DS Penske has been given a Formula E record fine of €25,000 and its drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne ordered to start Saturday’s Portland E-Prix from the pitlane.
Vergne and Vandoorne had qualified sixth and 10th respectively in the qualifying session, during which news of the sanctions facing them emerged.
The penalty was prompted by the illegal installation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanning equipment in the pitlane entry before the second free practice session on Saturday morning.
This equipment was deemed to be able to “collect live data from all cars”, with that data originally said to be “concerning the tyres fitted by scanning the bar codes” before that sentence was removed in an amended version of the penalty notice.
The Race understands that an FIA official spotted DS Penske personnel attaching the device earlier this morning and immediately reported it to the FIA technical delegate.
The penalty bulletin identified that it was firstly “forbidden in general for competitors to install or place any equipment in the pitlane” and added that collection of data by this method would “give the competitor a lot of information, which is a huge and unfair advantage”.
The unprecedented penalty was given after the implementation of the equipment breached article 8.9 of the technical regulations, articles 23.11 and 30.25 of the sporting regulations and article 12.2.1.l of the FIA International Sporting Code of software implementation guide.
This relates to the banning of any telemetry except for signal transmitted under direct control of the FIA, via the official FIA datalogger. Also, the fact that competitors are “not allowed to install or place any equipment in the pitlane, the track or its surroundings (walls, fences, etc)”.
Team devices are also forbidden to be fixed or placed within the confines of the racetrack in live sessions.
RFID monitoring is commonplace in some championships but in Formula E is suspected to have never been used before.
The monitoring of tyres and how they are treated has become a key feature of the championship this year after the introduction of the notoriously hard and durable Hankook rubber.
The FIA has issued several detailed amendments to sporting regulations regarding the placement of tyres in and around pit boxes in recent races. These clarifications have been administered in an attempt to cut out tyres being cooled and prepared using a variety of methods.
Several teams in Formula E are known to use photography to track elements of the set-up, tyre usage, spring, coil and ride height information of competitors.
Two senior team officials from DS Penske’s competitors, who asked not to be named, told The Race that they viewed the penalties to be lenient, with one describing the offence as “out and out cheating”.
However, The Race understands that the bulletin, which was amended to include the addition of the phrase “live data” and deleted the sentence “concerning the tyres fitted by scanning the bar codes” has encouraged opinion in the paddock that DS Penske was going above and beyond simply monitoring the serial numbers of the Hankook tyres in real-time.
The Race has contacted DS Penske for comment on the penalties that it received today.