Audi insists it abided by rules in di Grassi pitlane controversy

Audi Formula E chief Allan McNish insists his team abided by regulations after Lucas di Grassi was black-flagged for driving through the pitlane during a safety car period and controversially gaining the lead of the London E-Prix.

Di Grassi was running in the lower reaches of the top 10 when the second safety car of the race was called for a collision between DS Techeetah driver Antonio Felix da Costa and Porsche’s Andre Lotterer under braking for Turn 1.

The 2016/17 champion soon dived into the pitlane and briefly stopped in front of the Audi garage, before miraculously joining the track at the front ahead of now-erstwhile race leader Stoffel Vandoorne of Mercedes.

Audi’s tactics were investigated by race control and di Grassi was handed a drive-through penalty for what the stewards described as a safety car infringement. However, Audi chose not to serve the penalty, earning di Grassi a black flag at the start of the final lap.

The Brazilian driver crossed the line in first position but was shuffled back to eighth place, his drive-through converted into a time penalty, allowing Mahindra driver Alex Lynn to claim his maiden victory in Formula E.

However, three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner McNish – who was seen sprinting to the race control room after the drive-through penalty was announced – insists Audi did nothing wrong in London, arguing there is no regulation in place that prevents drivers from passing through the pitlane during a safety car phase.

He added that stewards felt di Grassi didn’t stop long enough in the pit box, something that was hard to judge with a sponsorship wall blocking the view of the Audi garage from the camera located on the other side of the start/finish straight.

“Basically, we were in quite a unique situation here in London that the pitlane is quite short and also the safety car was unusually slow and in reality, it was quicker to go through the pitlane, which the regulations do allow,” explained McNish. 

“Lucas comes to a stop and accelerates out. We were quite surprised how much time he actually gained as it turned out but unfortunately the stewards deemed that he didn't stop the car sufficiently enough by [the standards of a full] stop-stop.

“We believe he did, they believe he didn't. 

“However, the drive-through is not something you can appeal in this situation so unfortunately we are in a situation where we have to review all the regulations now.”

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Asked to elaborate further, McNish said he is convinced di Grassi stopped in the Audi pitbox for a sufficient amount of time before returning to the fast lane.

“We are visually standing here and they are looking at the data," he explained. "From that point of view the cameras that you saw [on TV] are actually behind the sign, so it's very difficult to see and our guys were looking at it very clearly. 

“We understand and know the regulations extremely well and we abide [by] it and we believe by the regulations. However, the judges are fact, in this case, and the stewards believe otherwise.“

McNish added that Audi will analyse the data from the car after the race.

“We haven't got the data from the car. That's one of the issues with Formula E is that we've got to wait until the car comes back to be able to download the exact data so we would be doing that in due course,” he said.

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