Formula E

Mysterious accident involving Mitch Evans raises safety concerns ahead of Formula E opener in Mexico

Timo Pape

Timo Pape

In the 1st free practice of Formula E in Mexico, a strange accident occurred. Away from the TV cameras, Jaguar driver Mitch Evans crashed into the track barrier after the end of the session. Fortunately, the "Kiwi" was uninjured. Concerns continue to grow in the paddock that the crash could have something to do with a failure of the engine brake in the rear of the electric race car.

Mitch Evans finished the opening session of the 2023 season with a solid personal best time of seventh. After the 30 minutes had elapsed, he supposedly headed back toward the start/finish straight, where most of the pilots were still performing launch exercises. However, he was not to get that far.

On the approach to the right-hand turn 12, which turns into the stadium, the New Zealander drove straight ahead and hit the TecPro barrier. In the same place in 2020, Daniel Abt already had his serious accident with subsequent hospitalization.

Evans' Jaguar took considerable damage to the front. Not only was the front wing destroyed, but also the wheel suspensions - especially on the right front - and thus possibly also the front engine of the new Gen3 car. The accident was not visible on the Formula E TV signal. Nor was it made a topic of discussion during the broadcast.

It wasn't until the subsequent live Formula E broadcast that the public caught wind of the incident: a tow truck happened to be bringing the damaged Jaguar back to the pits and unloading it just as the live camera was running there. Presenter Vernon Kay pointed out the scene. Jaguar mechanics were in the process of trying to cover the front of the car with a privacy screen (see video in the tweet below).

Jaguar: "Non-Manufacturer Component" as Accident Trigger

"The cause of the accident lies in a component not originating from the manufacturer," Jaguar announced when asked by colleagues of 'The Race'. The assumption is therefore that the accident could have something to do with the known brake problem of the Gen3 car, which also affected Sebastien Buemi at Valencia.

The new electric race car no longer has a hydraulic brake in the rear and is supposed to slow down purely via the recuperation of the rear electric motor. If this or the battery fail, the car no longer has any braking power in the rear and can only decelerate with the classic brake on the front wheels, which is undersized for this purpose. Formula E and the FIA are working flat out on an "emergency brake," but it is not expected to be available until the next race weekend in Saudi Arabia.

It is not clear whether an engine brake failure caused Evans' crash. The fact that the crash occurred on the so-called inlap, when the 2022 runner-up was not even running at full power, could be an indication. Especially since all four drivers have now suffered a similar accident with Jaguar cars: Sam Bird in private testing, Sebastien Buemi and Nick Cassidy in Valencia (the latter, however, without an impact) and now Evans.

What is certain, regardless of the cause, is that Evans was very lucky that the problem did not occur during a fast lap in the session, and that Formula E had added a new chicane to the circuit. Otherwise, he would have been much faster at the braking point and would have hit correspondingly harder.

Sam Bird also with electronics problems

Jaguar worked on several areas of the car the night before Free Practice 2. "We replaced all the associated hardware to prevent the problem from recurring," the team announced. "There was also a software update to prevent similar incidents."

Whether the interim vehicle shutdown of Sam Bird in 2nd Free Practice, who stalled due to a problem with his engine control unit (MCU), was related to Evans' accident was initially unclear.

Mexico qualifying starts at 4:40 p.m.

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