"Definitely not right" - Buemi loses Formula E podium after penalty, Cassidy narrowly misses victory
Envision Racing showed at the Formula E race in Hyderabad that the Jaguar customer team is a force to be reckoned with this season. Nick Cassidy finished second, narrowly missing out on victory. Sebastien Buemi crossed the finish line immediately behind his teammate but dropped out of the points due to a penalty for a technical infringement. At Envision, one is sure that it is a wrong decision.
In qualifying, Sebastien Buemi proved once again in India that he is one of the best Formula E drivers on a fast lap: he advanced to the quarterfinals for the fourth time this season, where he was able to beat Nissan driver Sacha Fenestraz. However, Buemi was defeated in a duel against eventual pole-sitter Mitch Evans, so he started the race from third on the grid.
In the race, he initially fell behind Jean-Eric Vergne, but overtook him again after nine laps. As Evans drove through the attack zone at the same time, Buemi took the lead. The (initially) decisive maneuver then followed one lap later: Buemi also activated his attack mode, but stayed ahead of Evans, who was held up by Fenestraz.
On his second Attack Mode activation, Buemi dropped back to third place behind Cassidy. He retained this position until the finish. But then came the shock after the race: Buemi received a penalty for "power overuse." The race stewards subsequently handed out a drive-through penalty, which was converted into a time penalty of 17 seconds. Instead of third place, Buemi was only classified in 15th position.
Buemi: "Very unfair if I get a sports penalty"
According to information from 'e-Formel.de', however, the Swiss driver had not used too much energy. Instead, it was a software problem: According to a technical guideline from battery manufacturer Williams Advanced, the software must throttle the energy output when a maximum cell temperature is reached. It apparently did not do so in Buemi's case.
"I think I was missing a bit of power out of the corners in the last three or four laps," Buemi described on 'The Race'. "It wasn't much, but it felt like I didn't have full power. Apparently the battery was dropping, which is apparently - and I'm just saying apparently - a battery issue that we couldn't do anything about."
"I get a drive-through penalty for 'over power,' even though I actually drove the last three or four laps with less power," said the Swiss, expressing his lack of understanding for the penalty. "I just want to understand, but I think it's very unfair if I get a sport penalty because I had less power. I think you should maybe distinguish whether you have an advantage or not. If you didn't get an advantage, I don't think the penalty can be a sporting one."
Team boss Filippi: "Have never exceeded the 300 kW allowed"
A protest filed by Envision against the race commissioners' decision was rejected due to a formal error: thus, no protest can be filed against a race commissioners' decision. Only an appeal of a decision is possible. "The FIA talks about a black-and-white decision on the issue of 'over power,' but it's not," frets Envision team boss Sylvain Filippi. "We never exceeded the 300 kW allowed."
"In the battery, we had a hot cell that was behaving abnormally," he says, describing the problem. "That meant the power the battery could deliver was way below that. The system did its best to maintain the power, which was well below 300 kW. But it was a completely abnormal behavior that we've never seen before."
"There's no one-size-fits-all solution to this," Filippi admits. "It's one of those new Gen3 things that nobody has seen before. Not the FIA, not a supplier, not us. And we're not very happy because the penalty was imposed as if we had gained an advantage, even though we were at a disadvantage."
"No chance to show any data"
What Filippi describes, however, is not a new phenomenon in Formula E: a similar thing had happened to Pascal Wehrlein in Puebla 2021 when he used the FANBOOST very late in the race. At the time, the battery was no longer capable of outputting the minimum 240 kW required for the FANBOOST. Wehrlein also received a penalty and lost his podium.
"So there is a lack of context," Filipp continues to complain. "The race stewards ruled 'over power,' which they have seen many times with Gen2 cars. But the battery behaved unpredictably, so we're in the process of clarifying that with the FIA. I think everyone can understand that it's definitely not right that there's a harsh sporting penalty. We were penalized as if we had gained a big advantage. Quite the opposite, we were massively underpowered, but we got the penalty anyway."
"We need to understand the FIA's process," he said, explaining the reason for the protest. "We want to know why the race stewards made a decision when they have no context. We didn't have a chance to present our data. They just said 'over power,' that's it. But it's just not 'over power,' but we didn't have a chance to show any data."
According to Filippi, the mistake could not have been avoided. "The protest is important both for this race and for the future. My problem is that if a race goes like this, it will happen again. So our argument is that a rule cannot be enforced if compliance is not possible."
Cassidy plows through the field
In qualifying, Cassidy was the only one of the four Jaguar-powered drivers to miss the duels: He was exactly 0.001 seconds - the smallest measurable time margin - short of Maserati driver Edoardo Mortara. As in Friday's race at Diriyya, Cassidy finished just fifth in his group.
From ninth on the grid, the New Zealander worked his way up to seventh shortly after the start. He subsequently benefited from, among other things, the collision between the two Jaguar drivers. In the process, Cassidy also passed Sacha Fenestraz and Maximilian Guenther, who had to avoid the Jaguar cars and even stop. Unexpectedly, the Envision driver was suddenly in a podium position and even passed his teammate Buemi when the latter activated attack mode.
An accident by McLaren driver Jake Hughes triggered a safety car period that pushed the field close together once again. When the race was released five laps from the finish, Cassidy had an energy advantage of about four percent over the leader, Jean-Eric Vergne.
Cassidy celebrates 1st Gen3 podium: "Our package is pretty strong"
However, he was unable to capitalize on the greater amount of energy in his battery: Vergne defended himself with all his might on the long straight, and on the tighter sections Cassidy was unable to use his advantage to attack. While Vergne just about reached the finish line with the last available energy in his battery, Cassidy still had around three percent left in his battery.
"I had a really good car today," Cassidy said happily after the race. "A lot of thanks to my guys. I think we're pretty good in the races this year. But I feel for Mitch and Jaguar a lot. They're great partners and off to a good start to the season. I think our package is pretty strong, and I'm very sorry to see how the race went for them."
"We're good in the race, and in qualifying as well," the "Kiwi" continued, although he is still waiting for his first entry into the duel stage. "In Mexico, Diriyya and also here, there was only 0.2 seconds between 1st place and me in 5th, so it's not a big gap to start from 10th place instead of pole. Our day will come." It could be as early as two weeks from now: The next race of the season will take place on February 25. That's when the Formula E World Championship will turn its laps for the first time in Cape Town.