Formula E

Appeal against Felix da Costa's Misano disqualification rejected: Porsche Formula E team fails in court

Tobias Wirtz

Tobias Wirtz

The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team has failed in its appeal against the disqualification of race winner Antonio Felix da Costa in Saturday's Misano E-Prix. The FIA announced the corresponding decision by the International Court of Appeal on Tuesday evening. As a result, Nissan driver Oliver Rowland retains the race win in Italy.

As expected, the FIA Court of Appeal, chaired by Laurent Anselmi, announced its decision before the Portland E-Prix after the hearing on 7 June. The decision by race stewards Achim Loth, Francesco Maffezzoni and Michael Schwägerl to exclude the actual race winner Antonio Felix da Costa from the race classification more than four hours after the finish remains in place.

e-Formula.news has analysed the 17 A4-page document from the Court of Appeal and summarises it for you. You can also download the original document here.

What exactly was Porsche accused of?

In the Formula E race in Misano on 13 April 2024, the team allegedly used an unauthorised part in the area of the pedals, namely the throttle damper spring. This returns the throttle pedal to its original position when the driver takes his foot off the pedal.

The spring installed in Antonio Felix da Costa's car did not correspond to the three springs that were permitted according to the parts catalogue from chassis manufacturer Spark. The team had therefore breached both Article 27.10 of the sporting regulations and Article 3.3 of the technical regulations of the FIA Formula E World Championship.

Article 27.10 of the sporting regulations refers to the fact that teams must follow the FIA suppliers' instruction manual at all times. Article 3.3 of the technical regulations states that all parts used must be listed in the manufacturers' parts catalogues.

What happened next?

Within two minutes of the race stewards' decision being announced, Porsche announced its intention to appeal. The appeal was received on 17 April and Porsche submitted the grounds of appeal on 7 May. On 29 May, Porsche applied to submit further documents and evidence, which the team was allowed to do.

On 4 June, the FIA submitted its written observants on the additional documents. On 7 June, the hearing of both parties - Porsche on the one hand, the FIA on the other - took place before the Court of Appeal in Paris.

How did Porsche argue?

The spring in question was listed in the official parts catalogue of chassis manufacturer Spark for the Gen3 car and was installed in the car on 17 November 2022, when (the manufacturer) Porsche homologated its vehicle for seasons nine and ten. The spring was therefore permitted during the homologation period and was used by the team throughout the 2023 season and in the first five races of the 2024 season.

During this period, this spring was never objected to during various technical inspections. In addition, the statement made by Spark employees in Misano that the spring was listed in the parts catalogue of the Gen2 car but not in that of the Gen3 car was incorrect.

In Porsche's opinion, the Spark parts catalogue was binding from the time of homologation. This means that the vehicle is legal in its homologated form for the entire homologation period. Porsche also argued that even an offence could not lead to disqualification, as it was neither intentional nor negligent.

In addition, Spark had not informed (the manufacturer) Porsche that the spring was no longer permitted, nor had they achieved a performance advantage by using the spring. Furthermore, it was not possible for the teams to compare every single component of their vehicles with Spark's 135-page parts catalogue before the race.

How did the FIA argue?

The latest version of the Spark parts catalogue was the only version relevant for the race. In addition, there should be no mixing between the Gen3 manufacturer Porsche and the Porsche Formula E team.

The spring in question is not a part of the manufacturer Porsche, but part of a standard supplier (namely Spark) and is therefore not part of the homologation, but is also subject to changes by the supplier during the homologation period. In particular, the version of the parts catalogue used by Porsche as the basis for its argument was made available exclusively to the manufacturers and never to the teams.

The manufacturers have received permission from Spark to provisionally use the springs from the Gen2 car until the correct springs are delivered. However, the correct springs were already delivered to the teams on 21 November 2022. Before the start of the 2023 season, the teams received a revised version of the parts catalogue, in which only the Gen3 springs were listed. According to the technical regulations, the teams are obliged to comply with these catalogues.

As the disputed spring was installed in the car but not listed in the parts catalogue of Spark, the car was therefore not compliant with the rules in Misano. Whether the vehicle had been legal or illegal in the meantime would be impossible to prove retrospectively, as Porsche had been in possession of both springs since 21 November 2022 and could have swapped them at any time.

On the proportionality of the penalty, the FIA noted that, according to long-standing case law, a breach of the technical regulations results in disqualification, unless there are exceptional circumstances. These include, for example, a clerical error in the regulations or in the homologation document - this did not apply in this case.

In addition, the spring used by Porsche has a different length than the three permitted springs, which means that the car has a stiffer pedal, giving the driver better control over energy consumption.

How did the court assess the arguments put forward?

The disputed spring was neither a part of the Porsche manufacturer nor listed in the homologation document. Therefore, in the court's opinion, the homologation does not cover this spring or the other springs listed in the parts catalogue.

Porsche had also not provided any evidence that the disputed spring had ever been subject to a special inspection after 12 December 2022 and that its use had therefore been approved by FIA employees. As this could otherwise be a relevant argument, it was therefore rejected.

The court agreed that the version of the parts catalogue used by Porsche contained the disputed spring. However, this catalogue was not intended for the teams, but exclusively for the manufacturers, meaning that it was not valid for the race in Misano. Porsche was also unable to prove that the manufacturers' parts catalogue had also been valid for the teams at any time.

Porsche had received both the correct springs and the valid parts catalogues before the start of the season, in which only the correct springs were listed, but not the disputed spring. Supplier Spark had also informed the manufacturers that they could use the springs of the Gen2 car in the development phase until the correct springs were supplied.

In addition, all teams were informed before the start of season 9 that only the revised parts catalogue would be valid. This was repeated for season 10, with reference to another revised parts catalogue.

What did the court decide?

The spring used by Porsche had never been authorised for use in the Gen3 vehicle. Porsche had clearly violated the technical regulations by using it.

However, as the Spark parts catalogue is, as the name suggests, merely a list of permitted parts and not an instruction manual from an FIA supplier, there was no breach of Article 27.10 of the sporting regulations, contrary to the decision of the stewards.

The infringement of the technical regulations was the responsibility of Porsche, meaning that the team should also be penalised for this infringement. The only penalty in the event of such an offence is disqualification, except in exceptional circumstances, which were not the case here.

The available documents showed that the spring had never been checked by FIA staff before. This was also not to be regarded as an exceptional circumstance. In addition, the team alone was responsible for compliance with the rules and could not delegate this to the FIA officials.

Porsche had also received the revised parts catalogue months before the race and could therefore not claim that it had not been possible to compare all the parts in the car with the catalogue. The argument that Porsche did not have a performance advantage by using the spring was also not relevant at all in the case of an infringement of the technical regulations.

Even though there was no breach of the sporting regulations, the court ruled that the penalty imposed by the stewards due to the breach of the technical regulations should be upheld. The appeal is therefore dismissed. Porsche must also bear the costs of the proceedings.

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