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Penalty-heavy Saturday race gives Bird grid drop

Yesterday’s inaugural Season 4 race featured plenty of penalties – including a pit lane drive-through for winner Sam Bird, which nonetheless saw him keep the lead. Now further penalised, he will start from at least the lower half of the grid, no matter where he qualifies today.

Bird was penalised for an incident where he crashed into his pit box, trying to change cars. Visibly stressed after the race, he said the collision was caused by a dirty pit lane and implausible pit stop time – “The pit lane is really, really filthy dirty, I tried to attack my pit box because they’d given us an almost impossible amount of time to do the pit stop – a time that you can’t do at the moment because 37 seconds is just not possible in Formula E box.

“I tried to really attack the pit box with the dusty pit lane, the car went straight as I turned in, I braked, which makes it worse when you’re braking and turning and that’s what happened.”

Pit personnel were able to escape injury but the incident clearly affected Bird, not least because he was given a drive-through penalty during the race which saw him barely come back into the lead, despite a nearly 9-second gap between himself and second-place Jean-Eric Vergne at the time.

The further 10 place grid-drop penalty appears to be in part because he maintained the lead, thus making the initial drive-through seem insignificant. In theory, they are for separate infringements – the first for leaving his car outside the garage in the pit lane while changing cars, the second for dangerous driving in the pit lane.

Luca Filippi was also given a drive-through penalty for an collision with Felix Rosenqvist which saw the Mahindra driver spun round and falling down to 16th from the top ten.

Fellow Formula E rookie Andre Lotterer was penalised four times for, in chronological order:

1. A dry-ice-filled cooling pod was left on his car at the start of the race, incurring a five-second time penalty, served during his pit stop.
2. Cutting the chicane, while going off-track – this incurred a drive-through penalty to serve during the race.
3. Not serving the drive-through during the race (as there was not time – drivers were struggling to communicate with teams due to radio issues and Andre may well not have known he was even supposed to, plus it was towards the end of the race) and thus having it converted to a 22 second penalty, presumed to be the average drive-through time although clearly Sam Bird demonstrated it could be less.
4. Finally, for parking his car in the garage rather than outside, as per the rules of Formula E Parc Ferme. This final incident resulted in him being disqualified from the race overall, although without a points finish it makes no difference to standings.

Felix Rosenqvist also received a 22-second retrospective drive-through penalty, for using over 180kw of power during the race, as did Maro Engel, both moving other drivers into the points and making Rosenqvist ineligible for fastest lap, thus promoting Daniel Abt to the points-winning award.