A severe penalty or possible exclusion from a race could be served to drivers who cause red flags and necessitate a restart in the upcoming ABB FIA Formula E Championship season.
Race director Scot Elkins has told e-racing365 that the FIA is considering new penalties for drivers who cause race-disrupting accidents.
Several red flag situations occurred in Formula E throughout last season, with the Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome and Bern races all affected by accidents.
On those occasions, of the drivers that appeared to have triggered the stoppages and survived to race on, Jerome d’Ambrosio at Bern and Jose Maria Lopez at Rome were able to restart the race from their original grid slots.
“I think we’ve got things in place, we’ve got some new regulations, in terms of how we handle red flags and things like that,” Elkins told e-racing365.
“We’ve got one going through the system that if somebody actually causes a red flag, they may not be able to participate after that, or receive some sort of severe penalty for causing the red flag.
“You know, it will never stop a driver from going for it and trying to win the race, but we’re trying to put a few little things in place to just settle it down a little bit.”
Elkins, who officiated the entire season as permanent FIA race director, believes that the action was too combative on occasions but accepted that some of the contact was the inevitable result of close street racing.
“It ended up being a little rougher than I anticipated last season, yes,” said Elkins.
“It was pretty rough up until Rome which is where we did a reset with all the drivers, the team principals and everybody and said, ‘Look you know we need to settle some things down here a bit’.
“That’s when we implemented the warning system and we basically said going forward penalties are going to be harsher than they were to try and curtail some of that [behavior] and I think it worked.”
Racing Needs to “Settle Down a Bit”
Formula E has already addressed the issue of trying to eradicate overtly flat-out races by introducing a method of deducting energy from each competitor during a safety car or red flag period.
The amount will be formulated by the length of the race suspension and equal 1 kWh for each minute under caution.
Therefore, should the safety car be out on track for five minutes, all drivers will have 5 kWh subtracted from their remaining energy when the race resumes.
“The big thing is that it all really boils down to the energy management as we know,” said Elkins.
“So in a race, if we did have a red flag or a safety car which gave them some way to save energy then it turned into a flat out race.
“Because the field is so close, because the drivers are so good, this just means that people were taking some really risky manoeuvres and so we hope to control that much more in Season Six.
“It doesn’t mean that we are going to tell them they can’t race and that there won’t be contact, because for sure there will be and that’s kind of what street racing is about.
“We don’t want to take that away because the racing is fantastic mostly, we just want it to settle down a little bit.”
TAG Heuer Porsche driver Andre Lotterer believes that most accidents are more nuanced than just simply a blatant and aggressive triggering of an accident from a driver.
“It is not always one driver who causes an incident and sometimes there is a factor like in Bern where, yes, you could say one driver triggered a shunt but actually there was always going to be issues down there at that chicane,” Lotterer told e-racing365.
“To make an instant call on blame and punish a driver is tough because there is so much we have to deal with in the cockpits anyway in a race. It’s a tough call to make.”