There are some very strange loopholes in the Formula E rulebook, and credit to Allan McNish and the rest of the Audi pit lane staff for reading every word of it and understanding where an advantage can be made. During Sunday’s London E-Prix, which took place partially indoors and partially out, Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler driver Lucas di Grassi threw a fast one and gained several positions and the lead under caution because of it. Then it was all taken away for a stupid technicality.
It is important to know that the London E-Prix held the pit lane and at least a portion of the racing surface indoors, inside the ExCeL center, whatever that is. As a result, the pit lane in particular featured somewhat slick polished concrete floors.
During the closing phase of the race Porsche driver Andre Lotterer drove right into the side of DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa, bringing out a lengthy yellow flag session. Once the pits opened, but before the Mini Pacesetter peeled off the track, di Grassi ducked into pit lane where the pit lane speed limit is actually considerably higher than the pace lap speed, meaning seventh placed di Grassi actually came out of the pits in the lead of the motor race.
During the race di Grassi was shown a black flag, but the Audi team figured it could appeal the ruling and ignored the call to come in. As a result the car was disqualified from the E-Prix, despite being the first to cross the finish line. The reason for the black flag given during the race was a “pit stop infraction” which I understood to mean that what di Grassi had done was outright illegal, or the Audi team had simply misread the rulebook. That wasn’t the case, but I never would have known if it weren’t for this official race recap video released on Tuesday.
Apparently what Audi and di Grassi had done was perfectly orchestrated and would have actually won them the race were it not for one pesky little detail. Because the floor was slicker than a typical pit lane, di Grassi’s Audi E-Tron FE07 never actually came to a complete stop in the pit box. In spite of Lucas seeing his onboard speedometer showing a big ol’ goose egg, he wasn’t actually stopped, as the tires locked up and skidded him forward a few inches, before he jumped on the throttle and took off.
It was a total gamble that could have ended with a last-second red light at the pit exit, or the pace car picking up the, um, pace. Audi knew it was throwing a Hail Mary, and it looked like it paid dividends. The FIA decided to penalize the Audi team for something that was 100 percent within their rights and the rules to do, by zeroing in on an infinitesimally small infraction.
My opinion is that di Grassi just won his second race of the season. But my opinion doesn’t mean shit, and that DSQ will sit on his record forever. I love when racers and teams try to do something different in an effort to rise above, and thus will commend the red/white/green/black team for committing to this bit. Now I’m sure the FIA will amend the rulebook to prevent future loophole exploitation, like a bunch of lamers.