Formula E disqualification for Felix da Costa remains in place

No happy ending for Antonio Felix da Costa in the 74-day dispute over his lost victory at the first Misano ePrix 2024: The 2020 Formula E champion remains disqualified from the sixth race of the 2024 Formula E season, as the world automobile association FIA announced.

In the 17-page decision document of the FIA ​​International Court of Appeal, before which the Porsche appeal was heard on June 7, 2024, the judges declared the German carmaker’s appeal admissible, but rejected it. Porsche must bear the costs of the proceedings.

Why was Felix da Costa disqualified?

Felix da Costa was after his Saturday’s victory in Misano around five hours after the end of the race. Four days after the exclusion, Porsche filed a written appeal against Felix da Costa’s disqualification with the FIA ​​on April 17, 2024.

The FIA ​​stewards’ decision was based on a spring on the power pedal of Felix da Costa’s 99X, which comes from the standard component manufacturer Spark Racing Technology. This spring dates back to the Gen2 era of Formula E (2018-2022), but can no longer be found in the Spark parts catalog for the Gen3 era (since 2023).

Winner Antonio Felix da Costa (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team) celebrates in the pool
Antonio Felix da Costa won the first Misano race on the track, Photo: LAT Images

Lack of parts Origin of the problem

But why was Porsche still using an outdated accelerator pedal spring this year? The origin of the problem was officially confirmed again in the appeal court’s ruling and corresponds to statements made by Porsche team boss Florian Modlinger: production problems at Spark.

Due to these production issues, the unitary component manufacturer was unable to supply the new power pedal springs for the Gen3 car early in the development of the Gen3 car. Accordingly, Spark encouraged manufacturers to use the Gen2 springs until they were able to produce the Gen3 springs.

Serious allegations against Spark: misleading the stewards?

Under these circumstances, the Gen 3 cars were presented to the FIA ​​for homologation on November 17, 2022. The Porsche parts for the Gen 3 car were homologated by the FIA ​​on December 12, 2022. On November 21, 2022, Spark delivered two Gen 3 springs to Porsche’s Formula E team – four days after the cars were presented to the FIA. It was precisely this fact that Porsche based its protest on. Porsche argued that the homologation of the car with the Gen 2 spring installed was tantamount to the approval of the spring until the end of the homologation period (2025/26 season).

This is precisely why Porsche made allegations of misleading Spark representatives Jeremy Boudot and Pierre Prunin at the hearing in Paris. They had told the stewards in Misano that the spring in question was in the catalogue for the Gen2 car, but not in that for the Gen3 car. In addition, Porsche, as the manufacturer of the car, complained again that, contrary to Spark’s earlier assurances, there had been no communication about a change to this part in the Spark catalogue.

The Gen3 cars made their debut in 2023, Photo: LAT Images
The Gen3 cars made their debut in 2023, Photo: LAT Images

Porsche will use its old springs for the entire 2023 season

At the same time, Porsche noted that the spring in question had already been used on both cars in Formula E throughout the 2023 season and in five races in 2024 without any objection from FIA officials.

Unsurprisingly, the FIA ​​contradicted Porsche’s line of argument. The Spark catalogue at the time of homologation on December 12, 2022 was by no means permissible. Instead, only the Spark catalogue that was also listed in the stewards’ event notes at the Misano ePrix – in which the Porsche spring no longer appeared – was expressly valid.

FIA contradicts Porsche: Manufacturer homologation independent of standard components

The FIA ​​refuted Porsche’s argument of homologation. The court stated at the beginning of the ruling that the parts of a Formula E car are divided into two groups: the so-called manufacturer parameters and the ordinary parameters. The manufacturer parameters are provided by the manufacturers, while the ordinary parameters are provided by standard component manufacturers such as Spark.

The FIA ​​therefore argued that the homologation of the Porsche 99X in November 2022 referred exclusively to the parts produced by the manufacturer and thus not to the power pedal spring supplied by Spark. In addition, in the question of the Misano disqualification, a clear distinction must be made between the manufacturer Porsche, which supplies the customer team Andretti in addition to the factory team, and the Formula E team Porsche.

The Spark catalog in question, on which Porsche based its argument, was sent exclusively to manufacturers for development purposes of the Gen3 car – and not to teams. The Porsche team was only allowed to use the Gen2 spring until the Gen3 springs were delivered, which happened on November 21, 2022. Even before the start of the 2023 season, Spark sent an updated catalog to the teams in which the spring used by Porsche in Misano was no longer found. The FIA ​​​​stated that it was the responsibility of the teams to always adhere to the catalogs of the standard component manufacturers.

Court rules in favor of FIA: Spring can never be used for Gen3 cars

The Court of Appeal fully upheld the FIA’s presentation: “The Court notes that not only is the disputed spring not part of the manufacturer parameters that were the subject of the homologation reviews of December 12, 2022, but that it is not even mentioned in the homologation documents of the review.” Accordingly, contrary to Porsche’s argument, the spring was not homologated on December 12, 2022.

Antonio Felix da Costa (Porsche) at the Formula E in Misano.
Antonio Felix da Costa does not get his Misano victory back, Photo: LAT Images

The court also pointed out that both before the 2023 and 2024 seasons, the stewards indicated which Spark catalogue was considered valid – the Gen2 spring used by Porsche was not found in either. The court therefore concluded that the spring “was never a usable spring for the Gen3 cars newly homologated at the end of 2022.” The fact that Porsche nevertheless used the spring in the 2023 and 2024 seasons was not in line with the applicable rules.

The FIA ​​appeals court therefore considered the use of the spring in Misano to be a clear violation of the technical regulations. However, unlike the stewards’ reasoning for the verdict, the court did not see a violation of the sporting regulations, since Porsche had used an unapproved part but had not violated the user manual of the standard component manufacturer (Spark).

Court remains firm on disqualification: No exceptional circumstances

The sentence was also again a topic in the hearing. Felix da Costa’s Porsche teammate Pascal Wehrlein, for example, had already argued for a lighter sentence. Porsche also argued again against disqualification, partly because of extraordinary circumstances. The FIA, however, denied that these were extraordinary circumstances. And the court also remained firm: a violation of the technical regulations should be dealt with by disqualification, unless there are extraordinary circumstances. Like the FIA, however, the judges did not consider these to be proven.

In addition, Porsche’s argument that it was not possible to check the 135-page Spark catalogue every time was rejected because Porsche had known about the current version of the catalogue since the start of the season – several months before the race. Porsche’s claim that there was no performance advantage was also rejected with reference to the FIA’s International Sporting Code – regardless of the fact that the FIA ​​also disputed this statement. This was because the Gen2 spring had a different length to the Gen3 springs, which meant that Porsche could drive with a stiffer pedal. This would have made it possible to better control energy consumption.

Felix da Costa: It is complicated to protest against the FIA

It is not the first time that a Porsche appeal has failed before the FIA’s International Court of Appeal. Even after the 2023 season finale in In London, Porsche protested against a 3-minute time penalty imposed on Felix da Costa. However, the appeal court upheld this penalty as well, which would not have made any significant difference to the outcome of the World Championship anyway.

“It is complicated to protest against the FIA ​​when the people who make the decisions also work for the FIA,” Felix da Costa said in an online media round in May in response to a question from slight criticism of the procedure. “I’m not saying that they aren’t fair, but of course you’re already behind.” Felix da Costa apparently has negative memories of the London procedure. “We were actually rejected in the first half hour,” said the ten-time ePrix winner.

Pascal Wehrlein in the Porsche
Porsche is in the fight for the World Championship in 2024, Photo: LAT Images

Porsche loses important points in the World Championship battle

With regard to the Misano disqualification, Felix da Costa also hoped in vain that the penalty would be waived. The Portuguese expressed this wish primarily with regard to the good of the sport: “Everyone would win at that moment. When I lost the victory, I received messages from every team boss, other teams, engineers and drivers about how unfair it was to lose this victory. Everyone is on the same page. Especially if the FIA ​​publishes a document that proves that there was no performance advantage, we should be able to sanction it differently for the good of the sport.”

The disqualification also had a significant impact on the World Championship battle, which was also close this season. After 12 of the 16 races of the season, Porsche is in second place in the team world championship, 73 points behind the Jaguar factory team. If the disqualification had been lifted, this gap would have been noticeably reduced. In the drivers’ championship, Felix da Costa would have been one position higher in sixth place, but still 58 points behind World Championship leader Nick Cassidy.

Formula E: Overall ranking 2024

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