Leading ABB FIA Formula E World Championship drivers have questioned the placement of the starting grid at the new-look Rome circuit and argued it is far too narrow.
The grid now follows the two blind kinks on the run up from the Turn 4 left-hander to the sharp left at Turn 7, a move that has proved contentious.
Asked by The Race about the revised grid, Saturday race winner Jean-Eric Vergne likened the width of that part of the circuit to “a karting track” and argued that a crash would’ve been inevitable if today’s event had begun normally rather than behind the safety car due to a rain shower.
“I think sometimes the start is not in the right position,” said Vergne.
“I remember in Bern [in 2019] we knew from the beginning that it’s going to be a crash and I know that here there is going to be a crash as well if we don’t start with the safety car.”
The 2019 Bern race – which Vergne also won – was marred by a multi-car collision and a long red flag period.
It was after this race that Formula E and the FIA made several changes to track designs and decided to use fewer chicanes where possible.
The Swiss race also contributed towards the formation of an unofficial track design consultancy group which includes Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Rowland.
“It’s inevitable [when] you have 24 cars in a corner that is not even six metres or seven metres wide. It is the same width as a karting track,” added Vergne.
“So you cannot ask us to be racing and to look clean for the fans, because that’s impossible in the way it is in this corner.”
Vergne’s concerns were separate to his opinions on the practice accident this morning when Oliver Turvey hit the DS Techeetah driver and BMW’s Jake Dennis after failing to slow for the usual practice starts at the end of the first session.
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Turvey was given six driver disciplinary penalty points and told to start from the pitlane after being deemed at fault for the accident.
“We’ve done practice starts in FP1 more or less every session since the start of the championship,” added Vergne.
“Oliver Turvey has been in the championship for a very long time. So you need to ask the question of what happened to him, I don’t know.”
The Race understands that race organisers will use flag signals at the end of tomorrow’s practice session as a warning for drivers approaching the grid after the chequered flag.
Rome runner-up Sam Bird agreed with Vergne that the grid was not ideal for the actual race start in particular.
“We know at the end of free practice that there is always the possibility that people are going to want to do practice starts and that area is given to those people and normally everybody takes it up,” said Bird.
“If I were to change anything, I’d actually change where the race start is held and I’d hold the race start between T14 and T15. That’s my opinion.
“I think it gives us all a much better opportunity of getting through a corner because I think the T7 area for the race start is too easy for people to get together and have an unnecessary accident.
“We want to change where it is, it’s on a blind, fast, high speed corner. It’s a bit strange.”