Techeetah wanted harsher Bird penalty after Lotterer clash

A DS Techeetah protest against the results of Hong Kong ABB FIA Formula E race, that included a suggestion that Sam Bird’s post-race penalty was not severe enough, has been dismissed.

Techeetah wanted harsher Bird penalty after Lotterer clash

Bird won the event on the road after clashing with long-time leader Andre Lotterer on the penultimate lap, which left the Techeetah driver with a puncture and suspension damage.

The Envision Virgin Racing driver was given a five-second time penalty that dropped him to sixth in the final results and promoted Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara to the race win.

But, among other concerns, Techeetah felt that it was not a sufficient punishment given the resulting damage left Lotterer 14th and last of the classified runners.

Techeetah’s sporting and technical advisor Pedro de la Rosa and team manager David Clark attended a stewards’ hearing along with Virgin team manager Leon Price and driver advisor Alex Yoong, some four hours after the race in Hong Kong had finished.

During the meeting, ex-Formula 1 driver de la Rosa argued that Bird’s five-second penalty “was not severe enough”, according to an FIA bulletin. 

He also claimed Bird had “touched” Lotterer’s car “several times prior to the incident”, while Lotterer “generally maintained a consistent race line throughout the race” and did not “brake any earlier on the lap of the incident than the previous laps”.

De la Rosa also pointed out that Lotterer had led the previous 28 laps before the collision took place and that Bird was therefore “aware of the braking points and race line that had been used by car #36 [Lotterer] as he was following him for the preceding laps”, and that Lotterer “as the leader of the race has the right to choose the braking line”. 

After pointing out that Lotterer retired following the contact, the stewards noted that de la Rosa felt “the imposition of the penalty was insufficient and as a result generates a bad precedent for other drivers, being getting away with a five second penalty for a collision”.

The bulletin also notes that de la Rosa suggested “the penalty encouraged other drivers to do the same but earlier in the race to recover a time penalty” and that Techeetah would not have protested had Lotterer been able to continue.

As part of the protest, Techeetah cited Jean-Eric Vergne receiving a five-second time penalty for his clash with NIO’s Tom Dillmann during the same event, which “they as a team considered this a fair penalty as Car 25 [Vergne] did touch another driver and passed him, however both were able to continue”.

Vergne was also handed a 10-second stop and go penalty for cutting the Turns 3/4 chicane and failing to come to a stop.

The protest bulletin stated that “the penalty for cutting of a Chicane had been increased from previous events to a 10 second stop and go penalty at the request of the Teams in the Championship and that as a result the penalty was out of proportion”.

The final point of the bulletin regarding de la Rosa’s initially arguments noted that Techeetah is “generally concerned with the amount of contact allowed in the current Season of Formula E with the current car”.

Vergne had said ahead of the race in Hong Kong that the number of clashes in recent FE races were "not motorsport".

Andre Lotterer, DS TECHEETAH, DS E-Tense FE19 Sam Bird, Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE05

Andre Lotterer, DS TECHEETAH, DS E-Tense FE19 Sam Bird, Envision Virgin Racing, Audi e-tron FE05

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

In reply to de la Rosa’s intial submissions to the hearing, Price “disagreed that the driver of car #2 [Bird] had hit car #36 regularly during the race other than during the incident in question” and he explained that “there was no damage to car 2, other than damage as a result of the incident”.

Price added that Bird and Lotterer had shown “mutual respect for each other” during the race’s three safety car restarts and that Bird felt he had a “tow” from Lotterer just before the clash, “was close enough to make an overtaking move”, and “felt that car #36 moved very slightly under brakes to unsettle car #2, and so that car #36 could defend his line”.

It was also argued that Bird “didn’t want to go further to the right as the track was damp in this section and as a result could have caused a larger incident”, and that Bird “felt that he was able to brake sufficiently to avoid contact” and “that there was no intent whatsoever in the incident”.

Price also suggested that “contact is generally considered a part of Formula E, and that this is contributed to by the physically bigger cars and narrow and tight race tracks” and that “if all contact was completely stopped in races, this would likely result in significantly reduced overtaking”.

The bulletin also included Price’s thoughts that the penalty given to Bird was “harsh compared to other similar incidents” seen this season and that “consequences of an incident should not be taken into account whatsoever”.

Price “submitted that each incident should be judged on the incident itself and not what happens as a result of an incident”.

De la Rosa and Clark “disagreed that the outcome as a result of an incident should not be taken into account” and they stated that “contact generally must be reduced as drivers cannot be aware of the ultimate outcome of an incident or its severity at the time of an incident.”

The hearing was adjourned at 2155 and the stewards deliberated before dismissing Techeetah’s protest, with the final results post at 00.15 on Monday 11 March.

The stewards decreed that the original five-second penalty applied in the provisional results “was correct” and the bulletin explained that they felt “there was no new evidence presented whatsoever that in any way supported an increase in the severity of the time penalty against [Bird]”.

The stewards pointed out that “the outcome of an incident is not taken into account when considering a penalty and only the incident itself on its merits”.

They also warned that teams should not use the ability to protest the provisional results as a way to get around the rules that mean certain penalties - including Bird’s five-second penalty for causing a collision - are not subject to appeal by either party.

Techeetah’s protest fee was forfeited as a result of the ruling.

Both Techeetah and Virgin have been approached for comment regarding the protest. 

Sam Bird, Envision Virgin Racing, Andre Lotterer, DS TECHEETAH

Sam Bird, Envision Virgin Racing, Andre Lotterer, DS TECHEETAH

Photo by: Joe Portlock / LAT Images

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