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Bird and Buemi call for Rome circuit changes after Formula E pile-up

Formula E drivers Sam Bird and Sebastien Buemi believe changes need to be made to the Rome E-Prix circuit following a huge multi-car accident that halted the race.

Marshals remove the car of Sam Bird, Jaguar Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6, with a crane after a big crash on the 9th lap

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Bird was running fourth when he lost control of his Jaguar machine through the high-speed left sweep of Turn 6 and bounced off the barrier.

After coming to a stop on the racing line, Bird was hit first by Envision Racing’s Buemi and then suffered a second impact with the Maserati of Edoardo Mortara.

All three drivers were eliminated in the accident, which also claimed Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche), Lucas di Grassi (Mahindra) and Robin Frijns (Abt Cupra).

All drivers were able to extract themselves and were unhurt in the incident, which led to a lengthy red flag, with teams in a race against time to build up new chassis for Sunday’s second race.

“There’s a lot of bumps to this corner and too many drains that are raised up,” said Bird, who had led Saturday’s race initially - a contest that was won by his Jaguar team-mate Mitch Evans.

“I hit a drain that was raised up at the wrong angle and it sent me into the wall.

“Scary crash. I’m glad everyone involved was OK.

“They need to adjust the drains and address the smoothness of that section, it’s too quick to have drains and bumps like that, which can send you into a wall at a moment’s notice. For me it’s too much.

“You can get round there, and most people get round there, but it just takes one tiny little error – it’s not even really an error.

“I don’t think they can change it ahead of tomorrow, but certainly for next year they need to think hard about completely redoing that area, really laying a nice smooth surface up the hill because it’s too hit and miss right now.”

The same spot had already claimed the Andretti Autosport machine of Andre Lotterer earlier in the race, an incident that required a safety car, while McLaren’s Jake Hughes was forced to sit out the race after crashing at the same spot in qualifying.

Andre Lotterer, Andretti Autosport, Sebastien Buemi, Envision Racing

Andre Lotterer, Andretti Autosport, Sebastien Buemi, Envision Racing

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Buemi was left angry by the incident having raised that section of track as an issue last year when Formula E used the comparatively slower Gen2 machines as opposed to the new-for-2023 Gen3 cars.

“It was just a matter of time in my opinion, and I raised the point already last year,” said Buemi, who added there was no radio message or yellow flags warning him of the crash ahead.

“A small driver error on the top there like Sam did, if you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time you have no chance.

“Those cars are really powerful now and not much grip and when something like that happens it’s difficult to avoid.”

Andretti’s Jake Dennis, who was the first car following Bird when he lost control and was just able to avoid the spinning Jaguar, believes that the corner should remain a challenge for drivers.

“It just needs to be a bit smoother - I think the corner’s great, it’s an awesome corner to drive and it gives us good fun, but I don’t want to take that away,” said Dennis, who lost the championship lead after finishing fourth.

“It just needs to be a bit smoother, it’s just one bump. We’re going so fast in that section you can’t recover, and you hit the wall.”

An FIA spokesperson added: “We don’t see any necessity to implement any changes to the track for tomorrow.

“As per process, we will review the track layout ahead of next year’s event based on potential new learnings and feedback from drivers.”

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