Driving through the pit lane is one of the fewest types of penalties the stewards prefer imposing on a driver infringing the laws of motorsport including F1. However, a racing team in Formula-E preferred driving through the pit lane to gain positions during the race at the 2021 London E-Prix.
Audi Sport driver, Lucas Di Grassi, found a window of opportunity during lap 12 of the race after Antonio da Costa and Andre Lotterer came together on lap 11. However, Race Control eventually showed the Brazilian black flag after failing to adhere to the FIA’s rules.
Under the safety car period, Di Grassi, surprisingly drove through the pit lane, even though no Audi crew were available on the box. Why you might ask?
Well, in a bizarre scenario, the pit lane speed was much bigger than the MINI Pace Setter’s speed on the track. Hence, the former F1 driver pulled off a smart strategy and drove through the empty pit lane. Interestingly, Di Grassi gained 7 positions out of the maneuver and rejoined the track as the race leader.
Considering Di Grassi’s action was completely legal, one might wonder, why did the Brazilian suffer disqualification? Well, although he almost abided by the rules of the FIA, Di Grassi failed to bring his Audi to a complete halt on the pit box, as the car was still rolling.
The race control noted the incident and imposed a penalty for Di Grassi for the Safety Car procedure infringement, which he failed to complete before the chequered flag. Hence, the Audi driver was black-flagged, handing Mahindra Racing, their first-ever win in Formula-E.
The Brazilian took to Twitter to hand his full support to the team that opted to risk the strategy under the safety car period.
“Everything we did today was clearly permitted by the rules of the championship. We only could do it if the safety car was in a lower speed than the pit-lane speed limit. Otherwise, I would lose positions. It was a bold, risky move. But, I’m fully behind my team when the decision was taken,” he wrote.
“The penalty was correct applied because the vehicle (the wheels did reach 0) didn’t go to full 0 km/h AFTER the data was analyzed in detail, as it was so close. I was only informed of the penalty after the checkered flag, via radio.”
Overall, had Di Grassi pulled off the maneuver perfectly, it could have been hailed as one of the smartest moves in Formula-E. However, that, unfortunately, wasn’t the case.