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Formula E

Bizarre Rome Formula E practice pile-up: What we know so far

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The NIO333 team has begun a race against time to get a new Formula E car built up around a fresh survival cell for Oliver Turvey to use in this afternoon’s first Rome E-Prix.

Turvey triggered a heavy crash when he hit a group of cars that was undertaking start practice at the end of Saturday morning’s opening session.

Sebastien Buemi, Edoardo Mortara, Jake Dennis, Alex Lynn, Norman Nato and Jean-Eric Vergne were waiting in a staggered formation at the official start line, which features a left-hand kink.

It appeared that Turvey was unaware the practice starts were taking place and hit Vergne’s DS Techeetah and Dennis’s BMW, causing significant damage to all three cars. Others, including Lynn’s Mahindra, picked up minor damage.

The Race understands that there are no significant radio communications issues around the Rome track, despite speculation that Turvey might not have heard warnings.

The radios run through a Magneti Marelli 5ghz system that is dotted around the circuit. This weekend teams are allowed to use 5ghz WiFi in their garages for the first time but only on specific 5 ghz channels and frequencies. Previously they’ve only been allowed to use 2.4ghz WiFi.

The new-look Rome circuit has an off-set start and finish line arrangement.

The start line – where the incident occurred – is located on the long straight between Turns 6 and 7. The finish line is located opposite the pitlane after Turn 19.

By regulation practice starts may be carried out on the track at the end of each free practice session.

Article 32.5 of the 2020/21 Formula E sporting regulations specifies that “any car on the track when the chequered flag is shown may, instead of entering the pits, proceed directly to the grid and make a practice start”.

Another part of the procedure dictates that “drivers carrying out a practice start should wait for others to carry out a practice start before moving into a grid position.

“It is the first time in my life I had a crash without seeing it coming. I was stopped and had a guy coming flat out behind me not braking” :: Jean-Eric Vergne

“Under no circumstances should a driver make a practice start if another car is still stationary in front of him on the same side of the grid.”

The practice starts were immediately aborted by race director Scot Elkins after the accident.

NIO333 has taken delivery of a spare monocoque from official spares supplier Spark Racing Technologies but a complete rebuild is reckoned to take three to four hours depending on whether it has wiring looms and uprights already assembled.

Turvey will also need stewards’ dispensation in order to be able to start the race as he will not take part in the qualifying session later this afternoon.

DS Techeetah has introduced its new 2021 car for this race, but Vergne’s example now requires a right rear corner change and will also take a new gearbox as a consequence of the crash. That would normally mean a 20-place grid penalty but Techeetah is able to use its allowance of one spare gearbox as the car is newly homologated for this race.

“It was a big shock and I think it is the first time in my life I had a crash without seeing it coming,” Vergne said.

“I was stopped and preparing for the practice start and had a guy coming flat out behind me not braking and hitting me.

“The good thing from my side is that I didn’t have time to get scared.

“Then obviously I felt I was fine and all the drivers were fine so I was a bit more worried about my car obviously because you know how valuable the time is in Formula E and track time is so important.”

Dennis’s BMW also incurred major damage to the left-hand-side after being impacted by Turvey. The Andretti team was optimistic that it would get a surprise chance to get Dennis back on track ahead of qualifying when practice two was interrupted and delayed by a long red flag because the chicane kerbing had come loose. But the eventual decision that the session wouldn’t be restarted put paid to that.

Apr 02 : Racing around the San Siro?!?

The BMW suffered three punctures, meaning his allocation of four fronts and rears is massively compromised for the rest of the day’s running.

Dennis was frustrated that there were no warning flags before the kink as drivers lined up to take the practice starts.

“To be honest, in his defence, there was really a poor effort from the marshals or whoever it was in terms of no yellow flag,” he said.

Practice 2 Results

Pos Name Team Car Gap Next Gap Leader Best Time
1 Maximilian Günther BMW i Andretti Motorsport BMW iFE.21 1m39.517s
2 Nyck de Vries Mercedes-Benz EQ Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 +0.192s +0.192s 1m39.709s
3 Stoffel Vandoorne Mercedes-Benz EQ Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 +0.191s +0.383s 1m39.9s
4 Oliver Rowland Nissan e.DAMS Nissan IM02 +0.024s +0.407s 1m39.924s
5 Nico Müller Dragon / Penske Autosport Penske EV-4 +0.037s +0.444s 1m39.961s
6 Nick Cassidy Envision Virgin Racing Audi e-tron FE07 +0.081s +0.525s 1m40.042s
7 Mitch Evans Jaguar Racing Jaguar I-Type 5 +0.19s +0.715s 1m40.232s
8 Pascal Wehrlein TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Porsche 99X Electric +0.298s +1.013s 1m40.53s
9 Sam Bird Jaguar Racing Jaguar I-Type 5 +0.465s +1.478s 1m40.995s
10 António Félix da Costa DS Techeetah DS E-Tense FE21 +0.09s +1.568s 1m41.085s
11 Sébastien Buemi Nissan e.DAMS Nissan IM02 +0.466s +2.034s 1m41.551s
12 Lucas Di Grassi Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Audi e-tron FE07 +0.14s +2.174s 1m41.691s
13 Sérgio Sette Câmara Dragon / Penske Autosport Penske EV-4 +0.233s +2.407s 1m41.924s
14 René Rast Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Audi e-tron FE07 +0.103s +2.51s 1m42.027s
15 Alex Lynn Mahinda Racing Mahindra M7Electro +0.579s +3.089s 1m42.606s
16 Alexander Sims Mahinda Racing Mahindra M7Electro +0.656s +3.745s 1m43.262s
17 Norman Nato RokIT Venturi Racing Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 +0.015s +3.76s 1m43.277s
18 Edoardo Mortara RokIT Venturi Racing Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02 +1.085s +4.845s 1m44.362s
19 André Lotterer TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Porsche 99X Electric +6.737s +11.582s 1m51.099s
20 Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing Audi e-tron FE07 +5.058s +16.64s 1m56.157s
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