Vergne hit with community service sentence for radio comments
Freshly re-crowned Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne has been handed one day of community service for unsportsmanlike behaviour in the first race in New York City due to comments made over the team radio.
The punishment does not impact on his 2018/19 ABB FIA FE championship win or his results in New York this weekend. The decision to give Vergne community service is related to Article 12.3.1c of the FIA's sporting code.
The governing body can hand out this sanction at its discretion it is why Max Verstappen attended the Marrakech FE race in January after shoving Esteban Ocon following Formula 1's 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix. It is not yet clear how Vergne will serve his community service, but he must serve it within the next six months.
Motorsport.com has heard Vergne's team radio following his involvement in the first pile-up in the opening New York race, which also involved his DS Techeetah team-mate Andre Lotterer. With both Techeetah cars damaged, Vergne twice asked his team to tell Lotterer to stop on track in order to cause a safety car.
He then asked if the team had heard him and Techeetah told him that it had.
It is unclear when in the race the messages were made by Vergne and he pitted due to a puncture on the lap of the crash while Lotterer continued. On the next lap, Lotterer crashed at the second corner with his front wing trapped under his car, although he continued and returned to the pits for repairs.
Regarding the penalty, Vergne told Motorsport.com: "Yeah if I asked every other driver in F1 or in Formula E, they would have asked the same. You crawl by, you see your team-mate one lap down, car is broken, front wing like this in the wall, it's something normal [to ask].
"Everyone would ask the same. It’s not like he was running for position with the car fine [or] I asked to put it [the car] in the wall like something in the past that has happened."
Vergne had suggested Audi played a part in the punishment, saying: "Audi were extremely pissed off that my team protested them yesterday. So they found anything to protest us. As simple as that."
Audi denied protesting Vergne over the issue when contacted by Motorsport.com and was not mentioned in the full FIA explanation (see below).
Speaking before his punishment was made official, Vergne said he was happy to be made an example of if it prevented other drivers repeating the offence.
"I'm happy for whatever penalty they give me to set an example that the drivers, and me included, have to stop complaining on the radio to try and make things happen for their own benefit," he said.
"In Formula 1, everybody is doing this and [in] Formula E as well. I would be very happy to take the blame so that we stop complaining about things for our benefit to create and bring out a safety car, bring another penalty for another driver.
"It would be good [to stop this]."
Stewards decision in full
The Stewards, having listened to team radio communications between the driver of car 25 [Vergne], and his team during round 12 [on Saturday], summoned the driver of car 25 and the team manager of the Techeetah Formula E Team to conduct an inquiry into a suspected contravention by the driver of car 25 of Appendix B of the International Sporting Code of the FIA, the Code of Good Conduct.
The team radio communications in question suggested that the driver of car 25
requested his engineer to direct his team-mate, the driver of car 36 [Lotterer], to stop his car on the circuit to cause the race director to call a safety car intervention during round 12.
The stewards heard from the driver of car 25 and his team manager. The relevant extracts from the radio communications were played. The driver of car 25 acknowledged that he had called his engineer during round 12 and made the following utterance:
“Tell Andre to stop ... to bring out the Safety Car"
Mr Vergne said that these messages were conveyed in the following context: The team radio communications in question suggested that the driver of car 25 requested his engineer to direct his team-mate, the driver of car 36, to stop his car on the circuit to cause the race director to call a safety car intervention during round 12.
He held concerns for his safety and that of other drivers due to debris on track and made the request to his engineer that car 36 be requested to stop for that reason only.
The driver of car 25 said that he recognises that his messages could be misunderstood. He acknowledged, with the benefit of hindsight, the messages were inappropriate, particularly having been made on an open channel which is available to the public via the E-App and which he was aware could be monitored by race officials.
The stewards noted that car 25’s engineer did not respond to the messages from Mr Vergne.
The stewards accept the explanation of Mr Vergne but it is the obligation of a sportsman at this level to act in a fair and correct manner and as a role model to other drivers at all levels of motorsport.
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