Fernando Alonso has been reinstated by F1 officials after initially being stripped of the 100th podium finish of his career, as Oscar Piastri suffered more dramas at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Sergio Perez won Sunday's race from pole, while world champion Max Verstappen fought from 15th on the grid to finish second in a 1-2 for Red Bull.
However controversy erupted in the aftermath of the race when Alonso was stripped of his third-place finish. The Spanish veteran celebrated on the podium alongside Perez and Verstappen, only to be informed afterwards that he'd been relegated to fourth due to an improper five-second penalty.
The 41-year-old thought he'd repeated his third-place finish from Bahrain two weeks ago, but received a post-race 10-second penalty for an incorrect starting position during a five-second penalty early in the race. The penalty dropped him to fourth position and initially denied him the 100th podium of his career, with Mercedes driver George Russell promoted to third as a result.
But in a huge twist after the race, officials reinstated Alonso at 1am local time after Aston Martin lodged a 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."
One of Alonso's mechanics - his rear jackman - was initially ruled to have touched the car before the five seconds had elapsed. It was a similar infringement to that committed by Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who was given three penalties at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. F1 fans and commentators were left fuming over the 'shameful' and 'pathetic' decision before it was reversed.
And again a pathetic end of a race after the @MercedesAMGF1 starts crying over bs and leads to a penalty for Alonso. The @F1 and @fia should sort this out during the race, they had more then half a race to come with a penalty. This is a disgusting 🤮 #maFIA #SaudiArabianGP
— Guido Neven 🇳🇱🤝🏻🇺🇦 (@dinobreezy) March 19, 2023
Shameful delay in deciding Alonso's penalty. And the penalty is even more shameful. You can't see anyone touching the car in the video of his stop.
— MitratonPO (@MitratonPO) March 19, 2023
Farcical......the FIA really do need to look at their procedures. Shameful with regard to Alonso's after race penalty
— Vic tor Santos 🇧🇷🇬🇧 (@victorprince606) March 19, 2023
He did not take it, it was taken from Alonso and given to him. What a joke
— Shakespeare (@S65668644) March 19, 2023
Disgrace gives Alonso 3rd place
— Adixon Landa (@adixonlanda) March 19, 2023
George Russell steals his first podium of the season after being 7 secs behind Alonso but because the FIA want more excitement they hand him a podium on a silver platter!
Aston Martin have to appeal this! Absolute disgrace!
— Dan (@Dan_ChargedUK) March 19, 2023
Oscar Piastri suffers first-lap disaster and finishes 15th
As for Aussie young gun Piastri, the McLaren driver finished 15th in another disappointing showing after starting in eighth place. Piastri had showed his potential by making the first Q3 of his career in qualifying, but was forced to pit on the opening lap. Nevertheless he still managed to outperform teammate Lando Norris.
McLaren boss Zak Brown tweeted: "Tough race after an unlucky start with damage to both cars on the opening lap. Made it too difficult to turn things around. But we tried hard. Oscar P15, Lando P17. Time to get our season back on track in Australia."
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.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 19, 2023
"It was not very easy to get through the field," Verstappen said. "Once I cleared them one by one we got in a good rhythm, and I am happy to be on the podium."
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