What motivates a man to lead a venture, which, if successful, would make his own career redundant?
degree in Economics, his ideas are formed outside the box, and he has ambitions to one day become the president of the FIA.
His racing credentials are impressive – the 33-year-old Brazilian is a factory Formula E driver for Audi and a former World Champion who has competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times, finishing on the outright podium in three instances. He dovetails his motorsport career as the CEO of Roborace, the controversial category that ditches humans for autonomous racing.
Roborace aims to put race cars driven by AI onto city tracks around the world as a support category to Formula E, Grassi reckons a six-car field will take part in the debut.
Di Grassi was a core member of the team that created Formula E, developing the race car and sporting regulations. He has become a de facto politician in global motorsport, regularly campaigning for design and rule changes in other categories, where he says the racing itself should stand above all else.
“When government regulation is pushing towards electric cars, it makes no sense for the manufacturers to race a combustion engine, unless it is for entertainment,” he explains.
That’s not to say di Grassi doesn’t see a future for traditional successful, would make his own career path redundant? “The market is going in the [electric and driverless] direction, whether we like it, or not,” says di Grassi.
“The pure pressure of economics will go for driverless cars in the next decade or more, so there is no way I can avoid it.
“So what I am trying to do is to adapt motorsport, still create jobs for other drivers, while at the same time ... create a niche for other companies to invest.”
While di Grassi hopes traditional manufacturers will be interested in autonomous and EV racing, he sees the future as an opportunity to attract new investors.
“Where could you imagine
“We want to use augmented reality and virtual reality and create a virtual twin for online racing, so our Devbots (the development vehicles Roborace uses at exhibition events) can race online 24/7,” he explains.
“It’d be almost like an evolving algorithm. The best ones can keep racing, and the new ones come in and self-learn and keep racing and learning and improving before getting into the real world.”
But while early Roborace demonstrations have been well received online, external support and a locked-in debut for the potentially game-changing championship remain elusive.