Motorsport’s incredible safety standards were put to the test again at the highest level when an enormous pile-up left carbon strewn across the road at the Rome E-Prix.
Jaguar driver Sam Bird was running fourth on lap nine at Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR when his car got unsettled over a bump.
He lost control of and spun before slapping the wall and coming to a rest in the middle of the narrow street circuit.
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Unsighted, ex-Formula 1 driver Sebastien Buemi clipped the rear of Bird’s car and several more piled in, including Antonio Felix Da Costa.
The red flag was brought out almost immediately but not before Edoardo Mortara slammed into the side of Bird.
Other cars took evasive action and narrowly made it through the mess but some weren’t so lucky.
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Lucas di Grassi and Robin Frijns were also caught up in the melee.
“For f— sake! When is this luck going to f——? For f— sake! What the f— is that?” said Buemi on his radio to his team.
“Guys, I’m so sorry but I couldn’t do anything.”
Buemi was among those to criticise the circuit, calling for changes.
“It was just a matter of time in my opinion, and I raised the point already last year,” said Buemi, who added there was no radio message or yellow flags warning him of the crash.
“A small driver error on the top there like Sam did, if you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time you have no chance.
“Those cars are really powerful now and not much grip and when something like that happens it’s difficult to avoid.”
Di Grassi, another ex-Formula 1 driver, was similarly critical in his assessment.
“Thanks to the FIA and Formula E safety requirements, also, not only for the car but also for the track – although that corner is probably the most dangerous on this track,” said di Grassi.
“It’s a very fast, blind corner and we are racing and there is no space to run off. In a straight you can see more, in a corner like this, it is very hard to evaluate if the track is fully blocked or not.”
Bird, who started the chain reaction crash, explained, “There’s a lot of bumps to this corner and too many drains that are raised up.
“I hit a drain that was raised up at the wrong angle and it sent me into the wall. Scary crash. I’m glad everyone involved was OK.
“They need to adjust the drains and address the smoothness of that section, it’s too quick to have drains and bumps like that, which can send you into a wall at a moment’s notice. For me it’s too much.
“You can get round there, and most people get round there, but it just takes one tiny little error – it’s not even really an error.
“I don’t think they can change it ahead of tomorrow, but certainly for next year they need to think hard about completely redoing that area, really laying a nice smooth surface up the hill because it’s too hit and miss right now.”
Racing eventually resumed with the win going the way of New Zealand’s Mitch Evans who lead countryman Nick Cassidy.
With second place, Cassidy moved into the lead of the series points ahead of Jake Dennis from the United Kingdom.
The FIA Formula E World Championship continues with the second Rome E-Prix on Stan Sport from 10:30pm on Sunday.
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