The FIA Formula E Championship descended into farce in Valencia, Spain, over the weekend, with around half the field running out of charge before the chequered flag fell.
The chaos ensured after several Safety Car periods during the race. Under Formula E regulations, the amount of energy a driver may use is reduced when a Safety Car intervention is needed.
With the race scheduled to last for 45 minutes plus one lap, five separate Safety Car periods throughout conspired to reduce the amount of energy available, by a total of 19kWh, meaning that over half the field was left floundering without enough charge in their batteries to complete the race distance.
Only 12 cars were running at the fall of the chequered flag, with several of those slowing on the final lap to conserve what remaining energy they had.
Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries was declared the winner amid chaotic scenes where several drivers, including the leader at the start of the final lap, Antonio Felix da Costa, slowed markedly to reduce energy consumption. Da Costa was classified seventh, over a minute behind the winner.
The FIA blamed da Costa after the race, stating that because the Portuguese driver has crossed the start/finish line 15 seconds before the allotted 45-minute race distance, a further two laps would be required to complete the race, instead of just the one.
The FIA stated it believed that had da Costa slowed for 15 seconds before crossing the line, only one more lap would have been needed to complete the official 45-minute-plus-one-lap race distance, thus mitigating the reduction in available energy for a majority of the field.
After the race, da Costa took to social media to label the race a farce and predicted it would be a laughing stock of the motorsport world.
“I’m sorry but I can’t accept this,” added da Costa. “If I go EVEN slower under [Safety Car], how many teams would have protested me at the end?
“And also, if I go slower, they would have reduced more energy. Today it was only on the hands of the FIA to save all of us from this.”
Formula E management responded to da Costa’s criticism post-race, defending the championship’s rules.
“It was a tricky race for everyone, with Safety Cars and the rain and the specific track here but still, managing energy is the key part of Formula E and we can see that it is challenging but it’s manageable and some achieved that very well, some less,” said the FIA’s director of Formula E and Innovative Sport Projects Frederic Bertrand.
“It’s clearly a lesson for the future and we will keep consistency on managing those type of challenges for all the rest of the year.”
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