Pascal Wehrlein and Porsche fell foul of a little known tyre declaration protocol that requires specific data to be put into a system ahead of Formula E races.
Wehrlein dominated the eighth round of the 2021 season at Puebla and took what he thought to have been a comfortable victory having started from pole position and finely judging his attack mode deployment.
He was told within seconds of taking the chequered flag that he had been disqualified for non-declaration of race tyres prior to the start.
His team was initially unsure why both Wehrlein and team-mate Andre Lotterer, who was also disqualified, were under investigation.
Teams must state in the mandatory technical passport specifically which tyres from their allocation are to be raced on. This must be received via email to the FIA technical department before the 10-minute board is shown on the grid.
Porsche failed to declare its race tyres and as a consequence did not comply with article 35.6 of the sporting regulations, which states that “when the 10 minute signal is shown, the identification numbers (FIA yellow barcodes on the sidewall) of the tyres fitted, or that will be fitted, and used on each car must have been declared to the FIA technical delegate via the dedicated portal.”
It appears that Porsche did not correctly input the identification numbers, according to its head of Formula E operations Amiel Lindesay.
“Unfortunately the tyres were in the system [but] just one button was missing to publish them for the race,” said Lindesay immediately after the race.
Wehrlein was initially told that he had a five-second time penalty via his race engineer Kyle-Wilson Clarke.
However, this was only communicated as a provision for a possible penalty. When Wehrlein, who was leading by nearly 4s at the time, was asked “are you sure we have a five-second penalty?” he was told “we are checking.”
A Porsche spokesperson said the 5s penalty message was sent because “we did not know about the tyre situation until the last lap. That was just a precaution because we did not know what the investigation was about.”
Just after Wehrlein crossed the line to take a reasonably comfortable win, Wilson-Clarke came on to the radio again to convey the disqualification and confirm it was related to the non-declaration of tyres.
“You are joking,” retorted an incredulous Wehrlein before going on to ask “how can you not declare tyres? It makes no sense!”
Porsche has been under pressure to achieve a first win in Formula E after a difficult first half of the 2020/21 season left it only seventh in the teams’ standings heading to Mexico this weekend.
“We’re quite gutted,” said a subdued Lindesay after the race.
“It was a fantastic race from Pascal from start to finish. It was an absolutely flawless performance and I feel sorry for Pascal.”
Both of the Nissan e.dams cars of Oliver Rowland and Sebastien Buemi were also disqualified from the Puebla E-Prix for exactly the same tyre related reason as Porsche.
The sanctions were distinct to the penalty which was levied at Stoffel Vandoorne after he took pole position for the first Valencia E-Prix in April.
On that occasion his Mercedes EQ team mistyped a tyre serial number into the passport, somehow adding a digit.