I’m not sure if the Formula E stewards read this feature avidly but I’m glad to say that after a shocking only four decisions during Sunday’s race day, we’re back in business with a double figure tally of infraction investigations yesterday.
Permission to launch
Four of the stewards’ decisions weren’t per se a penalty, the drivers having already effectively penalised themselves. Following a messy group one of qualifying, Sebastien Buemi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Antonio Felix da Costa and Lucas di Grassi had all failed to set a lap time and had to be issued special permission to start the race. From the back of the grid, obviously.
Meanwhile Tom Blomqvist, replacing James Calado at Jaguar, had to also be given permission to take up the Formula E entry – as normally, no driver changes are permitted in the last two events of a season. He was allowed, of course – and at the other end of qualifying fortunes, put it in Super Pole.
There were only two fines issued but both in four figures, so concerns about the gala bar tab needn’t be raised yet. Mitch Evans was issued the only on-track fine of the day, losing €1000 for going over 200kW of power in Free Practice 2.
Meanwhile Jean-Eric Vergne, in a towering mood about things I’ll get into detail about further down (and things above, to be fair) didn’t bother to show up to the post-race, remote press conference. Which was probably, for PR purposes, a good call because a seriously angry JEV can go a bit, how you say, off-message.
However, it is mandatory that drivers speak to me (and the other journalists) after the race, much though they often make it clear they don’t want to, so he also got a €1000 bill for his absence.
Di Grassi missed the weighbridge, driving straight down the pit lane on his way back from his non-lap in group qualifying and got a finger-wagging reprimand, on the basis he was steaming mad about it and forgot, not trying to evade the stewards.
Formula E is a bit notorious for resolving penalties after the race but both these got sorted during it, to the no doubt delight of already-having-a-bad-day Jean-Eric Vergne and Lucas di Grassi, a regular on the noticeboard by this stage in the day.
JEV was given a drive-through penalty for battery over-cooling. There are sensors on the batteries that can tell what temperature any coolant being used on it is, with the minimum temperature being 5C (41F) – the sensor on JEV’s battery reported that it the temperature was lower than that and he got the penalty pretty much instantly.
This has happened before, with both the Mercedes in Santiago and teams generally grumble that it’s an error from the sensor and that their coolant temperatures were fine, as part of no doubt some sort of cunning game they all have various strategies about exploiting. It’s a bit of a rookie error to set the sensor off and rounded out a day of Techeetah looking very distant from the relentless machine that had taken the maximum possible team score and both titles at the race before.
Di Grassi, meanwhile, got a penalty for driving into the back of Antonio Felix da Costa (who himself didn’t finish the race with a derating battery) – Di Grassi himself claims it wasn’t his fault and he couldn’t have done much more, too close to Da Costa to stop, while Da Costa obviously wasn’t best pleased. In a fairly contact-heavy race, it did feel like an odd incident to penalise as the only damage sustained was to Di Grassi, who span on track and had to pit, then received a five-second time penalty.
Even the penalty itself is a little bit odd as previous collision-related penalties had merited drive-throughs but possibly the fact Di Grassi had already gone through the pits affected the decision. In any case, it wrote off Lucas’ race – not that things had been going absolutely stellar before that – and he was steaming mad about it, being able to move to group two of qualifying cold comfort for the written-off day at the track.