Lucas di Grassi has backed Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler's strategy call in the Heineken® London E-Prix Round 13; a pit lane manoeuvre that saw the Brazilian leapfrog from eighth position to first, and almost the race win. The 2016/17 champion also had no complaints with the penalty that ultimately prevented him taking to the top step.
Audi had noticed that there could be scope to make up ground behind the MINI Electric Pacesetter on Lap 12 given the ExCeL Circuit's layout, the speed the pack was being held at and the sporting regulations allowing for a car to enter the pits, stop and rejoin whilst under Safety Car conditions.
The audacious plan would have worked, were it not for di Grassi's e-tron FE07 failing to come to a complete halt in his pit box. As a result, the seven places he gained were for nought and Race Control handed down judgement in the form of a black flag for that Safety Car procedure infringement. Di Grassi was informed of the penalty after the chequered flag, meaning exclusion from the results.
UNSEEN FOOTAGE!@Lucasdigrassi almost pulled off an audacious move after nipping through the pitlane to grab the lead during a safety car period.— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) July 25, 2021
But it was ruled he didn't come to a stop before exiting the pit and was black flagged for declining a drive-through penalty. pic.twitter.com/DeXEI11K0V
"Everything we did today was completely within the rules permitted by the championship," said di Grassi on Twitter after Round 13. "We could only do it if the Safety Car was slower than the speed limit in the pit lane otherwise, I would have lost positions. It was a bold, risky move but I fully support my team when the decision was taken.
"The penalty was correctly applied because the car (the wheels did reach zero) did not fully reach 0 km/h AFTER the data was analysed in detail as it was so close.
“I was only informed of the penalty after the chequered flag via radio.”
“We tried a strategy move under Safety Car conditions,” adds Team Principal Allan McNish. "It was going very slowly, and we decided to come through the pit lane, stop in the pit box and then continue. That allowed Lucas, given the length of the pit lane relative to the circuit, to overtake a few cars.
“Ultimately, the stewards deemed that he did not stop the car completely, and therefore was penalised and lost the victory on track."