of things is about engineering. From the top down, they’re an engineering company that kind of build cars and then other parts of the company have got to do it within the price structure of things. So, it’s this is what we want and then how are we going to do it, as opposed to what money do we have and what do we do into the box. That’s the general philosophy. It’s good for us because we know we’ve got the total support. (We’ve) got the support of the board and they’re into it because for them it’s the engineering challenge as well, and they want that challenge.”