The first McLaren Formula E driver to have serious business unfinished

Rene Rast has a bag full of unfinished work in Formula E that he’ll want to unload in 2023 and 2024.

The response to a host of excellent performances with Audi ABT in 2020 and 2021 was lopsided. His efforts were worth far more than what they ultimately returned to him.

Two positions on the podium from 21 start simply don’t illustrate the threat Rast poses on the sharp end of the field. Qualifying and a charged 2021 race hide his potential for the best results.

In a season where the word “luck” was thrown around the paddock freely, Rast, and perhaps Stoffel Vandoorne, had the greatest case of feeling as if she had deserted him.

Even off the track, he was unlucky.

Before he started his first full campaign, Audi had given notice of their intention to leave the championship meaning Rast would only have one crack in the world championship.

It started very well for him with a third place start and chasing Nick de Vries into the first stage of the race. But then Alex Lane causes a collision with Sam Bird and the strategy cards fall unpleasantly.

“In Riyadh, I’m convinced he would have won it if the safety car hadn’t spoiled us so much,” recalls Rast’s boss at the time, Alan McNish.

Fourth in his first race in that car was phenomenal and was a real threat. But it says so much to Rainey’s mindset that he was actually very frustrated that he didn’t win that.”

From a qualified point of view this was the highlight. He benefited from starting in the lower groups, but his 12 points in fourth meant he picked up a random order and was self-defeating in the surreal world of the 2021 system.

Regardless, Rast was still finding his way into the early part of 2021, although at least in a car he developed in part with Lucas di Grassi.

“Renny came to us[in the summer of 2020 as a replacement for Daniel Abt]with basically zero experience and in really urgent circumstances,” McNeish recalls.

“What we have known about it with LMP1 and DTM is that it is very adaptable.

“The first few races although in Berlin it was tough and he was struggling a bit but the whole time he didn’t panic at all, he was making his way and he did.”

“That season (2021) was really difficult for him. Not in the sense of racing too much but just because he didn’t get the big score he should have. Maybe he should have won in Berlin and the first time in Riyadh.”

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Rust finished the season with a 10-5 defeat to de Grassi in the playoffs, taking 13th place in the standings, and only one appearance on the podium with a good lead to second place in Puebla, Mexico.

But in the context of this lottery season, these stats need context.

He was number 13 in the standings after only 21 from champion de Vries and nine from teammate de Grassi, meaning that had he won, as McNeish felt he could in Diriyah, he would have been one point ahead and sixth in the table. .

Three-time DTM Champion Rast has been around long enough to forget these things pretty quickly. The fact that he has a new fencing program in sports cars and Formula E with BMW and McLaren respectively shows that he is entering the final phase of his career at the age of 36 and he and his management team are confident he can finish it off with a world title or two.

McLaren targeted Rast early on, as long ago as the fall of 2021. That’s because its experienced, data-driven engineering team knows what they want.

“What McLaren is going to get is a really smart driver,” says McNeish.

“He is a driver who studies and analyzes until he does well. I don’t remember a dedicated driver like Rene, he is very hardworking and very focused and I am convinced of the right team and the right package, which he will shape with so much enthusiasm, he will win at least Formula E races, at the very least.”

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