F1 officials take action after Fernando Alonso dramas at Saudi Grand Prix
The FIA has acted quickly after Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso exposed a weakness in the Formula One rules.
F1 will make changes to its rulebook following the farcical scenes at last weekend's Saudi Arabian GP, which saw Fernando Alonso stripped of third place, only to be reinstated hours later. The decision to strip the two-time champion of his second podium in two races left fans in uproar, with the race won by Red Bull's Sergio Perez.
Alonso got off to a fantastic start from second on the F1 grid, passing Perez into turn one and holding the lead for several laps. However his race was compromised when he was handed a five-second time penalty for lining up on the grid incorrectly.
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It was the second time in as many races a driver has copped such a penalty, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon also running into trouble in the Bahrain season opener. However it was when Alonso came in for his pit stop that the controversy erupted.
The team had planned to serve the penalty before changing Alonso's tyres, with the pit crew positioned ready to commence their work as soon as he had been stationary for five seconds. This appeared to go off without a hitch, with Alonso finishing third, celebrating on the podium and giving several interviews.
However it wasn't until well after the race that stewards declared that Alonso's rear jack-man made contact with the car prior to the five-second time penalty being served. As such, the Spaniard was handed a 10-second time penalty, stripping him of third place.
The decision sparked an uproar from fans and was met with an immediate protest from Aston Martin. The decision was later reversed and Alonso's third place finish reinstated.
Ohhhhhh Fernando Alonso, Ohhhhh Fernando Alonso!
❤️ So much love in the @AstonMartinF1 garage ❤️#SaudiArabianGP #F1 @alo_oficial pic.twitter.com/Fl4rNjXARD
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 21, 2023
As part of Aston Martin's appeal, the team presented stewards with seven examples where a jack had come into contact with a car serving a pit lane penalty without a further penalty being applied. The FIA has acknowledged there were 'conflicting precedents', announcing there will be updated procedures in place for the Australia Grand Prix, coming up in April.
“We concluded that there was no clear agreement, as was suggested to the stewards previously, that could be relied upon to determine that parties had agreed that a jack touching a car would amount to working on the car,” the stewards said.
Fernando Alonso's third place finish re-instated after appeal
Officials reinstated Alonso's podium at 1am local time after Aston Martin's successful protest. Alonso initially said he wasn't too disappointed to lose the podium finish, but questioned why it took so long for the stewards to apply the second penalty.
"I was on the podium, I did the pictures, I took the trophy, I celebrated with the champagne and now I have apparently three points less... okay, let's try to recover in Australia," he said.
"I think it's more of an FIA poor show today more than disappointment for ourselves. You can't apply the penalty 35 laps after the pit-stop. They had enough time to inform us. If I knew about the penalty, I would have had 11 seconds with the car. I think we were faster here than in Bahrain and it looks very good for the future."
Perez was passed early on by Alonso, but never looked back en route to a fifth career win when he took the lead on the fourth lap. "That safety car again tried to take the victory away from us in Jeddah but not this time," said Perez, who started on pole last year but was caught out by a safety car deployment and ended up fourth. "I was on for victory last year so finally I got it."
Verstappen moved into second spot by the halfway mark of the 50-lap race, but never managed to hunt down Perez. The Dutch driver remains top in the overall standings on 44 points, with Perez on 43 and Alonso 30. Red Bull have 87 points in the constructors' standings, with Mercedes and Aston Martin equal in second on 38.
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