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Formula E

Porsche goes ahead with appeal of ‘incomprehensible’ penalty

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Porsche will follow through with appealing the three-minute penalty that cost Antonio Felix da Costa second place in the first London E-Prix and ensured Porsche finished behind its customer team Andretti in the 2023 Formula E teams’ championship.

Da Costa damaged his right front Hankook tyre after collecting part of Rene Rast’s crashed McLaren-Nissan just before the first red flag. He pulled off a brilliant recovery drive from 17th on the grid to finish second but he plummeted down the classification when the huge penalty for failing to change the tyre was applied.

The penalty ultimately meant that by the end of the weekend Porsche finished fourth in the teams’ championship, 10 points adrift of Andretti.

In a statement issued by Porsche on Thursday morning, its director of factory motorsport Formula E Florian Modlinger confirmed the team would formally appeal the decision and called the decision by the FIA to penalise da Costa “incomprehensible and unacceptable”.

“Our primary concern is a fair equal treatment in the spirit of the sport,” added Modlinger.

Upon entering the pits during the first red flag period da Costa was said to have been approached by a senior FIA technical staff member, who The Race understands had a brief discussion with the driver and another member of the Porsche team.

Although the conversation cannot be verified it has been suggested by Porsche that the thrust of it was that da Costa could continue with the damaged tyre, which was shown as having reduced in pressure via real-time monitoring used by the FIA.

Da Costa was penalised for a breach of Article 25.11 of Formula E’s sporting regulations which states “all competitors must comply with the working ranges of the tyres (minimum and maximum camber, minimum pressure) as communicated by the tyre supplier before the end of initial scrutineering”.

“It was clearly stated to us, to a mechanic and also to the driver, that it’s up to us to judge the safety,” Modlinger told The Race last Saturday.

“Also Hankook admitted that, with this cut from the outside, safety was always given.

“We were also not sure at the beginning because we had this weekend already also tyre pressure sensor issues – if it’s a real slow puncture, or if the sensor is incorrect.

“Therefore, when we sent Antonio out, you can see Antonio was moving behind the safety car, checking the car, and he clearly gave feedback that the car feels OK, the tyre feels OK, and all is fine. This was the basis to continue.”

The Race first reported Porsche’s likely decision to appeal the penalty last Saturday evening after it became clear that the team believed it had been told it could continue in the race based on its own decision upon if the car was safe to do so or not.

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The conjecture appears to centre upon whether the FIA did actually articulate to the team clearly that da Costa could continue, which would have ensured that he did not have to go to the back of the grid for effectively breaking parc ferme conditions to change the tyre.

Although vastly different circumstances, Jake Dennis was adjudged to have been in breach of the same regulation in February’s Cape Town E-Prix after his Andretti team made an error and the minimum tyre pressure was under the minimum value given by Hankook.

On that occasion Dennis was issued with a drive-through penalty which equated to approximately 20 seconds of actual time penalty.

Quite why da Costa was so heavily sanctioned remains unclear but the presumption is that Porsche was requested several times to come in and change the tyre between restart and the end of the race and did not. Da Costa was placed under investigation just after the first restart and then issued with the three-minute penalty as the last lap of the race began.

This set in motion a series of heated discussions between Porsche’s senior management, including its motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach, and FIA officials immediately after the race.

An hour after the finish da Costa’s car was moved from the regular parc ferme position to a separate impromptu parc ferme directly behind the Porsche box, where it remained until approximately two hours after the chequered flag had finally fallen.

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Porsche’s legal counsel, who was in attendance in London, prepared the intention to appeal and has submitted it within the 96 hours stipulated by the International Sporting Code.

“Antonio suffered a slow puncture due to debris on the track, which meant that the pressure from his front right tyre fell below the prescribed minimum,” a Porsche statement read.

“The damage occurred due to an external impact; it was not our fault.

“For us, this decision is incomprehensible and unacceptable. Our primary concern is a fair equal treatment in the spirit of the sport.”

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