Formula E updates rules to avoid Valencia-like mass retirements

The FIA has updated the Formula E regulations to prevent another incidence of the mass final-lap retirements and disqualifications that drew heavy criticism in the Valencia E-Prix. 

Formula E updates rules to avoid Valencia-like mass retirements

A late 5kWh reduction in useable energy limits brought about by a fifth safety car period meant the opening race of the Spanish double-header fell into controversy when five cars were disqualified for exceeding energy limits and a further three cars stopped on track. 

This followed a provision voted in at the June 2019 meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council that allows Formula E race director Scot Elkins to deduct 1kWh of the 52kWh race total for every minute spent behind the safety car or under full-course yellow conditions. 

However, under Article 37.9 of the Formula E Sporting Regulations, the race director has the “discretion to cancel this energy subtraction if deemed necessary”. 

The lack of heavy braking zones at the permanent Circuit Ricardo Tormo venue meant drivers could not regenerate energy levels in the remaining final two laps to reach the finish. 

But the FIA has now introduced an amendment meaning no energy reductions will be made beyond a new 40-minute cut off for the 45-minute plus one lap race timer. 

Antonio Felix Da Costa, DS Techeetah, DS E-Tense FE21, Sebastien Buemi, Nissan e.Dams, Nissan IMO2, Rene Rast, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Audi e-tron FE07, Sergio Sette Camara, Dragon Penske Autosport, Penske EV-5, Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche, Porsche 99X Electric, Edoardo Mortara, Venturi Racing, Silver Arrow 02, Robin Frijns, Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE07, Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes-Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 02, at the start

Antonio Felix Da Costa, DS Techeetah, DS E-Tense FE21, Sebastien Buemi, Nissan e.Dams, Nissan IMO2, Rene Rast, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Audi e-tron FE07, Sergio Sette Camara, Dragon Penske Autosport, Penske EV-5, Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche, Porsche 99X Electric, Edoardo Mortara, Venturi Racing, Silver Arrow 02, Robin Frijns, Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE07, Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes-Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 02, at the start

Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images

A statement supplied by the FIA to Autosport read: “Following what happened in race one in Valencia, the FIA and the promoter do not wish to see a similar scenario happen again. 

“With that in mind, and to prevent any further risk of miscalculation in regard to the energy consumption, it has been decided to no longer apply energy reduction if a safety car period ends beyond the 40th minute of a race.  

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“This will grant teams an additional margin for error, without detracting in any way from the spirit of Formula E, in which energy management is a key element.” 

This will come into immediate effect for the Monaco E-Prix on the full grand prix circuit configuration this weekend. 

This update comes despite FIA director of Formula E Frederic Bertrand having called on long-time race leader and defending champion Antonio Felix da Costa to slow the field at the final safety car restart to ensure only a one-lap run to the finish.  

The issue of energy reductions had been raised in a team managers’ meeting held the day prior to the Valencia E-Prix opener. 

This followed the final-lap collision in the preceding Rome E-Prix between Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries and Jaguar Racing’s Sam Bird. 

Bird told Autosport he had been in the battle with de Vries on the fringes of the top 10 owing to miscommunication over remaining energy levels and race distance. 

But no amendment was made for either Valencia race. 

Had Sunday victor Jake Dennis not slowed the pack to allow only a one-lap sprint then drivers and team bosses reckoned a similar spate of retirements would have reoccurred.  

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