Five Formula E drivers have been ruled out of taking part in the fifth race of the season in South Africa today.
Formula E manufacturer team Mahindra and its customer outfit Abt Cupra have withdrawn due to safety concerns relating to their rear suspension. Meanwhile Jaguar’s Sam Bird has been forced out of the event due to crash damaged sustained in qualifying.
Mahindra confirmed it had discovered a suspension problem on its cars and will take no further part in the Cape Town event. “Mahindra Racing Formula E team have confirmed their withdrawal from the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship qualifying sessions and race in Cape Town due to rear suspension safety concerns,” said the team in a statement.
“A thorough investigation on the suspension elements of the Mahindra M9Electro race cars will take place on the team’s return to the UK,” it continued. “This decision also affects their customer team
“The safety of our drivers and extended teams is of utmost importance.”
All four cars took part in the two practice sessions at the Cape Town circuit, which Formula E is racing at for the first time, but did not participate in qualifying for today’s race. The quartet were slower than all their rivals bar the Porsche of Jake Dennis in the second session.
Bird’s car was damaged in a crash during qualifying which began when Maserati’s Edoardo Mortara went into the barriers at the high-speed turn nine. The corner had already caught out several drivers during the weekend.
It took a few seconds before the call was made to deploy the red flag, which was communicated as Bird exited the preceding turn eight, meaning he was travelling at full speed as he reached the next corner. He also lost control of his car, went into the barriers and then into Mortara’s car. Both were uninjured, but there was a lengthy delay before Bird’s car could be returned to Jaguar and the scale of damage could be inspected.
The withdrawal of the five drivers cuts the entry for this weekend’s race from 22 cars to 17. Lucas di Grassi, who had never previously missed a Formula E race, is among those ruled out. He finished on the podium at the season-opening round in Mexico City and lies 10th in the championship.
He team mate Oliver Rowland, who scored his first points of the season at the last race in Hyderabad, will also sit out this weekend, along with ABT Cupra duo Nico Mueller and Kelvin van der Linde. The latter was drafted in as a substitute for Robin Frijns who was injured in Mexico, and was due to compete in his home event this weekend.
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