Will Alonso get to race in Valencia? (Poll)

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Alonso did just one lap at Valencia last year - this time it could be even less

Renault goes before the World Motor Sports Council today to argue against its exclusion from the European Grand Prix.

The stewards at the Hungarian Grand Prix banned them from this weekend’s race after the team knowingly allowed Fernando Alonso to leave the pits with a loose wheel during the race.

Should Renault be allowed to race at Valencia?

  • No opinion (4%)
  • No (25%)
  • Yes (71%)

Total Voters: 1,183

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The crime

The stewards claimed Renault’s actions broke two clauses of the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations:

3.2 Competitors must ensure that their cars comply with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race

23.1.i) It is the responsibility of the competitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so.

Although it is hard to argue Renault did not infringe those rules, it is clear the stewards have chosen to take a tougher line on teams that allow their cars to race with loose parts. It’s not hard to imagine why, given the terrible fate that befell Henry Surtees accident recently, and Felipe Massa’s accident in practice.

There is some similarity with the French Grand Prix last year, when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was observed to have a loose exhaust pipe for several laps, which eventually fell off. It was within Ferrari and race control’s power to summon the car into the pits for attention, but neither party seized the initiative.

Meanwhile Massa was catching his team mate, and the words uttered by ITV commentator James Allen at the time ram home the comparisons between these two incidents:

Martin Brundle: There’s something hanging off – the exhaust is broken. I’ve been trying to look at it for a couple of laps, I thought I saw something flailing. I think it’s the right bank exhaust that’s hanging off…
James Allen: …which Massa might be receiving in the face before too long. […]

Brundle: It’s not out of the question they could blank-and-orange flag that car because bits of exhaust pipe dangling in the breeze is quite dangerous for the cars following. It’s not out of the question the stewards may pull that Ferrari in so they can tear that off.

Raikkonen covered at least two laps with the exhaust hanging off the back of the car. Although it’s not entirely comparable to Alonso’s penalty, as Raikkonen was not sent out of the pits with the damage, it’s hard to imagine how the stewards could allow a repeat of the Raikkonen incident without being accused of hypocrisy.

The punishment

Although it’s hard to argue against whether Renault have broken the rules, given the apparent change in how strictly these particularly rules are bring interpreted, it seems incredibly harsh to punish them so severely.

(That said, it’s difficult to know what kind of advice the teams and drivers are given about this sort of thing behind closed doors. There is always a suspicion about how readily the governing body ‘reinterprets’ its own advice – such as the infamous ‘clarification’ about overtaking published in the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s penalty at Spa last year.)

Banning a team from an entire race is a very serious penalty usually reserved for those deemed to have deliberately broken the rules – such as BAR’s two-race ban in 2005.

The fact that Alonso may be denied a chance to race in front of his home crowd shouldn’t have an influence on the verdict. But it probably will – Michael Schumacher’s two-race suspension in 1994 was itself suspended, allowing him to compete in his home race.

This could take the form of a deferred penalty, or changing the penalty into a large fine. The circuit’s representatives have already suggested this could happen.

The WMSC may rule that the driver should not be punished for what was the team’s mistake – a line of argument that Alonso (and Hamilton) benefited from in 2007’s ‘spygate’ saga. Nor would it be the first time Renault was found guilty but not penalised.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some workaround is achieved to allow Alonso to compete at Valencia.

But these decisions about interpretations of the rules have in the past proved completely unpredictable and lacking in consistency. It reminds me of South Park’s view of how the US government has reacted to the economic crisis:

So which square do you think the headless chicken will land on? Three-race ban? Ten-point bonus? Bail-out?

The WMSC decision is expected on Tuesday.

Read more: Renault banned from European Grand Prix following Alonso’s wheel loss

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “Will Alonso get to race in Valencia? (Poll)”

  1. I rather think that the headless chicken should land on ‘no constructor points’ – as it was the team’s mistake and not Alonso’s, allow Renault to race in Valencia but render them ineligible for constructor points.

    1. just take the constructors points since it wasn’t the drivers fault

      1. Can we not shoulder some of the blame on the driver. Ok so it wasn’t his fault that the wheel wasn’t put on properly, but he decided to keep driving even though it always looked like it was going to fall off. If we make the driver blameless in these situations they could ignore what the team say anyway and just keep on driving even though it is potentially dangerous.

        I think a suspended ban for the rest of the seaon would do.

      2. Can we not shoulder some of the blame on the driver. Ok so it wasn’t his fault that the wheel wasn’t put on properly, but he decided to keep driving even though it always looked like it was going to fall off. If we make the driver blameless in these situations they could ignore what the team say anyway and just keep on driving even though it is potentially dangerous.

        The driver has a duty of care too in my opinion.

        I think a suspended ban for the rest of the seaon would do.

        1. No, we can’t. Because in this case, the team did not inform the driver at all that the wheel was not connected properly and that it looked like it was going to fall off. Trust me, no deiver would like to see himself in the position Massa currently in, by keeping on racing in “potentially dangerous” condition.

        2. he decided to keep driving even though it always looked like it was going to fall off.

          To us the viewers at home perhaps, but don’t forget that the drivers are so low down in the cockpit that Alonso would have had extreme difficulty seeing exactly how bad the wheel’s problem was – he reported that he believed he had a puncture, and since the team didn’t tell him otherwise, in his mind there was no reason to pull off of the circuit.

          Watching the footage back, the wheel itself only started to come off half a corner before it actually did, so Alonso didn’t have any time to make an informed decision.

          1. Moo Point: Like a cow's opinion, it's Moo!!
            17th August 2009, 15:22

            And as you say, he thought he had a puncture. When a tyre starts to delaminate, the part of the tyre the driver can actually see can move around so even then he may still have thought it was a puncture.

  2. Well again… it seems that we’re flogging a horse named Ferrari but it’s absolutley true that it was crazy to let Kimi drive around the French GP last year..
    I know Ferrari has special F1 powers but it’s starting to get ridiculous…

  3. Brilliant clip, and does actually seem identical in terms of randomness to the FIA’s punishment method. Except instead of the ‘$90 trillion’ option there’ll be a ‘$100 million fine’ option, ‘penalise random driver’ instead of ‘go to congress,’ ‘tax the teams and circuits’ instead of ‘tax the rich,’ ‘indian tracks’ instead of ‘indian casinos,’ and ‘assume a position of such ridiculousness that it prompts teams create their own championship and abandon F1, therefore forcing the championship towards fail’ instead of ‘let fail.’

    And instead of killing a chicken, Mosely picks a prostitute at random from a large selection, and whichever card that prostitute is hiding behind her back becomes the FIA’s course of action. And he gets spanked with it.

    1. Oh and ’cause random scandal/tell Bernie to sympathise with Hitler’ takes up all remaining slots.

      1. I’d like to see what an FIA version of the headless chicken board would look like!. If anyone’s got five minutes and some Photoshop skills to spare, upload them here: http://drop.io/formula1fanatic

        1. FIA would have to have two. One for all teams then one for Ferrari.

          Other teams would get “drive through” but Ferrari’s would be “£50 fine”

  4. Renault will get to race- if they don’t I’ll eat my hat. And if Romain Grosjean isn’t Piquet’s replacement, I’ll eat my football boots.

    And on the Ferrari incident at France last year- it was unbelievably stupid of the FIA to allow Raikkonen to continue with his exhaust hanging off. If a relatively small spring could do so much damage to Massa, imagine what that exhaust pipe would have done. At least the FIA/ FOTA war means that the stewards are no longer Ferrari biased and incompetent- now they’re just incompetent…

    1. ….do you like your hats with or without brown sauce?….The poll should really be about the installation of a team of full-time stewards, whose qualifications should include several generations of people, with a strong link to motorsport.

  5. Jonesracing82
    17th August 2009, 3:29

    with raikkonen at France last year, he may not have initially been sent out with the exhaust like that, he did however have a pitstop and the mechanics checked it, left it and then sent him out! it’s on the season review DVD!

    1. Spot-on recollection of the event.

      That was the most infuriating thing about this event. We watched as the team brought him in for refuelling, looked at the exhaust piece hanging (by this time it was hanging and flailing) and then shrug and step back from it.

      Thanks for continuing to fly this flag Keith.

      The issue at hand here should not be about Ferrari favoritism but more about steward inconsistency with safety issues. I don’t mind the judgment calls on the race incidents, or chicane cutting etc, but safety jeopardizes the entire sport.

      In the world today, we cannot come back from killing drivers, officials or spectators with preventable incidents.

  6. William Wilgus
    17th August 2009, 3:29

    What I find most interesting is that apparently, there are no specified penalties for rule infractions. That said, in this case I think that since only one renault car was involved, only one renault car should be banned for one race. Since Alonso is apparently blameless in this incident, I guess the choice of which driver would get to race would have to be decided by the toss of a coin—heads Alonso drives, tails Alonso drives ;^)~

    1. Yeah that is a good point. Also are the stewards the same people for the whole year, or does it vary from grand prix to grand prix?

      Specified penalties would certainly make everything more transparent.

  7. I agree that there should be some sort of administrative punishment- the no constructors points idea is a good one.

  8. who is going to replace piquet? havnt heard anything about it yet, its been almost 3 weeks since piquet got the boot and not a word from renault,

    i think that renault should take thier punishment like men, and just because its fernando’s home race does that mean that he gats a get out of jail free card? although he did nothing wrong.

    the FIA needs to stick to thier own rules, once they can do that then they can start dishing out fair punishmants, french gp with ferrari, is just another problem with the fia. If there is a good reason why ferrari didnt et the same penalty as renault have now i would like to hear it.

    It seems that when ever ferrari are involed in an investigation or incident the fia always looks the other way, it would be interesting to know the ratio of penaltes that ferrari have been given to the incidents they have been involed in

  9. I have a very strong feeling that renault ban will not be overturned, is that is the case, i see them pulling out immediately.

    1. Think about it…they have just signed the concorde agreement, and a quarter of a billion dollars is being shared out between the teams, that eases the pressure on Renault, also, why would they set themselves up for punitive damages for rescinding on a freshly signed deal?

  10. “Manuel!!!” (followed by slap in back of head.) that is what I wish I could do to the people responsible for banning Renault if they don’t get to race.

  11. They should have been given a suspended race ban.

    After the two incidents, it was unacceptable for Renault to make such a cavalier pit stop. It would’ve been good for the Valencia ticket sales to let them race, but also to have something hovering over them to keep the teams honest.

  12. Renault should be punished harshly.

    The problem is not just that “after the team knowingly allowed Fernando Alonso to leave the pits with a loose wheel during the race”. Those things happen more often. The verdict was much deeper than simply that.

    In this case. The mechanics put up their hands before they are done. The guy sits there with one hand up and the other fumbling around still putting the fairing on.

    They knowingly messed up their procedure to gain time while neglecting safety issues.

    If they disqualify a team for lying (while the stewards shouldn’t even need to hear the team to reach the correct conclusion) then surely they should disqualify a team for knowingly disregarding safety rules and sending out an illegal car.

    Of course in this case the punishment looks more severe since Renault get disqualified for the next race while McLaren where disqualified for the actual race.

    That seems a bit strange, but of course that depends on the result that “the car that infringed the rules” got. Besides this offense is much more severe than what McLaren did at the first race.

    So disqualification of the team really isn’t that unreasonable or illogical or random.

    1. honestly, the part where you say -“knowingly disregarding safety rules and sending out an illegal car”
      makes no sense to me at all. unless i just interpreted it incorrectly. i read it as saying that renault deliberatly ignored safety procedures which simply doesn’t happen. sure, they made a mistake and knew once alonso was driving around the track that the wheel hadn’t been fitted, but they wouldn’t do that deliberatly. the more i type this, the more i think i miss interpreted it.

      1. Did you even bother reading the verdict?

        They send the car out without installing a MANDATORY safety device. ie illegal car.

        Indeed it’s mindboggling how they could send out a car that doesn’t comply. Even worse that they obviously don’t care at all and simply instruct their mechanics to raise their hands (signalling the car is ready) BEFORE this device is installed.

        1. It was a bit of backlash from the Massa and Surtess incident. I don’t remember any other teams getting DQed for the same insident.

          I agree though the Renault team were stupid for letting Alonso out in the first place and then not telling him to retire straight away once they knew the wheel wasn’t on properly.

          1. My point is more that we have never seen a similar incident.

            They probably will review all pit Renault stops, but if the mechanic simply puts his hand up signalling that the wheel is done,when in fact after that the retainer still needs to be put in place, they are banking on the fact that refuelling will always take long enough. With Alonso’s ridiculous short stop it wasn’t long enough, but a problem with the wheel might also have made it too short.

            I don’t think any team has knowingly gambled on luck over safety (enforced by rules) like that before.

            McLaren was investigated too when they had a wheel come off. Turned out it was a mechanical failure and the wheel nut retainer actually was installed. I would assume they would have been punished too if they simply sent the car out without installing it.

            Imagine sending a driver out with no seat belts or no helmet. That’s not allowed either. Obviously a “wheel nut retainer” is less obvious, it’s still a safety device.

          2. Good point.

            Was that Silverstone where Hakkinens tyre came off you were talking about?

  13. Now, aren’t the FIA getting themselves in a pickle! If they allow Renault to race, and even reduce the penalty to a fine, then it proves they have no backbone. On the other hand, if they go ahead and refuse to allow Renault to race, then they are seen as power-mad idiots.
    I am all for more transparent and immediate penalties in all cases. As far as I am concerned Alonso ought to have been black-flagged and not allowed to finish the last race and so have nil points. Wouldn’t that have been enough to make them pay attention next time?
    As it is, will Renault have to take the whole team to Valencia this week, only to go home again if they aren’t allowed to race? Or will they be allowed to practice, but not race? What on earth is the ruling?

  14. The mistake has been made already, and hence, I voted no although I thought the initial penalty was a knee-jerk one (like DGR-F1 says, why didn’t they use the black or the black and red flag… and as previously discussed, what’s the difference to Kimi at Magny-Cours…etc…).

    However, no driver should be re-installed because it’s his home GP, and I’m sure Alonso would agree with that.

  15. The sri lankan
    17th August 2009, 8:55

    as a Toyota fan i want to see Alonso filling in for one of the Panasonic teams or the WIlliams. especially the Nakajima’s seat. but thats just pure Daydreaming on my part

  16. If it was McLaren and Hamilton who were suspended, their appeal wouldn’t have a cat in Hell’s chance of succeeding, but as it isn’t them, the appeal will likely be successful, so I have confidence that Alonso will be racing in Valencia. There isn’t the same animosity and prejudice against any team as there is against Lewis and McLaren.

    1. Lewis did go unpunished earlier. Hope you have not forgot Japanese Grand Prix 2007 so early!

      1. most frustrating race to watch ever! webber should have won that darn it.

        1. I don’t actually think Webber would have won that race. Mclaren were way quicker than Red Bull that day, even in the wet, and Hamilton isn’t the sort of driver who plays the percentage game by letting quicker drivers through anyway.

          Obviously we’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter anymore since Webber has finally won a race

          1. Ned, did you see the race? Webber was quicker than Lewis. The race was Webbers for the taking.

  17. I don’t think deliberatly broke the rules. McLaren did and they have yet to serve there punishment. Also at Magny-Cours last year Raikkonen pitted with his exhaust pipe hanging off and the pit crew didn’t remove it.

  18. I find it difficult to believe that Renault “knowingly” released the car with a loose wheel. The lollipop man might have released Fernando too early because he wasn’t paying attention, but that’s an entirely different matter and one that we have seen pass many times before without penalty. Furthermore, once the car was released there was nothing Renault could have done, you can’t reverse in the pit lane (Mansell was disqualified on one occasion for this). Many drivers in the past have completed a lap with a loose wheel (Heidfeld did so at one race in 2007), so it was just unlucky for Alonso that the wheel came off.

    In short, the penalty is harsh and I would expect the ban to be suspended.

    1. Furthermore, once the car was released there was nothing Renault could have done, you can’t reverse in the pit lane

      There is this thing called a radio, it works at the speed of light. All cars have it. He could have parked it on orders from the pit or reduced speed to a crawl to limp home.

    2. Yeah, it’s difficult to believe they would send the car out knowing that the wheel was loose, but that’s because it’s an inaccurate summary.

      They knowingly sent the car out without the wheel nut RETAINER installed.

      If you look at the replay of the pit stop the mechanic who just installed the wheel nut is signalling that he is done. He installed the wheel nut so the car is technically good to go. He sits with his hand UP while someone else is still installing the fairing and/or wheel nut retainer.

      They should not signal that they are ready before the wheel nut retainer is installed. Just installing the wheel nut itself is not enough.

      The whole verdict describes a punishment for Renault’s lack of regard for safety. Their procedures are faulty and lack the proper priority for safty.

  19. Uncle Flav has breakfast with Bernie regularly. He´ll get him to say yes.

  20. There’s a difference between “should” and “will”, that’s the problem. And I keep thinking about the precedent set by extending Eddie Irvine’s one-race ban in 1994. :|

  21. they should let them race but do a punishment like a extra few seconds in the pits for a scrutineer to go around and check.

  22. BTW here is a youtube clip of a replay of the pit stop. Look at the mechanic sitting with his hand up while the wheel obviously is NOT ready.

  23. if they race, they should start from the back of the grid and renault should lose some championship points…

  24. If i recall Renault is run by ‘the leader of the loonies..’ as Max Mosley recently described him. I can’t believe that the FIA, being completely impartial and not in any way the personal fiefdom of MM, would be using this as some sort of retribution for the FOTA / resignation ultimatum.. that would be grossly unprofessional and frankly just childish.. So let’s see how much influence MM still wields or whether ‘his powers are fading..’

  25. I think Renault should be allowed to race.

    We have seen cars released early from the pits many times before, and a few of those included where the wheel was not attached properly. None of these previous incidents have incurred a race ban.

    If the argument is that because of the two accidents in the week leading up to the race the stewards decided it merited a harsh penalty then they should have at least warned the teams before the race that the rules had changed, and as we were promised more transparency regarding the stewards decisions before the season it should have been made public as well.

    I don’t think anyone would try to argue that Renault released Alonso with the wheel not attached on purpose as they had a good chance of a podium, it was essentially a mistake by one of the mechanics, the only thing Renault could do when they found out would be order Alonso to pull off the track immediately and retire, which unless the teams had been told the rules had changed they wouldn’t do.

    Regarding the timing of the appeal does anyone else think the FIA should have held it earlier? To have it the week before the race means Renault have to send the cars and equipment to Valencia in case they win, if it had been a one or even a two week gap between Hungary and Valencia I could understand but it was the F1 summer break.

    I think the most likely outcome is a suspended race ban, a fine or points deduction for Renault, and I think the appeal will be influenced by the fact it is Alonso’s home race.

    If the race ban is upheld or replaced with another relatively harsh punishment than I would have a suspicion it was Mosley getting revenge on Briatore and Renault.

    1. The FIA was in Holydays…

    2. In case of the other accidents that happened before, either the lollipopman made a mistake or the mechanic made a mistake or there was a mechanical mailfunction.

      In this case Renault knowingly sent out Alonso without the wheel nut retainer attached.

      A mistake or mailfunction is not the same as knowingly doing something wrong.

  26. If the FIA can’t find a way to reinforce the seriousness of the penalty WITHOUT impacting the fans than they are truly worthless. As pointed out herein, there are many options available for modifying the penalty without keeping Alonso out of the car this weekend.

    Do the right thing, let the Spanish fans see their guy race at home.

  27. not alonso’s fault. alonso shouldn’t be affected by the punishment. simple.

  28. Renaults now won their appeal, now all we need to know is who will be racing in the 2nd Renault.

    1. Looks like Renault got off lightly.
      “The court decided to uphold Renault’s appeal against the one-race ban imposed by the race stewards and instead imposed a $50,000 fine.” LINK

      1. Bizarre. How can you claim there was no “conscious wrongdoing” when the responsible mechanic signals the wheel is ready while another mechanic (right infront of him!) is still working on the wheel?

        This change is like a baseball bat to the face of the stewards. Hopefully finally will learn a lesson from that then. I wonder how they are going to spin this.

        1. The punishment didn’t fit the crime, its as simple as that. A miscarriage of justice if you will. The poll that Keith ran confirms this appeal decision. So F1 Fanatic reader’s make better stewards? :-)

          1. Yeah the punishment did seem a quite harsh. Although this one seems overly lenient.

            I guess we’ll get more details on the verdict later.

            To be honest I’d say even the headless chicken or “monkeys throwing darts” would be better at it than the present system of stewards. More consistent too probably ;)

    2. Yep, common sense won in the end! :)

      Going with current F1 trends, I think Damon Hill will be the 2nd driver! :|

  29. Interesting, to say the least, but at least certain fans who’ve already bought their tickets should be happy with this.

  30. I thought the ban too harsh and this too lenient. What do I think would be appropriate? Good question. Tell me how much sponsor money Renault would have forfeit if they didn’t race. I think that’s the upper limit, the actual amount needed to be enough to convince them, and all other teams, that the make sure not to release a car with a loose wheel nut, and if they accidentally do, to radio the driver and have him either stop or proceed at a VERY slow speed back to the pits. Back to numbers, I think it should be between $200,000 and $500,000.

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