Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Suzuka, 2018

Alonso ‘should have given place back to Stroll’

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso would have avoided a penalty for cutting the chicane if he had given his position back to Lance Stroll, according to FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

The McLaren driver sharply criticised his five-second penalty for the incident after being forced off the track by Stroll. In Whiting’s opinion, the stewards suspected Alonso was trying to use the collision as an excuse for cutting the track.

“The stewards felt that it was perfectly clear what Fernando did,” said Whiting. “He cut the chicane, drove quickly across the gravel, came on way in front.

“I think that was pretty clear that he had gained an advantage by leaving the track. The stewards, however, felt that Stroll had actually forced Fernando off, so you could say that because Fernando was forced off he was entitled to cut the chicane – he wasn’t.

“He shouldn’t have taken a place by doing it but equally Stroll shouldn’t have pushed him off the track. So they felt that each driver should get a five-second penalty for two separate offences.”

Whiting clarified that Alonso could have avoided his penalty by giving the position he gained back to Stroll, although this would not have affected the latter’s penalty. Alonso also avoided a second penalty for a similar offence later in the race.

“If he’d given back the position I don’t think Fernando would have been penalised,” said Whiting. “That would have been straightforward.

“I think the second time he did it he did give the place back, to Brendon Hartley, but he didn’t on [the first] occasion.”

Verstappen remarks “silly”

Valtteri Bottas also cut the chicane while under pressure from Max Verstappen. A frustrated Verstappen, who was given a five-second penalty for a collision with Kimi Raikkonen at the chicane, later said he would make a point of also cutting the chicane in similar circumstances again.

“That’s quite a silly thing to say,” responded Whiting. “It was quite clear that Valtteri locked up, made a mistake. We looked at the mini-sector time and he lost half a second to Max.

“He wasn’t being threatened, it’s not as if he cut the corner and stayed in front by virtue of cutting the chicane, it was just a mistake.”

Alonso finished fourteenth, calling the decision by the stewards evidence of ‘just how bad F1 is.’ Bottas finished ahead of Verstappen, in Mercedes’ 44th 1-2 podium finish.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 14 comments on “Alonso ‘should have given place back to Stroll’”

    1. I think its the other way round. Stroll ran off the circuit in 130R defending from Alonso and only stayed in front before the contact because of that.

    2. Time for Charlie to leave. It’s been that way for 10 years or more.

      Jobs for the boys. A Dinosaur

    3. Wasn’t he squeezed off the road by Stroll? Don’t see why he would give the place back after that.

      1. Actually ever since the Hamilton/Nico battle of 2016 it’s been established that Hamilton can drive anybody off the track that he wants. Since Nico retired, the rules were suddenly applied to everyone equally. ;)

        1. Erm… Okay, if you say so…

      2. Last year Alonso forced Palmer off likewise. Palmer rejoined in front and got a penalty, only to retire later – which Alonso called “Karma!”…
        Those who call karma on others deserve to get their part too.

        1. Damn good point!

    4. To me, the fact that Whiting has to be out talking to the media to explain all these rulings after the race on such a regular basis is an indication of how far off the rails the stewarding and penalty system has gone in F1. It’s one thing when there is a high-profile call that affects the race—officiating controversies happen in every sport. But when even routine chicane-cutting and racing incidents require lengthy post-race parsings, something has gone terribly wrong. This is not what we should be talking about after the race.

      It was interesting to see that during last week’s Nascar race at the Charlotte “roval”, despite there being a couple of wide-open chicanes with artificial track limits, Nascar was completely successful in enforcing them without the nonsense of time penalties or position swaps. The penalties were simple and crystal clear: if you missed the chicane—even by mistake and with no time gained—you had to come to a complete stop on the side of the track in a predesignated area off the racing line. Slightly draconian in application, but a fair penalty and one that drivers fully complied with. And it was communicated clearly to the drivers, teams, and fans before the race.

      I’m not saying F1 should adopt that particular solution—but it uses similar ones at some tracks, like the bollard at the last chicane in Montreal. I was impressed by the fact that in this case, Nascar’s solution was so clear that Jimmie Johnson complied with it even when it cost him the win on the final lap and his transfer to the next round of the playoffs—and that there was no controversy after the race about it. All the attention was on the racing—which is where F1 should be, too.

      1. @markzastrow

        The fact that Whiting has to be out talking to the media to explain all these rulings after the race on such a regular basis is an indication of how far off the rails the stewarding and penalty system has gone in F1.

        Rather more prosaically, it’s because at the beginning of the season the FIA decided to hold a session between Whiting and the media after every race.

        More in today’s Paddock Diary:

        https://www.racefans.net/2018/10/07/paddock-diary-japanese-grand-prix-day-four/

        1. @keithcollantine Thanks Keith, I saw that right after I posted this comment! I can’t think of any other sport in which officiating is considered such a key component of the sport that the league’s head referee has a media availability scheduled in advance every weekend to discuss it.

          On the one hand, one could argue the nod to transparency is laudable. And I agree with @dieterrencken‘s diary entry that Whiting’s thoughts on the rulings can be incisive and insightful. But I still can’t help but think that the fact that he is one of the highlights of the weekend doesn’t speak well of the state of the sport. I’d rather see the penalties simplified to the point where his musings are not as frequently necessary to understand them.

          1. I am not sure that is necessarily a bad thing. I wish Football Referees would explain their bizarre decisions to the fans.

            I do however agree to a point. There are too many vague rules with strange decisions. I for one can not understand how Alonso gets forced to cut the corner by Stroll and then gets penalised for ending up ahead of that Stroll when that Stroll also gets penalised for forcing Alonso off the track! It just seems so odd especially when Vettel smashes into the side of Verstappen and yet gets no penalty at all…

            In Singapore Perez smashed into Sirotkin and got a 5 second penalty, Sirotkin then lost control due to the damage on his car from the Perez crash and almost (but not quite) hit someone and gets a 10 second penalty! So from that one we can gather that in F1 the rules state that it is less of an offence to randomly smash into someone than it is to almost crash… Now that is a strange rule…

      2. He’s out in the media because today’s drivers are all baby’s who feel like they need to defend themselves needlessly every time a steward action is taken against them @markzastrow

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