Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Sandwich bag ended Alonso’s first race back in Formula 1

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso retired from his first Formula 1 race since 2018 after a sandwich bag entered a rear brake duct, causing terminal overheating.

The Alpine driver ran seventh in the early stages of the race, but was forced out on the 32nd lap of 56 when the team noticed his brake temperatures had suddenly climbed.

Alonso was already experiencing problems with energy deployment in his power unit and slipping down the order when the race-ending problem struck.

“After his first [pit] stop we had a small issue that forced us to reduce the performance of the car,” Alpine’s executive director Marcin Budkowski explained.

“Then after the second stop, a sandwich wrap paper got stuck inside the rear brake duct of Fernando’s car, which led to high temperatures and caused some damage to the brake system, so we retired him for safety reasons. It was a very unlucky first race for Fernando considering how strong he looked.”

Alonso said it felt emotional to be back in Formula 1 following his two-year absence.

“It was a shame that we could not see the chequered flag today, because I really enjoyed the whole thing,” he said. “It was nice to be back at the racing, it was nice to feel again the adrenaline on the starting grid, the national anthem. All these procedures felt very emotional today for me.

“The race itself was fun at the beginning with the start, a couple of good battles on track in the first stint. And then unfortunately we had to retire the car with a brake issue – apparently there is some debris on the rear brake duct.

“Nothing we can do now more than thinking now into Imola, and hopefully get some some points there.”

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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...
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...

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63 comments on “Sandwich bag ended Alonso’s first race back in Formula 1”

  1. A real shame, because he explicitely stated before the race that finishing was his main goal, no matter what the position. He wanted to gather more information about the tyres. You could clearly see that he avoided risky battles. Anyway, his return went much better than I feared. I hope he can be a solid mid-field contender this year.

    1. I hope he can be a solid mid-field contender this year.

      Not if the sandwich bag has its say.

      1. We feared sandbagging from Mercedes, but not sandwich bagging.

    2. @matthijs I was very surprised, relieved and excited to see Alonso performing so well. I had great fears that F1 had moved on without him, like it seemed to have done when Schumi returned.

      1. I was afraid he would not meet high expectations, but frankly this is what I expected. Nothing that’s happened over the last two years would suggest Alonso would be anything but outstanding. Watching him yesterday he just seemed like the same Alonso that drove the wheels out of that awful Mclaren in 2008.

        What’s frustrating, however, is that Alpine, in true Renault fashion, seem to have taken two steps back after taking a step forward in 2020. It will be a massive shame to see Alonso once again, driving incredible races, to fight for an 8th place.

        1. Not many bites. Keep fishing.
          🇬🇧

        2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
          29th March 2021, 19:53

          2008 Mclaren 🤣. Genuinely made me laugh out loud.

  2. Really? Talk about an effect. We need more of this to the fans, so that they can see the effects of these on the cars.

  3. Lewisham Milton
    29th March 2021, 10:05

    Did that ever happen to Bertrand Baguette?

    1. Have +10 B3ndy points, the most underrated comment today on RaceFans.

  4. I was wondering what happened to his pace after the first pitstop, but the energy deployment issue makes sense. He looked dead slow on the straights and wasn’t even defending at one point. I think it was Tsunoda who made a move on the main straight from no mans land but made it easily anyway. Still, overall Alpine looks very disappointing , they seem destined to fight tooth and nail for the minor points placings unless they have major upgrades coming or go better on other circuits.

  5. Wow a multimillion dollar engineering masterpiece outdone by a less than a dollar lunch wrap!

    1. With hosting fees in excess of 200-million dollars, I would very much doubt that a sandwich wrapper is sold for less than a buck at a GP in oil-rich gulf countries.

  6. I guess it was a sign that Fernando just would have to sit back and enjoy lunch …

  7. A trail of crumbs led all the way to Hulkenburg, smiling to himself as he ate the last few bites of his croque monsieur…

  8. The said it wouldn’t be a picnic. He proved them wrong #FA14

    1. Did anyone saw Palmer with a sandwich?

  9. The real sand(wich) bag.

  10. someone or something
    29th March 2021, 11:38

    Have to say I’m more interested in the energy deployment issue than the sandwich bag, because it offers an explanation as to why Alonso slipped back so quickly after his early pit stop. Without that knowledge, it looked a bit as though the Alpine didn’t have any real race pace, so that his first stint including the battle with Sainz’s Ferrari would’ve been a mere glory run, only sustainable for a short first stint.
    With that info, things are looking much less bleak, and the battle at the forefront of the midfield might have a fourth contender (McLaren, Ferrari, Alpha Tauri, and Alpine), which is great news!

    1. I agree. The car is lacking alot of grip. Lots of steering movements if you check the onboard. He was slower in the first stint but still put up a great fight. Great call by Alpine to pit early which got him back in the fight but that energy deployment issue messed it up. I honestly hope it was the energy deployment issue, because otherwise it means the Alpine is even worse on medium tyres……..

  11. Difficult news to swallow.

    1. This comment is for the birds 🙃

  12. I got flashbacks to his McLaren days when they always would have some ‘terminal problem’ to retire right before the end, enabling them to update this that and the other without penalty.

    1. @balue So with “always” you mean this happened once right?

      1. @f1osaurus No, why would I say it was a recurring thing and mean once?

        1. @balue Because once is exactly how often it happened?

          1. @f1osaurus Several times means more than once. Is this concept really so difficult to grasp?

          2. @balue Well the reality is that it didn’t happen more than once. It’s not even sure it happened at all.

            Is it that difficult for you to comprehend that F1 cars do indeed break down. Relatively quite a lot even.

            Not everything the teams which you dislike do is automatically foul play. I know you feel that way, but that’s just not reality.

          3. @f1osaurus I know in your world it is all about us-and-them, but it’s not really that way for most people. It might be a difficult concept to grasp, but people will sometimes criticize the action of others just for that action alone, without having any ulterior motive to do so, unlike you.

          4. @balue ROFL!!!!!!

            You are just spreading rumors. There is no proof that that did what you say. So you would like to pretend that you are slandering McLaren because you are a fan of them?

            Your high horse is under the ground. Deep in the mud.

          5. @f1osaurus Bless.. So funny to see you just can’t fathom the concept of somebody not saying anything without being fans or opponents of something.

            Not that I didn’t know it as all your posts are the flag-waving type, but still amusing to see how deep it goes to the point where you find the idea completely ridiculous..

          6. McLaren did retire their cars when they were running Honda engines just before the end of the race on many occasions so they could change gearbox without penalty. It’s not some sort of slander it’s factual. Other teams also did it, it’s not just a McLaren thing, but I think it’s fair enough that people generally remember Alonso at McLaren being lots of retirements and generally the car being slow.

  13. How did the sandwich bag get on track?

    1. Gun to my head, I would say it wind brought it there.

    2. @jerejj Vaccinated people, and those who had recovered from COVID, were allowed to spectate. Someone probably dropped it, just like Britain 2001 (where a sandwich bag ended Enrique Bernoldi’s race).

      1. Prince Salman? Is that you?

    3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      29th March 2021, 19:13

      I’m sure there’s a picture somewhere of Ron Dennis being sighted in Bahrain this weekend…

  14. Someone forgot to remove the sand(wich) bags after testing.

  15. Rumour has it the bag previously contained a Chicane Sandwich.

  16. Clearly Fernando was eating a sandwich during the race. Once he’d finished it, he noticed there was no bin in the Alpine. Forgetting he was in an F1 car he threw the bag over his shoulder (as you would do on to the back seat). It then ended up in the brake duct.

  17. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    29th March 2021, 13:48

    From what I saw when he was fighting for that 7th place he looked really scrappy and seems like he still has what it’s going to take to punch above what that car can do. I’m sure he’ll leave us smiling a few times this year during qualifying or certain points in races, I’m particularly excited to see where he can put that Alpine in qualifying at Monaco.

  18. Poor Fernando. It wasn’t Alpine’s fault though. It possibly flew off of Gerhard’s burger.

    1. Or possibly Riccardo’s patties.

  19. Well there is no public in the grandstands, so it’s a very poor excuse, pathetic I’ll say.

    1. There were in fact some fans, and what do you think they were covering up? would a formula 1 team admit a sandwich bag brought them to a hault if it wasn’t even true?

    2. Bahrain invited people who’d had their vaccinations, or who had recovered from COVID, to the grandstands. It looked well-attended and the social distancing was better than in the paddock.

    3. You can see the public in the grandstands in the picture at the top of the article.

    4. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      29th March 2021, 17:57

      Lol so Alex, tell us what you think happened to that Alpine seeing as you seem to know more than us.

  20. looking at the great photo of Alonso’s car in the pits, it strikes me that only a percentage of the tyres are in contact with the track . If I may ask a stupid question , do the regulations stipulate all cars HAVE to use such wide tyres ? Why not fit tyres only as wide as the areas in the photo show which actually make contact with the road surface – save a bit on weight and perhaps aero flow ?!

    1. The tires are mandatory and the teams only can choose the number of tires of the different options: hard, medium and soft.

    2. A F1 car can produce in excess of 1600+ kg @ 250 kph. That is 400kg per tyre.
      I bet the contact surface with 400kg on it will be a bit bigger.
      I don’t think tyres are designed to perform when the car is not moving.

    3. It’s called camber and they actually discussed it (for the first time that I can EVER recall) on either the quali or race broadcast. It is much more noticeable on ovals and is intended to assist with turning the vehicle.

    4. You’ll (possibly) see in the corners that the full width of the outside tyre comes into contact with the track, giving maximum grip, it’s just on the straight the percentage contacting the track is lower. Also handy in that it lowers rolling resistance in a straight line.

      It also looks a little more extreme due to the sidewalls on the tyres being quite round compared to the lower profile tyres which are quite square-edged when they transition from sidewall to tread.

      It’ll be interesting next year actually to see how different the suspension systems will be (camber etc.). Lower profile tyres will change the whole way the suspension has to work, as a decent proportion of the ‘spring’ in a modern F1 suspension system is in the tyre at the moment.

  21. Less Triple Crown, more triple sandwich…

  22. I heard Cyril saying: ‘we got this in the bag’…

  23. RocketTankski
    30th March 2021, 8:21

    Was the sandwich plain? Or did it have d’ Meo?

      1. There was something in the air that night..
        A sandwich bag…
        Fernando.

        I love a bit of ABBA.

        Reply moderated

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