Formula E

Mass crash, withdrawal & paddock evacuation: the biggest Formula E stories of 2023

Tobias Wirtz

Tobias Wirtz

2023 was a particularly memorable year for the Formula E World Championship. While Envision Racing and Jake Dennis made their mark on the first season of the Gen3 era and won their first world titles, there were also some negative highlights that will probably stay with us forever. A look back.

16 races, seven different winners, 22 drivers with world championship points - that's the statistics. However, the past year was also characterised by various setbacks for teams, drivers and even Formula E as a whole. Find out what the Formula E paddock has been up to over the past twelve months in our traditional review of the year.

8. Formula E introduces emergency braking system

It was one of the major technical innovations of the Gen3 car: recuperation on the rear axle with up to 350 kW was intended to make hydraulic brakes superfluous. Normally, this worked perfectly, but in the event of a technical problem with the rear engine or the battery, recuperation failed. And with it the braking effect on the rear axle, which led to a number of accidents, all of which had a favourable outcome.

Among those affected was Envision driver Sebastien Buemi, who crashed into the track barrier at high speed during pre-season testing in Valencia. The FIA and Formula E reacted and had an emergency braking system developed within a few weeks, which was ready for use from the second race of the season in Diriyya. And with success: there were no accidents due to brake failure for the rest of the season.

7. DS Penske receives record fine after data scanner affair

€25,000 fine, plus a pit lane start for both of the team's drivers: DS Penske received one of the highest fines in Formula E history at the 2023 Portland E-Prix. Employees of the US racing team had installed an RFID scanner in the pit lane at their home race in order to automatically read the serial numbers of competitors' tyres. However, both the installation of equipment in the pit lane and the wireless reading of data are strictly prohibited in the racing series.

Jean-Eric Vergne in particular subsequently felt compelled to defend his team's actions: They had merely found a different technical solution for something that all the competitors were doing, they didn't gain any advantage with this action. Despite a record 403 overtaking manoeuvres in the race, the two DS Penske drivers only finished the Portland E-Prix in eleventh and twelfth position after having to chase the field from the start.

6. Jaguar collisions cost Evans & Cassidy the drivers' title

In retrospect, there is another reason besides Jake Dennis' consistency why the Brit was able to secure the 2023 drivers' title: The Jaguar-engined competitors were involved in collisions with each other a whole four times. The works team was hit particularly hard: Sam Bird crashed into the rear of Mitch Evans, who was in a promising position ahead of him in both Hyderabad and Jakarta. Evans retired both times.

But Evans is not entirely innocent either: in Rome, the New Zealander knocked his compatriot and future team-mate Nick Cassidy out of the race. Cassidy's title fight was finally over after Saturday's race in London, where he collided with Envision team-mate Sebastien Buemi and suffered a puncture.

5. Attack Charge postponed to 2024 after all

Another major innovation of the Gen3 cars: They are fast-charging capable and can be charged with up to 600 kW. Formula E planned to organise selected races with the so-called Attack Charge in 2023, but this met with a great deal of criticism in advance. Porsche team boss Florian Modlinger, for example, spoke out very clearly against a rule change during the season.

The racing series reacted and postponed the fast-charging pit stops until 2024, but it is still unclear when they will be carried out in the coming season: even during the pre-season tests in Valencia, supplier WAE Technologies was unable to provide enough chargers for all eleven teams. To be continued...

4. Valencia paddock evacuated after battery fire

The biggest upset of the pre-season tests occurred after just three hours of driving: a faulty battery caught fire during a check by supplier WAE Technologies and the WAE pit was ablaze. The paddock had to be evacuated and testing was interrupted for two days.

In addition, the fire and the extinguishing work caused major damage to the garage next door, where Mahindra Racing was located. The team had to complete the remaining two days of testing with just one car, but was allowed to make up for the lost time in an additional private test.

3. Jake Dennis secures the world title in London

A home win in an international racing series is something very special - just ask Daniel Abt after the 2019 Berlin E-Prix. It must be even more special to secure a world championship title at your home race. And that's exactly what Andretti driver Jake Dennis managed to do in the British capital. Dennis won the drivers' championship with a second place in Saturday's race.

The London E-Prix was emblematic of the former BMW works driver's entire season: third place in Sunday's race was his eleventh podium result of 2023. No other driver managed to finish so consistently in the top ranks in 2023. And this despite Dennis going four races in a row without scoring points in the spring and with a 32-point deficit losing touch with the front runners.

2. Mahindra technical disaster: withdrawal from the Cape Town E-Prix

A dramatic turn of events for ABT Cupra and Mahindra in Cape Town: During qualifying for the only African race in 2023, both teams announced that they would not be taking part in qualifying and the race due to "safety concerns regarding the rear suspension". A unique event in the history of the electric racing series to date.

Technicians had previously discovered that the wishbones designed by the Indian manufacturer had bent in all four Mahindra-powered vehicles. The risk that these could even break under load on the high-speed circuit at the Cape of Good Hope was too great. As a result, Mahindra driver Lucas di Grassi missed his first Formula E race, while ABT driver Kelvin van der Linde was also only allowed to watch his home race.

1. Mass crash causes Rome exit

The biggest Formula E story of the year was probably the accident caused by Sam Bird in Saturday's Rome E-Prix race: no fewer than eight cars were involved in the mass collision at one of the fastest sections of the Circuito Cittadino dell'EUR.

Bird had lost control of his car on a bump, spun and came to a stop on the track immediately after the "blind" corner. Several drivers just managed to avoid Bird's car, but Sebastien Buemi and Edo Mortara hit the car at high speed. A "nightmare scenario", as Jaguar team principal James Barclay described it afterwards. The race was subsequently interrupted for more than 40 minutes to recover the damaged vehicles and clear the debris on the track. Fortunately, thanks to the high safety standards of the cars, all drivers were uninjured in this accident.

The crash was to put an end to the Rome E-Prix, with the FIA and Formula E moving the Italian race to Misano in 2024. That was the official reason at least.

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