Formula E’s penalties can seem confusing – especially because, with a tightly-packed race day, they come at you so fast. Here’s what everyone got told off for during the first race in Diriyah, our first penalties as an official FIA world championship.
The new normal
A lot of the earliest penalties from this round didn’t actually face any consequences because of the way everyone has to work now. But technically, they were breaches of the rule book in the good old times. Five teams (BMWi Andretti, Jaguar, Porsche, Mahindra and Venturi) had to make late personnel changes after crew members tested positive for COVID-19, forcing them to update their list of garage personnel.
For obvious reasons, the FIA didn’t penalise them for doing the right thing and making sure they only brought staff members who tested negative to the site. However, the lockdown-themed non-penalties continued when the head of BMWi Andretti missed the team principals’ meeting ahead of the race due to a dodgy internet connection booting him from the call – and faced no penalty, as a consequence because we all know what hotel internet is like.
Dragon Penske didn’t get off so lightly, fined €1500 for their team manager’s non-attendance without a reasonable explanation.
Lucas di Grassi, Nick Cassidy, René Rast and Edoardo Mortara got a reprimand for going faster than 50kph during the Full Course Yellow simulation in Free Practice 1, with Edo managing a whopping 66kph.
Not reading the manual
Dragon Penske were the first team this season to be fined for incorrectly installing McLaren’s battery management software. If the battery can reach a higher state of charge than 100%, something’s been done wrong – sometimes innocently, often because getting away with stuff is half the game of motorsport. Teams seem to always struggle with it at the first race of the year and it tends to only come with a €1000 fine.
In the end both Dragon cars and Tom Blomqvist faced the penalty. Dragon and NIO 333 are teams who’ve struggled with their operational slickness, so it’s not necessarily a surprise to see them having to shake out a few gremlins at the first race for over six and a half months.
Blomqvist then got done for the same thing – probably because there wasn’t time to correct it before lights out as a full reinstall isn’t trivial – and was issued a drive-through penalty during the race.
Watching group qualifying, a lot of people were shocked when Nick Cassidy, Nico Müller and Tom Blomqvist had their laps deleted for not lifting during a yellow flag they had no choice about, on their single hot lap allowed during the session and after the chequered flag.
Unfortunately, that’s how Formula E qualifying works. You can go out earlier and not risk getting caught in someone else’s problems to ruin your lap – but maybe face a slight track disadvantage, as the surface evolves – or you can risk it and hope you get your lap in. With qualifying groups reduced to four minutes, there’s less window to try and avoid any issues but you can still go out earlier to guarantee your own lap.
Might seem mean but you get four minutes to make your best strategic choices on. In this case, really unfortunately for some drivers who set absolutely mega laps, that choice was wrong – that’s racing.
Not per se a penalty but after a heavy crash, going rear-end into the wall, in Free Practice 2 Robin Frijns had to be allowed to start the race because. he didn’t participate in qualifying. McLaren (who make Formula E’s Gen2 battery) said he needed a full battery change for safety reasons after the impact, which with only an hour betwene FP2 and group qualifying left him to sit out of the session.
Sorry for being too cool
Sérgio Sette Câmara was given a drive-through penalty in the race for coolant used on the battery before the race being below the minimum allowable temperature. This was a bit bizarre, as we tend to see it in places like Santiago where teams are desperately trying to cool cars before the race in a pit lane that can reach over 60 degrees centigrade (140 farenheit) before the race.
It was pretty chilly in Diriyah by 8pm (local time) last night, though. It’d be easy to say it’s the type of operational error Dragon are prone to but Mercedes have been done for it before. It’s just one of those classic and unique-to-FE oversteps of the regulations, same as you might see with oil flow in combustion categories.
Alex Lynn and Sam Bird’s collision ended both of their races, with Bird able to limp back to the pits before retiring while Lynn could only just about extract his car from the wall and cross the track before being forced to give up.
The stewards decided Lynn was at fault – so he faces a three-place grid penalty, regardless of where he qualifies today. That doesn’t totally neutralise the potential advantage of starting in group four but will no doubt be frustrating for him, after reaching Super Pole yesterday.
Formula E races again today – read more about the unique race format here.