"Super dangerous & unacceptable" - Buemi, Nato & Bird explain odd cause of Formula E mass crash in London
Saturday's Formula E race in London was literally a roller coaster ride for Sebastien Buemi. After a collision with teammate Nick Cassidy in the first half of the race, the Envision driver later also tangled with Norman Nato and, together with the Frenchman, caused a car pile-up followed by a red phase. How this happened is odd. The accident sequence and also the question of guilt were discussed controversially after the race.
After the first red phase - triggered by Sacha Fenestraz - the race was released again with still three full laps on the clock. At that point, Cassidy had already retired, Pascal Wehrlein clashed with Rene Rast, and the Porsche-Andretti dispute had passed its climax. Sebastien Buemi, however, still had a six-minute Attack Mode to complete.
"That was a big problem for us," the Swiss explained in the TV world feed after the race. "Because we didn't have enough race distance left to fully use the Attack Mode." If a driver does not fully use up the extra power, he receives a penalty after the race. Envision didn't want to risk that in the battle for the teams' championship. So Buemi tried to drive as slowly as possible, which slowed down Norman Nato and Sam Bird in particular, who were driving behind him.
Bird: "He was about 9 to 10 seconds slower than the rest"
Most spectators probably wondered during the broadcast why Buemi was suddenly slowing down and not keeping pace with the leading group. "He was about nine to 10 seconds slower than the rest," Jaguar driver Bird described to e-Formula.news. "That was super dangerous and unacceptable." So it came as little surprise, that Nato tried to overtake the 37-year-old just a minute later.
"We were going full throttle and we all had enough energy. In turn 19, I saw an opportunity to overtake," Nato described how the accident happened. The two drove side by side into the penultimate corner, but got tangled up with each other and drove straight into the wall. Bird, who was driving behind them, clogged up the entire corner so that no car could get past anymore. Race control interrupted the race again with another red flag.
A few minutes later, the race was restarted in the order from before the accident. After a discussable time penalty against Antonio Felix da Costa, Buemi finished the race in 3rd place, Nato in 4th. The stewards gave Nato - also somewhat surprisingly - a post-race 5-second time penalty for causing a collision. Buemi, on the other hand, received no penalty. A decision that was met with incomprehension, particularly among the drivers.
Nato: "I'm very surprised & don't understand the decision"
"I'm very surprised and I don't understand that decision," Nato told e-Formula.news. "The rules say that you have to be at least on the opponent's half of the car with the front wing. I was, and we touched because he didn't leave any space. I wasn't even 'under investigation' before the penalty came, and race control didn't explain the decision to us, either."
For Bird, who watched the accident directly in front of him, the decision is also incomprehensible: "Norman's maneuver was energetic and at the limit. But Seb's defense was over the limit. You can't change direction when braking. It was only a small change, but it was a change." Beyond that, the Brit thinks in general, "If you cause a red flag, you shouldn't be allowed to just go on and celebrate a podium."
Even though the scene was one of the most bizarre racing accidents of the 2023 Formula E season, particularly due to the mass jam - for Buemi and Envision, it was probably more of a secondary event to the teammate drama between Buemi and Cassidy and winning the teams' championship the day after.