Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Fernando Alonso ‘surprised’ by Australian GP stewards penalising him for driving before George Russell’s crash -Dlight News

Fernando Alonso expressed “surprise” at the decision of Australian GP stewards to penalise him for “potentially dangerous” driving in front of George Russell before the Mercedes driver crashed in a dramatic conclusion to Sunday’s race.

The Aston Martin driver was handed a 20-second time penalty, dropping him from sixth to eighth in the final classification, in a decision issued by stewards more than three hours after the end of the race for the way in which he approached Turn Six on the lap that Russell, who was following close behind, crashed out.

In a lengthy post on X following the decision, Alonso wrote: “A bit surprised by a penalty at the end of the race regarding how we should approach the corners or how we should drive the race cars.

“At no point do we want to do anything wrong at these speeds.

“I believe that without gravel on that corner, on any other corner in the world we will never be even investigated. In F1, with over 20 years of experience, with epic duels like Imola 2005/2006 / Brazil 2023, changing racing lines, sacrificing entry speed to have good exits from corners is part of the art of motorsport.

“We never drive at 100 per cent every race lap and every corner, we save fuel, tires [sic], brakes, so being responsible for not making every lap the same is a bit surprising.”

Aston Martin had the right to appeal the decision but have not hitherto at least given any indication that they plan to do so.

Alonso added: “We have to accept it and think about Japan, to have more pace and fight for positions further up the field. Thank you, team!”

Team boss Mike Krack said: “It was surprising to see him drop to P8 with the post-race penalty, but we have to accept the decision.”

George Russell crash

What did Melbourne stewards rule?

Following a post-race investigation which included the study of data, replays and interviews with both drivers, stewards said telemetry from Alonso’s car showed that the Aston Martin had “lifted slightly more than 100m earlier than he ever had going into” Turn Six on the penultimate lap of the race as Russell chased him down for sixth place.

Stewards said that although they did “not have sufficient information to determine whether Alonso’s manoeuvre was intended to cause Russell problems, or whether as he stated to the stewards that he simply was trying to get a better exit” on that lap, the Spaniard did “choose to do something, with whatever intent, that was extraordinary, ie lifting, braking, downshifting and all the other elements of the manoeuvre over 100m earlier than previously”.

In a lengthy statement issued more than three hours after the end of the race, stewards said they decided that Alonso had ultimately contravened the regulation which states: “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.”

They also described it as being an “unusual manoeuvre”.

Alonso was handed a 20-second time penalty for the incident in lieu of a drive-through given the race had already finished. He also had three penalty points applied to his previously-clean superlicence.

Alonso had finished sixth but the time penalty dropped behind team-mate Lance Stroll and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda to eighth in the revised classification.

Australian GP result: Top 10

1) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3) Lando Norris, McLaren
4) Oscar Piastri, McLaren
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
7) Yuki Tsunoda, RB
8) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
9) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas
10) Kevin Magnussen, Haas

The Spaniard had told stewards he “intended to approach turn six differently, lifting earlier, and with less speed into the corner, to get a better exit”, while Russell described Alonso’s driving to them as “erratic”.

“Alonso explained that while his plan was to slow earlier, he got it slightly wrong and had to take extra steps to get back up to speed,” the stewards’ statement added.

“Nonetheless, this manoeuvre created a considerable and unusual closing speed between the cars.”

What happened in the incident? | Russell: ‘Red flag, red flag!’

The incident came on the drivers’ penultimate lap of the race amid a fight over sixth place.

Russell had been fast catching Alonso in the preceding laps on fresher tyres after a later second pit stop but, as they came up to the fast right-handed Turn Six on lap 57, the Mercedes was particularly close behind the Aston Martin but lost downforce and slid off track at high speed.

The Mercedes went across the gravel and and hit the outside barrier hard before coming back on to the circuit and finishing up on it’s left-hand side. Russell said he was okay over team radio and was able to get out of the heavily-damaged W15.

Race Control initiated the Virtual Safety Car and the race’s final lap finished with cars running at controlled speed, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz taking the chequered flag in first place and Alonso going on to cross the line in sixth.

In on-board footage and team radio released after the race of the crash and its aftermath, a concerned-sounding Russell can be heard calling for the race to be immediately stopped via a red flag with his car in the middle of the circuit.

Russell: “Red flag, red flag, red flag! I’m in the middle of the track. Red flag, red flag!

“Red, red, red, red, red. I’m in the middle. Red. **** why so long?”

Engineer: “They’ve called a VSC.”

Russell: “It’s too long.”

Toto Wolff: “George, are you okay?”

Russell: “Yeah, I’m okay. I’m in the middle of the track half upside down.”

Engineer: “It’s a VSC so everyone should have slowed down.”

What did Russell and Alonso say about the incident?

Speaking to Sky Sports F1 on his return to the paddock and before seeing the stewards, Russell said although the fact he ultimately crashed was “on me” he had nonetheless been “caught me by surprise” by Alonso’s speed into the corner. He said it was “clear he braked 100m before the corner” before then resuming his normal speed.

“My take is I’ve gone off and that’s on me,” said Russell, whose team-mate Lewis Hamilton had already retired from the race with a power-unit failure.

“I was half a second behind Fernando 100m before the corner then suddenly he came towards me extremely quick and I was right on his gearbox. I don’t know if he had a problem or not.

“He’s off to the stewards and that’s a bit bizarre in a circumstance like this. I’ve got nothing more to say right now. I need to see everything, just disappointed to end the race like that.

“It’s clear he braked 100m before the corner and was back on the throttle again and took the corner normally. We’ve already seen the data of that.”

Asked if he thought Alonso had brake-tested him, Russell replied: “I’m not going to accuse him of anything until we see further. I was right behind him for many, many laps. I was half a second behind him before the corner.

“Then, suddenly he slowed up dramatically and got back on the power. I wasn’t expecting it and he caught me by surprise. That part is on me. It’s interesting he’s been called by the stewards. I’m intrigued as to what they have to say.”

Alonso, who had gained positions up the order after pitting under a Virtual Safety Car initiated earlier in the race when Hamilton stopped on track, said he had been managing an energy deployment issue in his AMR24 in the closing laps.

“Obviously, I was focusing in front of me and not behind,” said the Spaniard to Sky Sports F1.

“I had some issues for the last 15 laps or something on the battery, on the deployment, so definitely I was struggling a little bit at the end of the race but I cannot focus on the car behind.

“But he’s okay, apparently. I saw the car and I was very worried.”

In Aston Martin’s post-race press release issued once the penalty had been announced, Alonso said: “I wanted to maximise my exit speed from Turn Six to defend against him.

“That’s what any racing driver would do, and I didn’t feel it was dangerous. It’s disappointing to get a penalty from the stewards for what was hard but fair racing. Still, I’m glad that George is okay. It was not nice to see his car in the middle of the track.”

What did the stewards rule? The post-race verdict in full

George Russell crash

“The stewards heard from the driver of car 63 (George Russell), the driver of car 14 (Fernando Alonso), team representatives and reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video, telemetry, team radio, in-car video evidence and telemetry supplied by both teams.

“Car 63 crashed at the exit to turn six on lap 57. The stewards have extensively reviewed the situation that occurred prior to the crash.

“Car 63 (George Russell) was following Car 14 (Fernando Alonso) approximately 0.5 seconds behind as the cars approached turn 6. Alonso explained to the stewards that he intended to approach turn six differently, lifting earlier, and with less speed into the corner, to get a better exit. Russell explained to the stewards that from his perspective, Alonso’s manoeuvre was erratic, took him by surprise and caused him to close distance unusually fast, and with the resulting lower downforce at the apex of the corner, he lost control and crashed at the exit of the corner. There was no contact between the cars.

“Telemetry shows that Alonso lifted slightly more than 100m earlier than he ever had going into that corner during the race. He also braked very slightly at a point that he did not usually brake (although the amount of brake was so slight that it was not the main reason for his car slowing) and he downshifted at a point he never usually downshifted. He then upshifted again, and accelerated to the corner before lifting again to make the corner. Alonso explained that while his plan was to slow earlier, he got it slightly wrong and had to take extra steps to get back up to speed. Nonetheless, this manoeuvre created a considerable and unusual closing speed between the cars.

“In considering the matter the stewards focused solely on the wording of the regulation which states “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.” (Art 33.4)

“Specifically, in this case, the stewards have not considered the consequences of the crash. Further, the stewards considered that they do not have sufficient information to determine whether Alonso’s manoeuvre was intended to cause Russell problems, or whether as he stated to the stewards that he simply was trying to get a better exit.

“Should Alonso have the right to try a different approach to the corner? – yes.

“Should Alonso be responsible for dirty air, that ultimately caused the incident? – no.

“However, did he choose to do something, with whatever intent, that was extraordinary, i.e. lifting, braking, downshifting and all the other elements of the manoeuvre over 100m earlier than previously, and much greater than was needed to simply slow earlier for the corner? – yes by his own account of the incident he did, and in the opinion of the stewards by doing these things, he drove in a manner that was at very least “potentially dangerous” given the very high speed nature of that point of the track.

“This season, the FIA Formula 1 penalty guidelines, including for this breach have been reset and increased to a baseline of a 10s penalty. In addition, when there is some aggravating circumstance, we consider a Drive Through Penalty. In this case we consider that Alonso affirmatively choosing to perform an unusual manoeuvre at this point to be an aggravating circumstance, as opposed to a simple mistake. The stewards therefore order a drive through penalty, which will be converted to 20 seconds added to Car 14’s elapsed time, along with three penalty points.”

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix, live on Sky Sports F1 from April 5-7. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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