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Track limits a bone of contention in Hyderabad Formula E weekend

Several Formula E drivers have voiced their disapproval about how track limits were enforced in the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix, calling for changes for next season.

Sam Bird, Jaguar Racing

Photo by: Andreas Beil

Although the general layout of the 2.8km circuit was unanimously approved by drivers as Formula E made its first visit to India, the chicane that forms Turns 1 and 2 was a major talking point all weekend.

What was originally supposed to be a straightforward right-hander was turned into a complex right/left chicane on the final version of the track, with the change aimed at giving cars another opportunity to recharge the batteries through regenerative braking.

However, the organiser ran out of time to install proper kerbs amid a last-minute rush to get the track ready for the weekend, with paint instead being used to separate the track from the run-off area.

An automated track limits system was deployed to determine if drivers were going beyond the white line, but it ended up becoming a massive bone of contention from qualifying onwards.

Most significantly, it caused a long delay in the middle of qualifying, with a number of drivers being investigated for their respective laps in the quarter finals.

Eventually, Sam Bird, Rene Rast and Edoardo Mortara all had their lap times deleted for going wide at the opening chicane, leading to confusion over how semi-finals would be run.

It meant that Jean-Eric Vergne ended up progressing to the next leg of qualifying, even after having been beaten by Bird in their duel earlier in the session.

More bizarrely, he faced no opposition in the semis, as both Rast and Mortara had been in the same duel and neither had a valid lap time on the board to take their place against Vergne.

Jaguar driver Bird was particularly vocal about track limits in the immediate aftermath of qualifying, having felt that it had denied him a shot at pole position.

“You are driving such fine lines, I believe everybody was probably over at some point,” said the Briton.

Drivers were penalised for crossing the white line at the edge of the track

Drivers were penalised for crossing the white line at the edge of the track

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“The way that they’ve positioned it, the car’s going one way and they’ve painted a line that goes the other way. So at some point, everybody’s going to be crossing over there.

“It’s more luck than judgment. I think it’s very, very harsh, I don’t particularly agree with it.

“We asked for different solutions and this is the solution they’ve come up with. For me, we could’ve done a better job solution-wise.

“Really a big shame because I’ve been pretty much the fastest all weekend so far. So to be quickest and to have it taken away is gutting.

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“If you watch the replays the car is going one way [and] the track is going the other. It’s a matter of luck, to be honest.”

Speaking after the race, Bird suggested that a barrier could be erected at the edge of the circuit when Formula E returns to Hyderabad next year, feeling a white line is not enough of a deterrent for drivers to exceed track limits.

“I would say they should do something different here for next year and come back,” he told Autosport.

“Just having a white line in all that space is a bit rubbish. I think we can do better as a series.

“I think we should have a wall there personally or some Tecpro or something.”

Race winner Jean-Eric Vergne echoed Bird’s calls for changes to the chicane, saying: “I think they probably need to make some amendment in the first chicane because it's quite hard to monitor the track limit."

A number of drivers were also hit with five-second time penalties for exceeding track limits during the race, with Mahindra duo Oliver Rowland and Lucas di Grassi, DS Penske’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Andretti driver Jake Dennis and Maserati MSG’s Maximilian Gunther all falling foul of the rule.

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