Formula E

Lopez: Bird Rome FE collision penalty unfair

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José Maria López

Image credit: Eurosport

15/04/2019 at 09:35 | Updated 15/04/2019 at 09:40

Dragon Racing's Jose Maria Lopez says his penalty in ABB FIA Formula E's Rome E-Prix for a collision with Sam Bird was unfair.

Lopez was hit with a drivethrough penalty in the first race since the FIA outlined a new approach to the excessive contact during the 2018/19 FE season.

The Dragon driver and Bird ran side-by-side through the tight chicane at Turns 11 and 12 and the British driver hit the outside wall, picking up significant damage to the rear of the car.

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A red flag on the second lap caused by Lopez losing the rear of his car at Turn 16, collecting Jean-Eric Vergne and Gary Paffett, allowed Bird's team over 45 minutes to repair his car and the Envision Virgin driver eventually took 11th.

Lopez, who finished 16th, told Autosport that the collision was not his fault.

"We arrived in this position [side-by-side], he was probably a little bit ahead of me on the outside," Lopez said.

"Of course, I was fighting for position when I braked, I suspected I had lost my place and he came into me.

"He probably didn't know where I was, but I was there. I tried to brake, I went into the cement [wall].

"We had contact. I'm really sorry for him, but I don't feel like it was a fair penalty. I have seen that many times this year and I have been on the other side as well. It's a shame, but it happened and it was like this.

"It's a tricky corner honestly, to go around the outside he placed his car, I tried to defend and there was no intention from either side."

Bird felt he had approached the corner in the right way, telling Autosport that "my car was ahead".

He added: "I gave what I felt was enough room for him to negotiate the corner as well as me, and he touched my rear left and sent me into the wall.

"That's how I saw it, I haven't seen a replay but that's how it played out in my opinion.

"I gave what I felt was three-quarters of the car's width to the kerb which meant he could have mounted the kerb a bit more because it is mountable.

"I can't just disappear and not go anywhere. If I'm ahead I've got to get around the corner and clearly that wasn't the case."

Bird explained that he was still running with significant damage when the race resumed, despite the lengthy red flag period helping his team make repairs.

"The mechanics did an amazing job to get the car back [out] again, obviously the contact was heavy and the driver got a penalty so at least that's good," said Bird.

"Frustrating because we had the pace today, and after that [contact] the car was very badly damaged at the rear.

"The guys did an amazing job but basically no rear diffuser, not one single strake was left - just a great big gaping hole.

"The rear tyres were done and a puncture in FP1 meant I had to run a free practice tyre in qualifying and then we had a rear-end issue so we had to change the rear end before qualifying. Everything was against us today."

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