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Techeetah Keeps Santiago 1-2 Finish Amid Belts Controversy

Techeetah and Dragon Racing have received fines for modifying their driver safety harnesses…

Photo: Formula E

Techeetah and Dragon Racing have both received fines following the Santiago E-Prix for modifying their driver safety harnesses but no changes have been made to the race results.

Both teams were summoned to the stewards after the race on Saturday and placed under investigation.

Techeetah was fined €15,000 ($18,683) for each car, while Dragon received the same fine for d’Ambrosio’s car.

This comes after Techeetah scored the first 1-2 finish in ABB FIA Formula E Champonship history with Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer.

The penalties have not altered the race results, however, with Techeetah keeping its 1-2 finish and d’Ambrosio still classified eighth with his first points finish of the season.

The infraction relates to new endurance racing-style seatbelts which were introduced in Santiago after the FIA scrapped the minimum pit stop time rule.

The decision to fine the teams for the offence rather than penalize them with exclusion has been met with surprise with some other teams, especially as the modifications are believed to have aided the speed in which they could be secured at the pit stops.

In endurance racing it is often common practice for teams to add tie-wraps to the lap straps on the belts to enable adequate tightening in the quickest possible time.

The tie-wraps are routed through an existing loop on the lap strap.

Vergne completed the fastest competitive pit stop during the race with a pit-in to pit-out completion time of 46.847 seconds.

Anger at the decision has been triggered by a suggestion that some teams contacted the FIA prior to the race to ask for clarity on whether any such modifications could be met.

Teams have an opportunity to fill in a technical request note for any work implemented on the cars prior to a race.

It is believed that some teams did this last week before the Santiago event and their requests were not met.

However, Techeetah and Dragon “did not ask the technical delegate before adding these parts,” according to the official bulletin which was released late on Sunday evening detailing the investigation.

The bulletin also stated that “in other FIA series additions to the safety harnesses will not be tolerated.”

E-racing365 understands that the FIA normally treats modifying homologated parts as cause for exclusion but in this case it felt it would be too harsh for this offence to be considered for such a sanction.

The rationale is understood to have been put forward by the teams that the changes made were well-intentioned and done to ensure belts were just properly tightened.

Competitors Unhappy with FIA Decision

There has been widespread anger in the paddock at the decision to issue the fines to the two teams rather than exclude them.

Mahindra team principal Dilbagh Gill was one of those unhappy with the situation.

“I am disappointed that the same modification was not permitted prior to race,” he told e-racing365. “Clearly the modification helped in very quick pit stops.”

Many other drivers and teams are known to be privately unhappy with the situation.

This is especially so due to the penalty received by Daniel Abt in Hong Kong last December when the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver was excluded for a non-safety-oriented offence.

Abt lost his maiden Formula E win due to an administrative oversight by his team when completing the technical passport for one of the sealed components on his car.

One current Formula E driver, who asked for anonymity, said he was “astounded” by the result of the investigation.

“Where is the consistency in decisions being made in this series? When you stack it up against what happened to Daniel [Abt] in Hong Kong, it is outrageous,” the driver told e-racing365. “What signal does this send out?

“You don’t lose a win for something related to safety equipment but you do for a paperwork mistake. How does that work?”

The stewards and the FIA’s technical and safety departments will explore “what, if any, modifications are permissible in respect of the safety harnesses” before the Mexico City E-Prix on March 3.

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for from 2014-17. Contact Sam

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nealio

    February 5, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Typical FIA cockup! If some teams had requested clification on this technique it should have been formally announced and clarifited to all the competing teams.

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