It wasn’t just the 43 busy laps at the opening round of the FIA Formula E Championship that made the stewards busy. Because even after the chequered flag, they couldn’t relax and go home.
Let’s start from the free practice session in the morning. Neel Jani received a 10 grid penalty for the race today. Since he qualified only 17th in the race, he was still in “debt” of 7 places. That was converted to an extra 10 seconds pitstop penalty during the car swap. Jani finished the race in 18th position.
Edoardo Mortara and Mitch Evans had to go to the stewards to ask for permission to start the race, since they hadn’t done a fast enough lap due to technical issues. Both were allowed to start, and finished the race in 7th and 12th respectively.
Andre Lotterer received a 5-seconds pitstop penalty during the race, since the mechanics hadn’t removed all the cooling from the car before the 3-minutes warning ahead of the race start – but that wasn’t the only time that car number 18 was mentioned in a stewards decision during the Saturday. During the race, he made a short cut of one of the chicanes on the circuit. Rules stated that drivers would have to come to a standstill before rejoining, but Lotterer didn’t do so and therefore received a drive-through penalty during the race. As if that wasn’t enough, he did it again later in the race, but it was too late to serve the penalty, so it was converted to 22 seconds on the finishing result – if he actually had been present in the finishing order. Lotterer didn’t get the car switched off in Parc Ferme, and the stewards were very strict about that. If there had been some kind of fault on the car, it would in theory be able to suddenly move. The result was a disqualification from the race, so at the end of the day, it was a really bad day at the office for the newly arrived driver, who previously raced in the FIA WEC for Audi and Porsche.
But we are not done with the penalties yet.
Luca Filippi hit Felix Rosenqvist during the race and got a drive-through penalty, which he was able to take during the race. Filippi still managed to finish 10th in his Formula E race debut.
Sam Bird received a penalty during the race for not having parked the car inside the garage at the car swap. That rewarded him a drive-through penalty, which he took during the race. The penalty only cost him 6 seconds, and was still able to retain the lead and go on to win the race.
Maro Engel was caught using too much power during the race – 190kW instead of the allowed 180kW. That gave him a drive-through penalty, which was converted to 22 seconds right after the finishing line. He finished in P13 in the revised results.
And the list goes on…
Felix Rosenqvist was also caught having used too much power. He had used a maximum of 197kW instead of the 180kW, so he also received a 22-seconds time penalty, dropping him from 7th to 14th.
Sam Bird was called to the stewards post race and received a 10-grid penalty for tomorrows race, due to his dangerous driving in the pitlane, where he was very close at hitting some mechanics, and actually hit some pit material. The pitlane was awfully dusty, so the car just slid on top of that, with 4 locked wheel, when he tried to turn into the garage. But the 10-grid penalty wasn’t the nicest thing to take to bed – even though he won the race today.
That was all what the stewards had time for during the Saturday in Hong Kong. They chose not to do anything about the many changes of direction by Jean-Eric Vergne, when he was battling Nick Heidfeld. Point 9.1 in the Drivers Briefing documents made it clear that only one change of direction is allowed. But perhaps they decided that it wasn’t actually as bad as it looked like on the TV cameras, and also from the eyes of Heidfeld in the car behind.
But we made a grand total of 13 decisions with accompanied penalties – and that was only on the opening day of Season 4. We have to see if tomorrow will calm down a bit, or if the three stewards will be just as busy in the Sunday race.