Last weekend, the FIA ABB Formula E World Championship made its only visit to the United States this season for a pair of rounds in New York City. The first race of the double-header concluded in dramatic fashion after a sudden downpour triggered a massive pileup. The race was stopped, and after a short time, officials declared the race completed. This meant that the first-place and second-place drivers at the time the race was stopped became winner and runner-up — despite the fact that they had both crashed out, causing the race to be halted.
Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy won pole position for the Saturday race of the New York City E-Prix. Cassidy held firm control at the front of the field for the entire race. He only yielded the lead twice, to Venturi’s Lucas di Grassi, when he drove off-line to activate Attack Mode. Cassidy regained the lead each time when Di Grassi drove off-line to do the same.
The skies over the Brooklyn course quickly darkened as the race went on. With only nine minutes left in the 45-minute race, a sudden downpour broke out at the southern end of the circuit. Almost a minute later, race control issued a full-course yellow flag due to the inclement conditions, but it was too late. Nick Cassidy, Lucas di Grassi and Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne in fourth all hydroplaned at the end of the long straight heading into Turn 6. One of the drivers described it as if they all drove into a wall of water. Cassidy’s teammate Robin Frijns was somehow able to get his car slowed enough to still make the corner.
With a large percentage of the field crashed out on track, organizers flew the red flag, halting the race with seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining. Just a few minutes later, the skies cleared and the track quickly dried. Race control decided not to resume the race, as there was not enough time remaining to get everyone up and running again. Nick Cassidy was declared the winner, despite his car being completely destroyed in the Turn 6 barriers.
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It might seem confusing that a driver could win a race despite crashing out. Technically, when a race is ended early, the person in first place is not automatically declared the winner. According to Article 41.9 of the FIA Formula E Sporting Regulations, “If the race cannot be resumed the results will be taken at the end of the penultimate lap before the lap during which the signal to suspend the race was given.” Therefore, Nick Cassidy wins the race, as he was the first driver to cross the start/finish line on the last full lap before the red flag. This regulation is common across all of the FIA’s circuit-based world championships.
While Nick Cassidy was ecstatic to get his first career victory in Formula E, other drivers lost a number of positions due to the count-back rule. Jaguar’s championship contender Mitch Evans was able to avoid the carnage of the three-car crash, advancing up the order from 11th to third place before the red flag. However, the count-back took away his podium position and relegated him back to 11th, scoring no points.
The roles would be reversed in the doubleheader’s Sunday race. After starting seventh, Mitch Evans harnessed a brilliant drive to finish in third place. Nick Cassidy won the pole again on Sunday, but was forced to start from the back of the field, penalized because his Envision mechanics had to install a new battery pack while rebuilding his destroyed car — the regulations are designed to encourage drivers to use a single battery pack throughout the entire season. Cassidy finished 15th on Sunday.