until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

FIA will change Formula E rules after Audi’s pit shortcut

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The FIA has vowed to tighten up the Formula E regulations that allowed Audi to almost score what would have been one of the most controversial international race wins ever in the second London E-Prix today.

Lucas di Grassi jumped from eighth to first on the road by coming through the pitlane under a safety car period while the rest of the field was moving slowly on the racetrack itself.

He was only denied a victory because a slight amount of speed was detected as he stopped in his pit meaning that the advantage of the seven positions he gained from the tactical cut-through was nullified through exclusion after he received the black flag for ignoring a drivethrough penalty decision.

The FIA’s Frederic Bertrand told The Race that an amendment to article 38.7 of the 2020/21 FIA Formula E world championship regulations would be made for the season finale in Berlin next month.

The specific regulation states that ‘the pitlane entry and exit remain open and cars are free to pit provided that they stop in front of their pit [under safety car].’

“We will have to modify again, so that we adapt and close the potential loophole which may have happened here, but which didn’t happen in reality, because they didn’t do it properly,” Bertrand told The Race.

“But in any case, we will need to react and change it.”

Today’s controversy comes after a series of incidents during the present Formula E season in which many teams and drivers have criticised regulations that they have deemed impractical or inflexible.

Sergio Sette Camara Dragon crash Formula E Diriyah

The first flashpoint came in a qualifying session for the Diriyah E-Prix in February when Sergio Sette Camara crashed his Penske and compromised the one-shot laps of Tom Blomqvist, Nico Mueller and Nick Cassidy.

They were not allowed to get another lap and were also forced to start behind Sette Camara for the race.

Referring to general ethos of the formation of the regulations, Bertrand said that the only thing he didn’t want to lose was “the flexibility or the adaptability that Formula E has.

“It’s a balance between flexibility and adaptability, we need it with the format.”

The pitlane tactic that Audi almost pulled off in London was said by Bertrand to derive from a willingness by the teams to have a more flexible rule in the first place.

“In many cases what we see is that the result we have today is a result of many things discussed, analysed and in many cases finetuned to make people happy,” he said.

“We always think ‘OK Formula E is a bit special. Let’s try to make it special’.

“What we feel is that the more we go special right now on those type of things, sometimes we end up with something which is not that good.

“So we probably will also [now] go more standard on many things so that we live on a more standard basis than more exceptional basis, which sometimes we have in formula.

“I think we will probably include that in the way we write the regulation in the future.”

Lucas di Grassi Audi London Formula E 2021

The wider implications of Audi’s clever strategy call include the over-complication of Formula E races and also the fact that for the second time in five races, TV viewers across the world saw the leading car cross the line but not take the victory.

The Race understands that this is a considerable bugbear of the FIA and that after the first Puebla E-Prix when on-the-road winner Pascal Wehrlein was retrospectively penalised for a team administrative issue, the governing body held several lengthy meetings with promoter and organiser Formula E Operations on the matter.

“To accept the [Audi] move on our side is not easy, because it clearly shows that we have something to improve, but we would have for sure accepted it,” said Bertrand.

“The only thing we need to secure is that people not expert in our sport can understand our sport.

“For sure, this is not something necessarily easy to understand if you don’t have a proper motorsport background and know all those regulations and all the work which is behind it and everything.

“If you watch it as entertainment you see the guy stopping [in the pits], going beside and then coming back first, for sure you don’t understand that.”

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