Disqualified di Grassi was unaware of penalty for “clever” Safety Car move

Formula E

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Lucas di Grassi thought he’d won today’s Formula E race after he took the lead by pitting under the Safety Car.

The Audi driver only learned after the race he’d been disqualified for failing to take a drive-through penalty which he was given for the move.

Drivers are allowed to pit under safety car in Formula E. Normally it would not give an advantage, but Di Grassi’s team exploited unusual circumstances on Sunday to move him into the lead.

Unlike typical Formula E circuits, the pits run parallel to the start/finish straight on the ExCel track. A crashed car in the run-off at turn one slowed the field more than usual behind the Safety Car.

Audi realised it was therefore quicker for Di Grassi to go through the pits, come to a brief stop in front of the Audi garage, than to drive behind the Safety Car.

Driving through the pit lane is legal if a competitor comes to a stop at their pit box. Di Grassi was judged not to have and given a drive-through penalty as a consequence. When he failed to serve it, di Grassi was disqualified while leading on the final lap. The stewards ruled he “didn’t respect the drive-through penalty.”

Speaking immediately after the Eprix, Di Grassi said he intended to stop his car in the pits but had been caught out by a slippery floor surface.

“There are rules, obeyed, 100 percent,” he told RaceFans. “The only reason we got a penalty is because when I was stopping in front of my garage, I was sliding a bit because it’s so slippery this floor. And because I was [going] one or two kilometres per hour, they used that to give me the drive-through. Otherwise I would have won the race.”

Di Grassi revealed he did not know about the drive-through penalty and had crossed the line believing he had taken a victory. “I was not aware of the penalty until after the race,” he confirmed. “So it was the team’s decision not to communicate and I have to do what the team kind of tells me.

“So I was driving for the win and I thought I really won the race when I finished it.”

Di Grassi said the team had considered before the race whether it might be worth making a pit stop during a Safety Car period. “We looked before, but that move would not have worked if the Safety Car was faster,” he said. “Otherwise, you lose positions. You can do it, but you have to have the chance of losing positions as well. It was not something that is guaranteed.”

He said the penalty call was irrefutable. “It’s very clear. In the end, the data shows that although the wheels are locked, I was sliding a bit. I feel very sorry because it was a clever move and I missed a win, another one because of such a small detail.

“I think everybody is trying to be clever and try to find ways. And we are obeying the rules 100 percent. So if something like this shows up again in any other area, I think if we don’t use it, somebody else will use it.

“Probably this rule will change or the light at the end of the pit lane will be red under Safety Car. It’s very simple to change and there was a risk that the light would turn red at my stop as well.”

“We thought it was a risk worth taking and would have been a championship move,” he added.

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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20 comments on “Disqualified di Grassi was unaware of penalty for “clever” Safety Car move”

  1. Whether he stopped or not this was a disgraceful attempt to cheat.

    I was disappointed it took so long to issue a penalty and don’t understand why ignoring the penalty and getting a black flag isn’t getting even more attention.

    1. It’s not cheating if it doesn’t break the rules. This is racing—analysing the rulebook and taking every advantage the regulations allow.

      It’s also a pretty foolish rulebook, but the tactics are fair game!

      1. They should have prevented it, either by closing the pitlane or by driving the field trough the pitlane. As i understand the issue was in corner 1 so going trough pits is then normaly done

      2. Completely agree, this was in no way an attempt to cheat, because what was being attempted was perfectly legal. Cheating is breaking the rules and, had it been accomplished successfully, this would have broken none and he would have legitimately won the race.

        I do find it very strange that he wasn’t informed of his penalty, though. Has the team given any indication of why? Was there some problem in communication, either stewards to team or team to driver? If not, it sounds like the team just refused to tell their driver about the penalty, which should be punished severely on top of the DSQ IMHO.

    2. Yeah I agree I would not have enjoyed that win but I’d also not have enjoyed passing for the lead due to Fan Boost like also happened earlier in the year. So I almost don’t blame DiGrassi. The series is non-professional in so many ways despite some decent things it has going for it.

    3. I was surprised it took so long to put out the black flag – in most FIA series you have to serve your drive-through or stop/go penalty within three laps of it being issued, and non-compliance would lead to instant disqualification.

      Di Grassi should also have been made to pit as soon as the black flag was shown, rather than being allowed to take the chequered flag. Again, you would normally expect severe penalties for this kind of flagrant disregard of the basic rules of racing.

      1. The black flag was put out 18 seconds after Di Grassi went passed the pit entry for the final time.

        I guess they were hoping for the ‘final 5 laps’ rule whereby drive-through penalties do not have to be served but 20 seconds is added. The initial results showed Di Grassi in eighth place, having applied the 20 seconds but he has now been removed from the results.
        Their hope was a bit misplaced anyway as the penalty was flashed up with 8m 40s to go before the final lap and the lap times were about 1:23. That’s Audi optimism for you… Vorsprung durch cheating.

  2. Sam Crawford
    25th July 2021, 19:43

    I hope they close this loophole immediately

    1. F1 did. They drive trough pits of anything happened in the 1st corner or on pit straight

    2. They already attempted to close this loophole after Germany last year when someone (wehrlein?) used this same tactic… however all they did was said you couldn’t drive thru, you had to stop – which DiGrassi only just failed to do.

      The more appropriate fix is to do the same as F1 and have the light at the end of the pit lane turn red until the whole field has passed. You then rejoin at the back of the pack, so no advantage, only disadvantage.

      Realistically there is no reason to pit on FE unless you have damage, in which case you won’t be competing for a win / podium.

      They weren’t cheating, but they were blatantly undermining the spirit of the rules, so its unsporting and they will gain no friends.

      1. @eurobrun
        If there is any such thing as the “spirit of the rules”, motor racing teams attempt to “undermine” them all the time. In technical regulations, in particular, they are all constantly looking for a loophole which will allow them to get an advantage, and this will quite obviously lead to them doing the same with sporting regs. I see nothing at all wrong with what they attempted to do, the win would have been completely legit IMHO had they been successful and not in any way “unsporting”.

  3. If you’re going to try and be soo clever make sure you also get it right instead of cutting it so close you missed a requirement..

  4. How far ahead did he come out? Because he really only needed an absolute fraction of a second more to come completely to a stop. Obviously he wasn’t to know where he’d feed back in and played it just a little too close.

    I don’t see it as cheating if there’s nothing in the rules against it. Just quick thinking on behalf of the team. The loophole does need closed however or else next time it’s going to be chaos in the pits, and those pits are tight. If F1 thinks sub 2s pit stops are dangerous, imagine the entire field (bunched up) performing 0.001s ones!

  5. Sorry – I’ve tried to watch FE numerous times, but it’s unwatchable. The sound(?) of the cars are irritating, and the tracks are laughable. The London track was like mini golf for cars. Why not include a windmill to drive through? Not to mention they look slow as molasses. I can’t wait until they’re at the Aldi carpark on Kings Road. Look out, they could hit a shopping cart!

    1. They need to get rid of the street tires. When you see an open wheel formula car cornering so slow it looks so odd.

  6. “It’s not cheating if it doesn’t break the rules.”
    “The win would have been completely legit”
    “I don’t see it as cheating if there’s nothing in the rules against it”
    Seriously guys? This is a FIA Championship; humans do sports and philosophy since about 3000 years.
    Competition is based in fair rules so taking an “unfair” advantage isn’t sporting even if is not in the rules.
    And seeing that behaivior from a team principal of a global manufacturer is just sad.
    I think this generation that grew with Mario kart type of video games (in which this sort of things are normal and entertaining) thinks you can do that in real life…
    Can you imagine the likes of Fangio, Farina, Hill, etc, doing something like that? No way, it isn’t fair, nor sporting. Just utterly ridiculous.

    1. You’re living in a fantasy world if you think those guys wouldn’t have done anything possible to get a win.

  7. Anon A. Mouse
    26th July 2021, 21:58

    That’s a devilishly clever move and the sort of thing that some would wholeheartedly applaud if their team/driver of choice made the decision. Should it be possible? No, but motorsport is predicated on operating in the grey areas of the rule book.

  8. What. Was. He. Doing.

    1. Joop deBruin
      28th July 2021, 19:55

      Slip slidin’ away
      Slip slidin’ away
      You know the nearer your destination
      The more you’re slip slidin’ away

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