Lucas di Grassi has called for some of Formula E’s sporting structure to be simplified after the chaotic Valencia finish stoked fears that rules are too complex for fans to quickly comprehend.
Three quarters of the field failed to complete Saturday’s race in a healthy state after running out of useable energy.
This happened when a total of 19kWh was taken off the 52kWh energy allowance thanks to deduction rules that reduce energy when the race is neutralised to ensure energy management is still a factor even in events interrupted by safety cars or full course yellows.
The wet Valencia race featured five safety car periods, as multiple accidents required cars to be retrieved from gravel traps around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
With most of the field caught out by how little useable energy they had left when the final deduction was made ahead of what became a two-lap run to the flag after the last safety car, a host of cars either stopped on track, got disqualified for exceeding the energy limit, or limped around the last lap as much as two minutes off the pace.
Many fans expressed their grievances and confusion via social media.
But Formula E remained stoic under the barrage of negative comments, tweeting: “Live sport, you just can’t beat it for drama can you?”
Championship CEO Jamie Reigle uploaded a message to his personal Instagram account that read: “Energy. Management”.
This approach is known to have angered many drivers and manufacturers in the paddock as they believe the implication that they mismanaged the energy limit lacks any contextual explanation for the complex scenarios that caused the race to descend into face.
Di Grassi, the 2016/17 FE champion and part of the series since its inception, believes dropping the ’45 minutes plus one lap’ duration and racing to a fixed number of laps would immediately solve some of the problems.
When the final safety car period ended, it was unclear whether leader Antonio Felix da Costa would cross the line late enough for there to be just one lap to go. In the event he did not, and the energy had to be stretched over two laps.
“I tried to explain to my mum, and it’s very difficult,” di Grassi told The Race.
“I am a true believer that the technical rules and sporting rules should be simpler and straightforward.
“The same way as a tennis match could go to three sets or five sets, I think the race should go by lap.
“By laps it is straightforward, it’s easy and straight and not at the discretion of the race director what to do.
“It must be clear what is going to happen if something happens like this today.
“At the moment, we don’t know, it could happen that the next race, you save a lot of energy, and he decides not to take energy out and then you look like an idiot as well.
“The TV viewers at home are confused, they have to be confused, some here working in Formula E are confused a lot.”
Conditions were wet again for the morning practice session ahead of the second Valencia race today, but have since dried up.
Andre Lotterer led Pascal Wehrlein in a Porsche 1-2 in the session.
Di Grassi also bemoaned other aspects of the rules in a series that has only just gained FIA world championship status.
He had to take a penalty in the Valencia opener due to a gearbox change in the previous race in Rome, even though that repair was caused by a crash that was judged to be Sebastien Buemi’s fault.
“For example when Buemi crashed me out in Rome, my gearbox was damaged, so we had to repair it,” di Grassi said.
“Then I got a penalty because of that.
“What could I do? It was deemed Buemi’s fault by the stewards and then he gets a five second [penalty], and I have a 20 second [penalty].
“I didn’t even change the gearbox, just repair it.
“It’s just another example of how the rules are and it’s not great really.”