During the qualifying round of the Portland E-Prix in Oregon, today, DS Penske was fined €25,000 by the FIA stewards. The team had surreptitiously installed an RFID scanner at the entrance to their pit which could collect data from other race cars and give them an advantage. As a result of this infraction, both drivers will have to start today’s race from the pit lane.
According to The Verge via email with FIA Stewards:
The competitor had installed RFID scanning equipment in the pit lane entry this morning that was able to collect live data from all cars. Firstly, it is forbidden in general for competitors to install or place any equipment in the pit lane. Secondly, taking all circumstances together, the collection of data by this method gives the competitor a lot of information which is a huge and unfair advantage
Vandoorne later explained that his team wasn’t “stealing data” but rather using it as a way of checking what tires other teams were using – something he claimed was normal practice within motorsport. However, Vandoorne admitted his team paid a heavy price for its actions.
RFID chips are used extensively throughout Formula E racing and primarily track tire wear including temperature and pressure levels so teams can efficiently manage their usage during races.
Gen 3 Car Design & Tire Manufacturer Change Poses Challenges
Formula E has announced plans for new “Gen 3” car design changes along with switching tire manufacturers from Michelin’s to Hankook iONs beginning with the 2022-2023 season. This change presents significant challenges for teams who have been accustomed to Michelin tires over eight seasons.
A Motorsport.com report highlighted how much difficulty these changes present not just on technical grounds but also financially since it requires purchasing new components such as batteries and powertrains.
It is possible that the Penske team’s attempt to gather data from the entire field was in response to this challenge.
Despite Vandoorne‘s claim that his team wasn’t stealing data, it seems clear that their actions were a violation of FIA regulations and gave them an unfair advantage over other competitors.
In conclusion, while teams may be tempted to use clever tactics like RFID scanners, they need to recognize these actions as being unethical and against fair play principles. Formula E must continue its efforts to ensure all participants adhere strictly to established rules and regulations.
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