DS Penske, a Formula E team, is in hot water after it was discovered that the team had installed unauthorized Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanning equipment at the pitlane entrance before a practice session at the Portland E-Prix. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Stewards, the governing body of the sport, has informed The Verge that it is against the rules for competitors to have any equipment in the pit lane. The FIA further emphasized that the use of such equipment would give the offending team an unfair and significant advantage.
As a consequence of this violation, DS Penske is facing a fine of €25,000. Additionally, both of the team’s drivers, Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Éric Vergne, have been penalized. They were required to start the race from the pitlane, meaning they had to enter the track after their competitors had already passed them.
In response to the allegations, Stoffel Vandoorne, one of DS Penske’s drivers, clarified in an interview with Autosport that the team did not intend to steal data from other teams. Vandoorne explained that their goal was simply to gather information about the type of tires used by their competitors. He noted that other teams often employ photographers in the pitlane to observe the setups of rival teams, and DS Penske was attempting to find a creative and expedient way to gather this data. However, they paid a hefty price for their actions.
The FIA, in its fine notice, highlighted the potential capability of this technology to collect live data from all cars, which would clearly violate the established rules. Although DS Penske was not explicitly accused of misusing the scanning equipment, the team was penalized for its installation of the illegal equipment.
This year, Formula E underwent significant changes, including the introduction of a new tire manufacturer and a revamped car design. Some teams have encountered challenges adapting to the new tires, which may explain the motivation behind DS Penske’s “creative” data collection approach.
Despite the setback and penalties, DS Penske’s drivers showcased their resilience by finishing in 12th and 13th place, starting from the back of the grid. Currently, the team occupies the 5th position out of 11 teams in the season standings.