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Formula E

Buemi ‘surprised’ by Di Grassi Rome contact penalty

by Matt Beer
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The high-speed shunt that caused Lucas di Grassi to retire from Sunday’s Rome E-Prix after contact with Sebastien Buemi just 14 minutes into the race is set to re-open a debate over drivers attacking and defending when on varying power modes.

The pair were disputing eighth place with Buemi following di Grassi but in attack mode, as they climbed the hill from turn four to turn seven.

The extra power of 35kW equates to 47bhp so Buemi was much faster as he set up a move on the Audi but according to Buemi the late move by di Grassi significantly contributed to the accident.

Buemi had made an attempt to pass at the T4 left-hander but was blocked but then got a run on the Audi heading into the T6 kink before the braking zone for T7.

The Nissan e.dams team explained to The Race that several elements of the incident concerned him and that he was “surprised” to be held to account for the contact by the race stewards.

Buemi took a 5-second post-race time addition and two disciplinary penalty points for the contact. The former sanction dropped him from 10th to 8th place in the adjusted standings.

Formula E Rome E Prix 2021

“I am surprised to be honest because in general it’s pretty obvious they give it to you in the race but they don’t wait (to apply),” said Buemi.

This referred to race incidents that occur early in races usually being processed quickly in order to avoid post-race changes to the finishing order as much as possible.

The incident on Sunday happened just 14-minutes in into the race, was placed under immediate investigation but was not judged until after the race.

Buemi described how he saw the incident, citing what he believed was an unnecessarily forceful defence by at that stage of the race a much slower di Grassi.

“With the attack mode I was quite a bit faster at that point compared to him,” he said.

“It felt like he was defending in a very aggressive way, where basically I arrived with 50 horsepower more.

“If he (di Grassi) makes it really obvious that he closes the door there then I pass on the other side. What I found that was not good is that he moved late when I was committed so that’s why we made the contact.”

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The build-up to the incident had seen the pair come close at turn four but Buemi says that he had no cause for concern at this stage with the Audi’s defence.

“Going to turn four he closed the door very aggressively which obviously no issue with that because he made the move very early,” he said.

“Then I tried to go outside and I did not manage to make the move which is no problem and then going up the hill, which is basically the second kind of option you have to try to pass, at some point in the corner he lifted, which we saw on the data afterwards, but we don’t we don’t know why.”

“In my view that I made the move to the left but he reacted extremely late and by the time I was already engaged to pass him on the inside he moved over to the left and at the same point he decided to lift and we made contact.

Immediately after the incident, di Grassi radioed through to his engineer Markus Michelbuger saying that Buemi “should get a big penalty” for a “super dangerous” and “crazy manoeuvre.”

But Buemi remained convinced that the lateness of di Grassi defensive move was the overriding reason for the contact.

“I would have liked that it would have been more obvious to close it (the door) rather than making such a late move across,” he added.

The stretch of the Rome E-Prix track where this and others incidents occurred during the weekend came under attack from several drivers over the course of the weekend.

Both Jean-Eric Vergne and Sam Bird opined it was too narrow and also not the optimum positioning for a start-line location.

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