Lucas di Grassi’s views on motorsport in the future
Lucas di Grassi, what will motorsport of the future look like?
“Motorsport as a whole will turn from a mass phenomenon into a niche product in the next 30 to 50 years. It will shrink slowly. Motorsport, in the future, will primarily be something for enthusiasts who are interested in adrenaline and the competitive question of: “who’s the quickest driver?” Moreover, the races will be held in cities, because the growing migration of people into cities is a global trend. Racing has to go where the people are.”
Why do you feel that motorsport will turn into a niche product?
“In the future, fewer and fewer people will be driving cars themselves. Car sharing, piloted driving – society will no longer have the same affinity to automobiles as we do today. That’s why it’s safe to assume that the way people feel about motorsport will also change. However, that’s a long-term prediction.”
Do you regard this development as a global trend?
“There are still markets where motorsport keeps growing, such as China or India. These countries still have huge potential. Or let’s take my native Brazil as an example: self-driving cars will only become a reality there many, many years later than in progressive countries like Germany. Things that will have become standard here in 20 years’ time will only come to Brazil in 80 years, so motorsport will not be shrinking in a linear way. We’ll also be able to continue to thrill kids with karting – of course electric karting very soon – and inspire the passion for adrenaline in them.”
But don’t ic engines in particular make motorsport so thrilling?
“This new generation that I’m talking about won’t care at all whether or not an engine or motor is noisy. They’ll be driving electric karts and subsequently electric cars, so they’ll also watch electric racing. There are still a lot of people around today saying that Formula E is not real motor racing just because it lacks the sound. But that’s not the key aspect. The Audi R18 is also very quiet, but people love it. It’s the most brutally powerful racing car of our time. Sound is not a prerequisite for motorsport. Over time, people are going to feel ever more comfortable with quiet engines or motors.”
Will fans in motorsport also keep changing?
“The passion for spending a weekend in a tent alongside a race track to watch a car drive by every couple of minutes is going to disappear. The hardcore fans from the 80s and 90s, who used to camp out trackside, cheering on Schumacher and company, still exist. However, their children, today, drive cars a lot less and for their grandchildren, the automobile will no longer have such great relevance. For me, personally – I’m now 31 years old – getting my driving licence and owning a car was my greatest dream at the time. By contrast, my younger cousins don’t care at all whether or not they own one. They use car sharing.”
As a racing series, how does one reach out to fans in the future?
“At the moment, young people would like to be directly connected with the sport. They want social media and no longer have the biggest interest in motorsport itself. Obviously, there are still some kids today with an interest in cars. The passion for racing and adrenaline will always endure, even though motorsport will cover a much wider range in the future. Traditional racing, Formula E, Roborace or drone races – all these types of racing are going to have their own fan bases and co-exist from a medium-term perspective.”
Roborace, the world’s first autonomous racing series, is already on the grid. Will artificial intelligence be successful on the race track?
“Autonomous races will be part of motorsport, but never truly become mainstream, just like racing itself, going forward. Roborace will not attract any fans of its own to the track, but rather become part of a programme of a larger event. We’ll never see 100,000 people flocking to a sports arena to watch robots race against each other.”
There are other new approaches to racing. Drone races have begun to be held by now around the world, whilst e-sports are filling entire stadiums. Sometimes you and your col-leagues even race against fans – on the game console.
“To all these new concepts such as eSports or Virtual Reality, the same applies as to Roborace. Racing will split into diverse categories, which will then co-exist. This is the basic trend. Consequently, we’re going to see large-scale combination events with human drivers battling each other, autonomous cars racing against one another and, ultimately, providing fans with opportunities to participate themselves. The same is true for drone racing. This new sport will grow, but it will never hit the mainstream or turn into the next Super Bowl.”
Assuming your predictions will come true: is electric racing even attractive at all for auto-mobile manufacturers like Audi?
“Manufacturers will continue to want to pit themselves against their competitors to see who’s got the best technology. To this end, fully electric as well as hybrid racing series will continue to exist. In addition, we’ll no doubt still see IC engines in the next 20 years, plus additional alternative fuels. There’s a wide range of possibilities.”
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