The ABB FIA Formula E Championship teams and drivers have raised extra concerns surrounding the contentious car-swap pit stops ahead of Saturday’s Punta del Este E-Prix.
Discussions between drivers, the Formula E Teams Association representative Roger Griffiths and FIA officials have taken place in recent days in an effort to ensure safer execution of the pit stops.
This comes after further clarifications and reminders of existing regulations were communicated to teams earlier this week.
Formula E had always issued a minimum pit stop time as a supplementary regulation at individual events but decided at the beginning of Season Four that the time had come whereby teams were achieving the fastest possible pit stop anyway.
The FIA wanted to drop the minimum pit stop time at the Marrakesh E-Prix in January but deferred the decision for one race until the Santiago E-Prix.
The governing body has been clear on its standpoint regarding the pit stops and that the responsibility is solely on the teams and drivers to ensure that they are tightened properly into their cockpits after the mandatory stops.
However, some teams and drivers are commonly known to not be fully secure when leaving their boxes.
Some have even attempted to tighten their belts on the out lap, while others have told e-racing365 they wait to fully secure the harness on the post-checkered flag slowing down lap.
An incident involving Andre Lotterer and one of his mechanics at the last E-Prix in Mexico is believed to have triggered a drivers’ meeting which was attended by a large portion of the field on Wednesday evening in Punta del Este.
Lotterer’s Techeetah teammate Jean-Eric Vergne has been active in recent days to ensure that teams and drivers respect the criteria with which the pit stops take place.
These measures includes recent clarification on drivers keeping their steering wheels on until the car comes to a complete stop.
Additionally, the FIA wants to make sure that teams do not have their safety harness fully done up before the drivers inhabit the cockpit of their second cars.
Both of these incidents are known to have taken place with some entries in Santiago and Mexico.
“There has been a regulation which has been applied and we all need to work with this rule,” Vergne told e-racing365.
“Instead of working against the system, it is the responsibility of the teams and drivers to ensure our safety and the safety of the mechanics.
Vergne warned strongly against any of the grid leaving the pits before their safety harnesses were fully secured.
“The teams and drivers must also make sure that before we leave the pits the drivers are completely fastened,” he said.
“Imagine for a manufacturer what it would be like if there was a crash like Nick [Heidfeld] had in China and not being fastened in properly.
“The awareness has been raised and I hope that every team will take the matter seriously and that no team will leave the pit not properly fastened in.”
New Regulation Opens Post-Event Reviews
The FIA has recently added an article to the FIA International Sporting Code which allows the governing body to review incidents after race events.
The new power was ratified recently and gives FIA stewards the power to review incidents on and off the track after the formal end of a given race meeting.
“For us, it is all about knowing there is a clear set of regulations and we should be looking to meet these rather than looking to work around them,” Andretti Team Principal Roger Griffiths told e-racing365.
“Putting performance ahead of safety isn’t where we should be heading on this. We have to recognize as teams that we have a responsibility when it comes to these unique car swaps.
“We just cannot compromise the drivers’ safety and there have been long discussions about it. The general consensus is that we have to be responsible.”
The FIA is discussing the possibility of using a camera for future events starting at next month’s inaugural Rome E-Prix.
These would be located above the cockpit, to observe the pit stops and subsequent belt tightening.
Each pit already has an observer which is usually supplied by the local ASN. However, it appears that several incidents have not been picked up in recent events.
Extra observers are also known to be under consideration for future events.
Formula E is set to do away with pit stops and car changes next season when a dual-power boost system is set to be implemented during the races.