Allan McNish with the Audi e-tron FE05

12/12/2018 Reading Time: 10 min


Allan McNish with helmet

Ex-racing driver Allan McNish has led the Formula E Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler squad as team principal since 2017. In mid-December 2018, the team will tackle the fifth season of the all-electric race series as the reigning champions. McNish concluded his career behind the steering wheel at the end of 2013. During his active time, the Scotsman advanced into Formula 1 and also contested the DTM. He was especially successful in endurance racing with Audi. Allan McNish won the Le Mans 24 Hours three times for the brand with the four rings, and was victorious at the Sebring 24 Hours four times. In 2013, he together with his Audi teammates Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval became the world endurance champions.

Allan McNish in the garage

What are the key lessons he learned in his first year on the job? What does Audi need to do in the upcoming 2018/2019 Formula E season to defend its team title? What are the differences between being a racing driver and team boss? Allan McNish answers these questions:

Allan McNish talking to Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt


What Allan McNish has learned from his first season as a team principal: “To look after both drivers. Make sure you give them both the same opportunities. Another important lesson from the past season: always focus on the best possible solution when things aren’t going so well.”

Audi e-tron FE05 on the racetrack


What the Formula E team boss from Audi would do differently in the new season: “In compliance with the new Formula E regulations, we made many improvements to our new Audi e-tron FE05 compared to the previous model. Moreover, our drivers, Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, will focus on all the parameters that they can further improve. The team is also concentrating on every possible area so that we become even better. And I also want to be better prepared for handling the unexpected. This was my biggest lesson last year: The one-day Formula E events are so intense that something unexpected always crops up. And more often than not, it’s in the areas for which I’m responsible.”

Allan McNish stars in the Season 5 digital launch video prior to the 2018/2019 season

Allan McNish in the garage


The differences between being a racing driver and a team boss: “As a team boss you have to talk a lot more. In addition to the marketing and media roles, which drivers do alongside their racing commitments, I also have to represent Audi at all the meetings of the team bosses, the manufacturers, the motorsport governing body FIA and the event promoter. To be totally honest, when I get home from the races, I’m more exhausted than I ever was as a racing driver.”


The parallels between the two jobs: “Both have the ultimate goal: you have to win. In many ways, the road to victory is the same for drivers and team bosses. Racing drivers are extremely good at adapting and are therefore, quite frankly, suited to all types of business. A racing driver is accustomed to having to constantly perform and usually only has a contract for one season. That means you have to perform every day. If you don’t do it, your successor will. To cope with being constantly under high pressure to perform is something that both drivers and team principals have in common.”

Allan McNish in the garage


How Allan McNish is still very much a racing driver at heart: “I very consciously ask myself: what do our two drivers need? As a racing driver myself, I’ve been in the exact same situations that Lucas and Daniel have to deal with today. Sometimes I catch myself watching them via the on-board camera: I’m driving with them, my mind is already preparing for the next overtaking manoeuvre and so on. I can’t change anything in the pits, but I feel like I’m sitting in the cockpit myself. The fact is: the drivers have the toughest job. Out on the racetrack, they have to make split-second decisions, which can make the difference between winning and losing. And it’s always easier to point the finger from the outside. But if, like me, you have the experience of what happens and can happen inside the cockpit, you’re in a better position to discuss with the racing drivers on an equal footing.”

Allan McNish at the pit wall


How difficult it is for him not to drive: “It’s okay for me. In fact, this was quite a surprise. It would have been understandable to think: ‘If I were sitting in the car right now, then I’d do it like this or that.’ But I’ve never actually thought this way. In this respect, watching is easy for me. But I still feel the same butterflies in my stomach before the start, the slight nervousness, as I did when I was a driver. Still, I don’t want to climb into the cockpit again. That’s why I don’t drive our racing cars myself.”

Allan McNish on the podium


How different the feeling is at a presentation ceremony as a team boss: “The ceremonies from the previous 2017/2018 season were some of the proudest moments of my life. As a racing driver, it was always immensely satisfying to win and stand at the top of the podium. But like I said, racing drivers have to prove themselves again and again every day. As a team boss, where I worked towards scoring victories with my colleagues at the racetrack, at Audi Sport in Neuburg and at ABT Sportsline in Kempten, I experienced totally unexpected emotions, feelings I never had on the podium or at an event such as the FIA’s end-of-year celebration.  I didn’t expect to be on the podium again. Hence, that made it all the more special to spray the champagne again.”

Allan McNish on the podium with Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich


Former team bosses who are Allan McNish’s role models: “Three extraordinary men: Firstly, David Leslie, with whom I started racing cars after my karting days. He was inspired by pure passion for motorsport. At the end of my career it was Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, who was the Head of Audi Motorsport until the end of 2017. I very much appreciate his honesty. A handshake in 1999 sealed my switch to Audi. That carried as much weight as a written contract. It was something I regarded very highly. And during my active racing career, Jackie Stewart, my Scottish compatriot, was very important and motivating for me. Jackie has always been a trailblazing mentor to me. When I drove for his Formula 3000 team, his professionalism and his incredible attention to detail impressed and influenced me greatly. All three of these men were or are very different, but they all had or have one thing in common: A determination to win.”

Audi e-tron FE05 in the garage


The decisive factors for Audi to again succeed in the 2018/2019 Formula E season: “Firstly, to perfectly prepare the cars and equipment for the races. Our new cars are now homologated by the FIA, which means they’ve been technically accepted. In accordance with the regulations, we can’t make any major changes to them. More importantly, we have to be ready for anything that can happen and to cope with it.”
“Secondly, we have to work as a team – even if only one of our drivers can ultimately become the drivers’ champion at the end of the season, which causes competition within the team. We have two very fast and clever drivers, backed by our first-class development and test driver Nico Müller. I believe they have all understood the importance of team spirit at Audi. Because to finish first, you first have to finish. In the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team, we know exactly how we can achieve our goal of winning again. And we have to stick to this. The rest depends on how the competition goes.”

Audi e-tron FE05 on the racetrack


Allan McNish’s motto for the new Formula E season: “It’s very simple: focus, focus, focus! We have to concentrate totally on the job. Winning the team championship in Formula E, which we managed to do last season, is history. History doesn’t determine the future. The future is only determined by what you do in the here and now.”



Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler
Dieter Gass and Allan McNish on the racetrack
Allan McNish on stage


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