DS Techeetah protested Sam Bird’s 5-second penalty in Hong Kong, as the Chinese team felt that the penalty was not severe enough for the British driver.
Bird took the chequered flag first in Hong Kong but came together with Andre Lotterer on the penultimate lap, which left the Techeetah driver with a puncture and suspension damage.
Envision Virgin Racing’s Bird was given a five-second time penalty that dropped him to sixth in the final results and promoted Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara to the race win.
Techeetah felt that was not a sufficient punishment given the resulting damage left Lotterer 14th and last of the classified runners, however, their protest was eventually declined.
Techeetah’s sporting and technical advisor Pedro de la Rosa and team manager David Clark attended a stewards’ hearing along with Virgin team manager Leon Price and driver advisor Alex Yoong four hours after the race in Hong Kong had finished.
During the meeting, ex-Formula 1 driver de la Rosa argued that Bird’s five-second penalty “was not severe enough”, according to an FIA bulletin.
De la Rosa also pointed out that Lotterer had led the previous 28 laps before the collision took place and that Bird was therefore “aware of the braking points and race line that had been used by car #36 [Lotterer] as he was following him for the preceding laps”, and that Lotterer “as the leader of the race has the right to choose the braking line”.
The stewards noted that de la Rosa felt the “insufficient” penalty “generates a bad precedent for other drivers” and suggested “the penalty encouraged other drivers to do the same but earlier in the race to recover a time penalty” and that Techeetah would not have protested had Lotterer been able to continue.
Techeetah also underlined that it is “generally concerned with the amount of contact allowed in the current season of Formula E with the current car”.
Virgin Racing’s Team Manager Leon Price “disagreed that the driver of car #2 [Bird] had hit car #36 regularly during the race other than during the incident in question” and he explained that “there was no damage to car #2, other than damage as a result of the incident”.
Price added that Bird and Lotterer had shown “mutual respect for each other” during the race’s three safety car restarts and that Bird felt he had a “tow” from Lotterer just before the clash, “was close enough to make an overtaking move”, and “felt that car #36 moved very slightly under brakes to unsettle car #2, and so that car #36 could defend his line”.
The bulletin also included Price’s thoughts that the penalty given to Bird was “harsh compared to other similar incidents” seen this season and that “consequences of an incident should not be taken into account whatsoever”.
Price “submitted that each incident should be judged on the incident itself and not what happens as a result of an incident”.
The stewards decreed that the original five-second penalty applied in the provisional results “was correct” and the bulletin explained that they felt “there was no new evidence presented whatsoever that in any way supported an increase in the severity of the time penalty”.