Felipe Massa made his official race début in the ABB FIA Formula E championship on Saturday, competing for the Venturi team in the Ad Diriyah ePrix season opener.

Massa started the race from 12th place on the grid after being caught out in qualifying by two incidents for other drivers while trying to complete his flying lap. But he made solid progress over the course of the first half of the 33-lap race and rose as high as eighth place.

That was all undone when he was handed a drive-thru penalty on lap 23 which plunged him down to 16th place. He was only able to recover a couple of positions in the remaining laps.

The 37-year-old, who last raced in Formula 1 with Williams in 2017, admitted that he didn’t know why he had been penalised during the race.

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“Honestly I do not even know why I took the drive-thru,” he said. “I was doing a good race, surpassing so many cars.

“In the end I did everything for good except this penalty, which I do not know why I was given,” he complained. “I’m so sorry because I could make a good result in this first ePrix.”

It seems that Massa’s car fell foul of the same breach of rules as the two Techeetah cars. Jean-Éric Vergne lost the lead and an almost certain victory when he was deemed to have exceeding the maximum permitted power while using re-gen.

The official FIA bulletin helpfully explained that Massa’s penalty was for the team not respecting “the Formula E season five battery software implementation guide version 5.1.”

Other than the disappointment about the drive-thru, Massa was happy with his maiden outing in the all-electric championship.

“The race was going well, I passed several cars, I had a good pace,” he said afterwards. “I felt good, I used everything in the right way.

“With the FanBoost I passed a car, with the attack mode I made a good strategy and I also gained some positions,” he added.

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Unfortunately his use of the FanBoost attracted the attention of the race stewards – and earned Massa two more post-race penalties.

Massa was deemed to have used the FanBoost earlier in the race than was permitted, which got him a five second time penalty and additionally a penalty point on his licence.

He was also found to have used 150kJ of energy for the FanBoost instead of the 100kJ allowed under the rules, for which he was given a retrospective drive-thru penalty. This was converted to a time penalty of 25 seconds in the race results, and a further penalty point.

The penalties dropped Massa down from 14th place at the line to 17th in the final classification, putting him just behind another former F1 star Stoffel Vandoorne.

“Unfortunately we didn’t finish where we supposed to,” Massa told Motorsport.com afterwards. “I’m disappointed with the result but happy with my job today in the race.”

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