Sam Bird misses Cape Town start after accident, Jaguar scolds Formula E race organizers: "There were no yellow flags!"
After good results in the free practice sessions, Formula E qualifying in Cape Town ended abruptly for Edoardo Mortara (Maserati) and Sam Bird (Jaguar) in the concrete wall of turn 9. Within a few moments, first Mortara lost control of his car and crashed into the track barrier, and shortly afterwards Bird slammed sideways at high speed first into the barrier, then into the wrecked Maserati. Both drivers are fine, but Jaguar in particular is wondering about the race organizers' handling of the incident. Bird will not be able to take part in the race due to the damaged chassis..
Already on the team radio, the Briton - audibly battered after his impact - scolded the FIA: "There were no yellow flags!" the Briton shouted, "And then Scot (Elkins, the FIA's Formula E race director) is also talking to me in the middle of the corner! This can't be happening!"
The Jaguar driver had reportedly been irritated by Elkins' announcement that there was a damaged vehicle behind turn 9, causing him to lose control of the vehicle on a bump. Shortly before, the same bump on the track had levered out the rear of Mortara's Maserati race car, throwing him into the outer track boundary.
After debris was left on track for multiple laps in Hyderabad, the FIA will have to take some more blame for this crash in Cape Town qualifying. ??- Tobi Bluhm (@TobiTweetings) February 25, 2023
A yellow flag is visible in Sam Bird's onboard *briefly* but at that point, it'd already been outside his field of view. Oof. #FormulaE pic.twitter.com/ZodvcdfARY
A similar accident had already ended the 1st Free Practice session of Mortara's compatriot Sebastien Buemi (Envision), who crashed in that corner after a few minutes, leaving his team with a repair task they could not finish until late in the evening.
Bird's displeasure at the lack of yellow flags was relayed by Jaguar team boss James Barclay on Saturday's midday English-language TV World Signal. "Sam is fine, thankfully. We are concerned about the accident, but mainly because of the circumstances immediately before it," the South African said. "He said he couldn't see any yellow flags. On the track map, the spot of other drivers is very small, so we couldn't see where Edo was. That's why (Sam Bird) had no warning, either from us or yellow flags."
According to the official FIA track map, there are a total of three posts for sports stewards in the complex of turns 8 and 9, as well as a digital display for flag signals. "On road courses with blind corners, it's incredibly important that the flag signals are given correctly," Barclay said. "Sam could have slowed down if there had been double waved yellow flags. But by the time the race director was on the radio, it was too late to do that. That's really unfortunate, and we'll have to find out what happened there with the missing flags."
Displeasure with FIA already in Hyderabad - Bird misses race start
Already after the Hyderabad E-Prix, several drivers expressed concerns about the FIA's handling of accidents. During the race in India, a piece of debris lay immediately next to the racing line for several laps, which many drivers felt should have been cleared from the course with the help of a full-course yellow or a safety car period. Elkins instead allowed the race to run and did not order the passage to be cleared until Jake Hughes (McLaren) crashed not far from the piece of debris.
Because Bird's chassis was damaged in the accident, the Jaguar driver will not be able to compete in the race in South Africa. "The bodywork would need to be changed, but there is not enough time for the repair work before the start of the race," the team confirmed via short message service Twitter. For the Cape Town E-Prix grid, the withdrawal of all four Mahindra cars thus leaves just 17 cars - and possibly as few as 16 if Maserati cannot repair Mortara's car in time for the start of the race. The E-Prix is scheduled to start at 15:03 German time.