Alex Lynn will take a three place grid drop for tomorrow’s second Diriyah E-Prix for his part in the accident which took him and Sam Bird out of contention.
The former DS Virgin Formula E team-mates were fighting for fifth position and had swapped positions several times when Bird’s Jaguar got a run on the Mahindra approaching Turn 1.
— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) February 26, 2021
Bird initially moved to the outside before switching back to the inside of the corner but Lynn attempted to cover the corner off with a late second defensive move.
The two touched, with Lynn having his car backed into the barriers before Bird struck the front of the Mahindra as the two came to rest.
Bird was livid with the move, saying on his car to pit radio that Lynn’s driving was “absolutely shocking defending. He changed direction. Unbelievable!”
The incident, which brought out the first safety car of the race was immediately referred to the stewards, who adjudged Lynn to have caused the crash.
Their verdict, which also included one penalty point for the Mahindra driver, stated that: “Car 10 [Bird] was following car 94 [Lynn] at the finish straight. Car 94 changed first the direction to the right then secondly to the left. Additionally he didn’t leave the car inside (car 10) enough space.”
Formula E works to a driver conduct rule of no more than one change of direction to defend a position being permitted.
The present sporting regulations state that ‘any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.’
After the race Bird would not be drawn on the specifics of the accident, simply telling The Race that he “saw it the same way the stewards did” and “less I say the better.”
Bird entered the Mahindra engineering office after the race while Lynn was in a post-race debrief and appeared to make a gesticulation towards his fellow British driver.
Lynn, who made his fourth superpole appearance in seven races since joining Mahindra, declined to discuss the shunt after the race saying he was “done with the incident and looking forward to tomorrow.”
“I think the car is working really well, the car is strong in qualifying and we are fighting well at the front of the race, so I am pretty happy.”
The Race says
In last August’s third Berlin race Mitch Evans was unequivocal in his opinion on overly aggressive defending of positions, and that was on an expansive airfield.
But whether it’s wide open spaces or gritty street track matters little if the rules on defensive moves such as outlined above are clear.
“I would say some of the moves I’ve seen recently have been pretty much the limit and it needs to be controlled and maybe harsher penalties need to be applied,” Evans told The Race last year.
“Let’s hope we can get it under control.”
It appears that the FIA has heeded that advice after today’s incident between old team-mates Lynn and Bird.
The sad point of the incident is that it came after the pair had swapped positions a couple of times in clean and compliant moves.
Then came the right and left move from Bird just before the braking area which then appeared to trigger Lynn to robustly defend the inside. The contact from as soon as Lynn moved left seemed inevitable.
OK, it wasn’t exactly Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet entering Stowe in 1987 but it was an opportunistic move from Jaguar’s new boy.
But the context that really frustrated Bird would have been that it was so unnecessary in the early-ish phase of the contest.
We discussed earlier this week that there had been a noticeable rebirth from Lynn recently in what he himself described as a “hard reset”.
He’s been bullied out of positions at stages in his Formula E career before, noticeably at Monaco in 2019, and there will now be those viewing this incident as oscillating too far the other way.
This is way too simplistic and convenient a synopsis. In reality both drivers are on the up and showed massive promise on the opening day of the world championship in packages that, like 75% of the grid, are capable of winning a race.
The fact that they will both now reconvene in group four qualifying tomorrow and have a decent chance of facing off again at the front – though Lynn’s penalty might intervene – in Saturday night’s second race whets the appetite for a hopefully less carbon shredding and more enduring battle.