Formula E

Wehrlein released from hospital after Formula E crash: Porsche identifies electronics problem as cause of accident

Tobias Bluhm

Tobias Bluhm

The 1st free practice session of the Hyderabad E-Prix 2023 had only been running for two minutes when Pascal Wehrlein crashed at high speed into the outer track boundary of turn 18. Although the German was able to extricate himself from the wreckage under his own power shortly afterwards, he was examined in hospital. Porsche withdrew the remaining three cars from the practice session. A first suspicion for the cause of the accident is already available.

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A more unfortunate start to his first weekend as world championship leader Pascal Wehrlein probably could not have imagined himself. Shortly after the start of the 1st free practice session, the German lost control of his Porsche-built race car. At high speed, he slammed into the outside barrier of right-hand turn 18 - a simple concrete block. Practice was interrupted with red flags, with Wehrlein taken to the local hospital shortly after as a precautionary measure.

In the meantime, he has been released from the hospital again and is considered "fit" to take part in a race. Still on the team radio, the German voiced an initial suspicion that may have guided Porsche's analyses: "The power pedal remained open," the 28-year-old said, panting. Porsche therefore made a potentially groundbreaking decision for the rest of the race weekend: Neither Wehrlein's teammate Antonio Felix da Costa nor the drivers of Porsche's Andretti customer team were to continue practice. Jake Dennis, who had at least driven an installation lap after Wehrlein's crash, was also called back to the garage.

Wehrlein's impression could suggest an electronics problem in the 99X Electric's powertrain. Sean McGill, the race engineer for Jake Dennis (Andretti), also relayed this information to his driver on Friday afternoon. "It's affecting all Porsche drivetrains, mate," he said on the team radio, which all fans can listen in on via the official Formula E app. "We suspect that a CAN link was not correct. This could have caused the powertrain to go into fault mode."

Faulty links in vehicle electronics?

For that CAN bus - a control line for various electronic functions and devices - the FIA had set new parameters only on Monday. With them, among other things, the LED system of the Gen3 vehicles should be linked with the car electronics (we reported). Thus, in the future, a control of the LEDs depending on the power mode could be conceivable - such as a magenta flashing in attack mode, as was already common on the old Gen2 cars.

At first unconfirmed, Andretti's suspicion that the new LED functions had set a wrong linkage could result in a misinterpretation of vehicle data by the ECU. Porsche has since confirmed that it was a "malfunction of the car control unit." A statement on the further background of the Wehrlein accident is still pending.

FIA also expresses great interest in the accident

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The Porsche team from Weissach was given access to the car immediately after the end of the 1st free practice session and worked flat out on Friday to identify the exact cause of the accident. In the "Pitlane Show" on Formula E's YouTube channel after practice, it was possible to see how, in addition, the Technical Delegate of the FIA, Alessandra Ciliberti, made a picture of the car. So there is a lot of interest in the cause of Wehrlein's accident. Porsche also says, "We will look for the trigger after the weekend in close consultation with the FIA after the weekend."

On Friday afternoon German time, the repair of Wehrlein's badly damaged car also began in the Porsche garage. The start of the 2nd free practice session is scheduled for 3:40 a.m. German time on Saturday night. Whether Porsche will give its drivers "permission to start" again by then remains to be seen.

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