Di Grassi stays in Formula E with Venturi after Audi exit

FILE PHOTO: Motorsport - Formula E - Berlin ePrix - Berlin-Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany - May 25, 2019 Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler's Lucas Di Grassi celebrates winning the race with the trophy on the podium/File photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The Venturi Formula E team announced on Wednesday the arrival of Brazilian Lucas di Grassi, winner of the electric series' first race and one of only two drivers to have competed in every season since the start in 2014, from departed Audi.

The 2016-17 Formula E champion, a former Virgin Racing Formula One driver, will partner last season's runner-up Edoardo Mortara.

Britain's Sam Bird, now at Jaguar, is the only other driver to have competed in every race and stands alone as a winner in every season.

Audi and BMW left Formula E last season and champions Mercedes, who supply powertrains to Monaco-based Venturi, are departing at the end of the next one.

Di Grassi told reporters he had considered taking a year out until the Venturi opportunity came along.

"Regarding the decisions of Audi, BMW and Mercedes to leave the championship, I think other manufacturers will join in the future," he said.

"Formula E with Gen3 (the new cars for season nine from late 2022) and different rules and cost controls and technology diversification will allow for the championship still to be the main provider of electric technology."

Venturi principal Susie Wolff, whose husband Toto runs Mercedes motorsport, said her team owners remained fully-committed.

She said the championship, more affected than most by the COVID-19 pandemic due to racing in city centre locations, still had a bright future.

"We need as a championship to be able to survive with or without manufacturers. Obviously, having nearly all of the big German manufacturers leaving is not something that can be seen in a positive light," she said.

"There is a lot of interest out there, not just from car manufacturers but also commercially. We are having lots of positive discussions and we still see there being a big interest in the platform because of how relevant it is."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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