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Formula E

Full course yellow pit loophole closed amid Mercedes protest

by Sam Smith
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

A tactic of pitting during full course yellows to gain track position that created a flashpoint among Formula E teams has triggered a new safety rule for today’s second reverse-track E-Prix in Berlin.

The Race can reveal that the strategy of running through the pitlane, used by Sebastien Buemi, Alex Lynn and Jerome d’Ambrosio in yesterday’s first Berlin race, was discussed at a previous Sporting Working Group meeting attended by most of the team principals.

All three drivers pitted and briefly stopped at their box before re-joining the track during the full course yellow yesterday. With the pitlane slightly bypassing the loop of the pit straight, a gain of five seconds was calculated to be the approximate advantage.

This was because the pitlane limit of 50kph was the same as the FCY speed. So with a shorter route through the pitlane, even with a stop, it proved the faster option.

The Race understands Mahindra and Nissan were surprised they were alone in making use of the option.

But Audi’s Allan McNish believes that the right call was made in changing the pit speed limit and that the FIA have to look at the pit speed regulation, article 39.2 of the current sporting regulations.

“In this situation I think it is right to change it under safety because if everyone comes in to the pit now under FCY ultimately there is going to be quite a lot of people effectively doing a stop and go at the same time,” McNish told The Race.

“So it will all be a bit busy and potentially risky because we are under an FCY for a safety reason anyway, so I agree with the FIA but I also think the whole regulation needs to be looked at for the future.”

Jerome d’Ambrosio made one position with the pitstop, while his new team-mate Alex Lynn gained three places employing the same tactic.

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The Mercedes-Benz EQ team protested Mahindra and Nissan e.dams after the race for their decision to pit and take advantage of the time gain.

Rule 39.2 of the 2019-20 Formula E regulations dictates that ‘the pitlane entry and exit remain open and cars are free to pit provided that they stop in front of their pit.’

The protest was rejected by the stewards who reviewed filmed evidence that Buemi and d’Ambrosio (Lynn was not protested) and reasoned that both cars “stopped during Full Course Yellow in the pitlane in the respective area according to the Sporting Regulations”. Both cars were deemed ‘not to blame’ for the alleged infringement.

The FIA has since issued an update to the regulations, reducing the maximum speed in the pitlane from 50km/h to 35km/h.

The re-assessment has been mandated to stop a repeat of yesterday’s situation and to ensure more cars don’t take the advantage en masse to create a safety issue on re-joining the track with potential “unsafe releases”.

The official bulletin, which was issued late last night, detailed that “due to safety reasons a speed limit of 35 km/h will be enforced in the pitlane at all times during the event”.

Additionally, the conversion of drive through time penalties has been altered to 26 seconds, and of the 10-second stop/go penalty to 41 seconds.

“I think at the end of the day we are all racers and part of racing is to ensure you can maximise your advantage within the rules that are set out,” said Mercedes FE team principal Ian James.

“I don’t see the need to criticise the teams that took that opportunity but obviously now there has been an amendment to the rules which means that advantage is not going to be there.”

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