until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

New DS Penske Formula E 'spying' offence explained

by Sam Smith
2 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The DS Penske Formula E team has been found guilty of a second 'spying' offence in two years at the Portland E-Prix after it was judged to have used a member of its squad to note rivals' tyre usage plans.

Last year at Portland the team was fined $25,000 and its drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne had enforced pitlane starts last year when it was judged to have installed a form of radio frequency identification (RFID) device to monitor rival teams’ tyre selections.

The team has been caught red-handed again this year, with stewards imposing a €5000 fine and a withdrawal of one of its personnel passes.

The Race understands that a junior member of the Penske strand of the team was found to be noting tyre selections from other teams during Friday's practice session. It is believed the individual was tracked by FIA officials in the third line area opposite the pitlane - an expansive, US-style apron set-up.

The individual was then approached by an official and asked to justify their actions given they were only using a 'bronze' pass. This allows the wearer access only to the allocated guests' viewing area of the pitlane and is a strict ‘non-live’ pass that is specifically for guests of the team. It gives no access to working areas including the pitlane.

They were also found to be taking notes by the FIA and the relatively new DS Penske team manager, Chris Bluett, was summoned to explain the actions at the stewards’ room after practice.

DS Penske was subsequently found to be violation of event pass usage (bronze pass) which is detailed in Article 27.5 of the 2023/24 Formula E sporting regulations. This relates to the specifics of pass allocations that teams receive, with no more than 18 of the maximum 27 allowed able to be ‘operational’ staff.

Those 18 staff must wear a ‘clearly visible yellow armband’ by regulation.

The Race understands that DS Penske's explanation to the stewards was broadly that the member of staff had been flown out late with additional parts then told to find somewhere to watch the session as a spectator as they did not have the right pass to perform active duties, but mistakenly followed a pitboard operative whose role also involves spotting tyre choices and assisted of their own volition in a case of misplaced enthusiasm.

In addition to the €5000 fine, the team has had one yellow operational pass taken away.

Covert tactics in Formula E have been reasonably commonplace throughout its history.

Several teams are alleged to employ photographers to get similar information, while in the Gen2 era one team was believed to have booked out a hotel overlooking the Hong Kong E-Prix circuit, using high-powered binoculars to spy on teams’ garages.

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