WATCH: Bizarre Pit Lane Incident Leaves Former F1 Driver Disqualified From FE Race in London

Published 07/28/2021, 8:17 AM EDT
Brazilian racing driver Lucas di Grassi poses at the Web Summit in Lisbon where he talked about driving electric cars in Formula E to tackle rising air pollution and his role as a United Nations Environment Clean Air Advocate. Photo taken on November 8, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation / Belinda Goldsmith


Driving through the pit lane is one of the rarest types of penalties the stewards impose on a driver who infringes the laws of motorsport, including F1. However, a racing team in FE preferred driving through the pit lane as penalty to gain positions during the race at the 2021 London E-Prix.

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Audi Sport driver, Lucas Di Grassi, found a window of opportunity during lap 12 of the race after Antonio da Costa and Andre Lotterer came together on lap 11. However, Race Control eventually showed the Brazilian black flag after failing to adhere to the FIA’s rules.

What happened during the safety car period in the FE race?

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Under the safety car period, Di Grassi, surprisingly drove through the pit lane, even though no Audi crew were available on the box.

Why, you might ask?

Well, in a bizarre scenario, the pit lane speed was much faster than the MINI Pace Setter’s speed on the track. Hence, the former F1 driver pulled off a smart strategy and drove through the empty pit lane. Interestingly, Di Grassi gained seven positions out of the maneuver and rejoined the track as the race leader.

Considering Di Grassi’s action was completely legal, one might wonder, why did the Brazilian suffer disqualification? Well, although he almost abided by the rules of the FIA, Di Grassi failed to bring his Audi to a complete halt on the pit box, as the car was still rolling.

The race control noted the incident and imposed a penalty on Di Grassi for Safety Car procedure infringement, which he failed to complete before the chequered flag. Hence, the Audi driver was black-flagged, handing Mahindra Racing their first-ever win in Formula-E.

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The FE driver took to Twitter to hand his full support to the team that opted to risk the strategy under the safety car period.

Everything we did today was clearly permitted by the rules of the championship. We only could do it if the safety car was in a lower speed than the pit-lane speed limit. Otherwise, I would lose positions. It was a bold, risky move. But, I’m fully behind my team when the decision was taken,” he wrote.

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The penalty was correct applied because the vehicle (the wheels did reach 0) didn’t go to full 0 km/h AFTER the data was analyzed in detail, as it was so close. I was only informed of the penalty after the checkered flag, via radio.”

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Overall, had Di Grassi pulled off the maneuver perfectly, it could have been hailed as one of the smartest moves in Formula-E. However, that, unfortunately, wasn’t the case. Will such incidents ever take place in F1 in the future?

Watch Story: Biggest Pitlane Mishaps Featuring Hamilton, Raikkonen & Verstappen

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Rohit Kumar

1174 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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