A “full course yellow” and rationalised penalty options have been introduced for the second Formula E season, designed to improve both safety and transparency in punishments.
Under the new full course yellow (FCY) feature, drivers must abide by a 50kph (31mph) speed limit and maintain their distance to the car in front. Overtaking is prohibited, as with a standard yellow flag, as is “driving unnecessarily slowly” (presumably to counter any efforts by drivers to bunch cars up behind them before accelerating off unexpectedly). The pitlane will remain open during a FCY period, with the same speed limit in place. Whether the regulations will be refined or interpreted to prevent drivers using the pitlane as a short cut at some tracks under FCY instances remains to be seen.
While the exact procedure following a FCY incident remains unclear at present, it is believed that teams will be notified via the official messaging system; drivers could be informed by steering wheel-mounted lights when the track returns to green-flag status.
The FCY is designed to assure safety across the course for both track staff and race drivers while reducing safety car periods to get the racing underway more quickly. The new feature is not, however, intended to completely replace the safety car, which remains an option for the race director. In season two, the safety car remains the BMW i8 hybrid featuring Qualcomm wireless charging technology.
In addition to the new FCY, the penalty system has been tweaked. Stewards can now choose from four categories, to help speed decisions.
The most lenient punishments are time penalties of 5s and 10s, which can be taken during the mandatory pitstop or added to the driver’s finishing time.
Next up is a drive-through penalty, whereby a driver has to travel through the entire length of the pit lane with the pit lane speed limiter on. It’s not clear if this time can be applied to a finishing time or whether the trip to the pit lane is mandatory.
The most severe reprimand is a 10s stop-and-go, which takes a drive-through penalty and adds a 10s stop at the driver’s pit box.
It’s not yet clear to which types of offences these penalties pertain, nor how energy and power infringements will be treated. We’ll find out when racing gets underway in Beijing.