2024 Formula E Misano E-Prix | 7 talking points

15th April 2024
Damien Smith

Thorny technical controversy and last-lap heartbreak marked Formula E’s first visit to the Misano circuit in Italy at the weekend, in what turned out to be a dramatic and chaotic double-header for the electric-powered single-seater series.


Da Costa wins before disqualification

António Félix da Costa needed this one. He admitted as much when he said his victory in the first race on Saturday had come at “the right time”. The Portuguese and 2019/20 Formula E champion has been under extra pressure of late after a poor start to the season for the works Porsche team, with speculation mounting that he is about to lose his drive. It’s said Nico Müller has tested for the team and is primed to step in.

So da Costa had every reason to relish a victory scored from 13th on the grid, as so-called ‘peloton racing’ was taken to the extreme at Misano. The heavy requirement to manage energy levels at one of the few permanent circuits on the calendar meant the pack ran as one in a ‘race’ featuring plenty of what amounted to essentially meaningless overtaking, as drivers jostled to stay in contention but without wanting to actually lead.

When the time came to make a bid for victory, da Costa got it right, passing Oliver Rowland to take the lead with three laps to go and hanging on to become the sixth different winner from the first six Formula E races of 2024.


Rowland on fire again

Then several hours after the chequered flag, a bombshell: da Costa had been disqualified from the win over a non-performance enhancing technicality, handing Nissan’s Rowland the win instead.

Technically, Porsche was bang to rights. The throttle damper spring used behind da Costa’s accelerator pedal did not conform as one of three options listed in the Gen 3 parts manual. Instead, the spring dated back to the previous Gen2 era. The thing is, as spec chassis supplier Spark admitted, the spring fitted to da Costa’s Porsche entry had been deleted from the manual – without informing the teams.

It seemed harsh to disqualify da Costa for Porsche getting caught out on such a minor part, especially as it probably wasn’t the only team to have made the error. As da Costa said on social media, “[the] throttle damper spring was an original part from Spark that was used all of last year and been removed from the rulebook without notification to the teams… how many other cars out there are on this spring?”


Will Porsche appeal da Costa disqualification?

Porsche lodged an ‘intent to appeal’, but had 96 hours to decide whether it would actually appeal the ruling. At the time of writing, that process of taking things further hadn’t been triggered – so will Porsche accept the result or challenge it? The thing is, technically it was guilty of running a car that did not conform (in one tiny area) to the regulations. But is there really no room for a common sense ruling in such circumstances, when a competitor has screwed up on something that made very little difference and clearly had no intention to gain an advantage? A slap on the wrist and perhaps a fine for the team would have sufficed, but instead Formula E is left explaining a niggly detail that has undermined everything its audience watched a few hours earlier. Motorsport’s regulator really does itself no favours on occasions like this.

The ruling led Porsche team principal Florian Modlinger to make a contentious remark that won’t go down well in the corridors of power – although who could really blame him? “We have a bit of an impression and feeling that not all teams are treated equally,” he said in an interview for TV. “That’s our impression and with the FIA, a world championship, this must be guaranteed for the future that all teams are treated equally.

“I think it’s a big loss for us clearly but also for the sport and Formula E in general because these consequences are really harsh.”


Tech catastrophe robs Rowland of double win

The following day, Rowland looked all set to claim a Misano double – only for a bizarre technical fault to mean it was his turn to be left bitterly disappointed.

The 31-year-old had hit the front with five laps to go by upping his pace and passing Pascal Wehrlein for the lead – but it turns out his car had given him a false impression of how much energy it had to finish the race. The Nissan entry started the last lap with a comfy 1.4-second lead over Wehrlein and it seemed the race for victory was done. But then suddenly there was Rowland, crawling along out of energy. That gifted works Porsche ace Wehrlein and his team a precious victory to make up for the bitterness of the da Costa disqualification the day before.

Rowland – who would have scored a fifth consecutive podium had he made it to the flag – explained the glitch that befell his car at the start. As he had crossed the line to begin the race the car counted it as a completed lap – meaning he was running to a pace that would leave him coming up one short.

“It sounds like something was missed on the grid,” he said, “and when I crossed the line at the start it counted down a lap, which it shouldn’t [have] so I had one less lap the whole race. We raced well and we were super-efficient when we were behind as well. I know now I had one lap less but I would have had no problem making it to the end just sitting third, fourth or fifth when that was the target. But we have targets on the dash and a plan to take the lead when we get to a certain point of the race and that’s what I did – and it did feel a bit too good to be true at the time. It’s just one of those things, we win and we lose as a team.”


Wehrlein is first double winner of 2024

The victory made Wehrlein, not Rowland, the first driver to win two races this season – a day after a damaged wing after contact had left him scoring a big fat zero. The win, no matter how it came, was the perfect response from the ex-F1 driver.

“Very happy about the race today,” he said. “It was quite chaotic again in the beginning until the middle of the race. In the end, I wasn't sure if I should stay in the lead or let Rowland through. The pace he had just seemed a bit weird and too fast to try and defend. I didn’t defend him hard, and was a bit surprised about his energy. I wasn’t sure if the team had the correct information or not but, in the end, it proved to be the right thing to do. It was a lot of managing in the end, the energy, the battery, the tyres, just everything.”


Dennis wins dash for second

Behind Wehrlein, Jake Dennis came out on top of a three-way scrap for what was now second place in the wake of Rowland’s retirement. He finished just ahead of Nick Cassidy’s Jaguar entry after the Kiwi got the better at the final corner of Nico Müller in his ABT Cupra car.

As for poor da Costa, there was no redemption after his disqualification the day before. This time he picked up damage to his front-right tyre in mid-pack contact and ended his race early with smoke pouring from his car. It’s just not his year.


Wehrlein and Dennis tied on points

Out of all that, Wehrlein and reigning champion Dennis find themselves tied at the top of the points table on 89. Rowland looked like he’d be leaving Italy with a healthy lead in the drivers’ standings. Instead, he’s third, nine points behind the top two, with Cassidy four further back.

But Formula E isn’t yet at the half-way stage of Season Ten, so all bets are off on how it will eventually fall. The annual highlight of the season is next as the teams head to Monaco to race on the full grand prix circuit on 27th April for round eight of the season. Unlike in F1, there’s plenty of overtaking when Formula E hits the principality. Can Rowland make up his lost ground and rediscover his healthy podium habit?

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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