Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Istanbul Park, 2021

Drivers to ask Masi why Alonso and Norris went unpunished for “very clear” incidents

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers intend to ask race director Michael Masi how Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris avoided penalties in recent decisions made by the stewards.

Alonso went unpunished following an investigation into whether he had responded correctly to double waved yellow flags at the start of qualifying in Turkey. Norris also avoided a penalty for crossing the pit lane entry line at the previous race in Russia.

Pierre Gasly, who was penalised for a collision with Alonso during Sunday’s race, was puzzled by the two decisions.

“These last two events I don’t really understand the regulations because to me it’s either black and white, and these two situations for me were very clear,” said the AlphaTauri driver.

“I think it has to be discussed what we are allowed to do because there is, of course, one incident which is a white line, not safety related, and another incident with double yellow flag where safety was related. I’m sure we’re going to discuss that with Michael. But I think all of us in the team were surprised with that.”

The stewards decided not to penalise Alonso after ruling “he did not set a meaningful lap time” after passing yellow flags at turn one on his first lap of Q1. The Alpine driver set a time of 1’29.589, then lapped over six seconds slower on the next lap, then improved to a 1’26.147.

Poll: Should Gasly have been penalised for first-corner tangle with Alonso?
His reaction contrasted to that of Lance Stroll, who was running ahead of him and passed the same yellow flags. On that lap Stroll backed off to a 1’44.856 – over 15 seconds slower than Alonso, who overtook him – then improved to a 1’25.284 the next time around. Stroll also questioned the decision not to penalise Alonso.

“I think the rules need to be consistent, especially in a double yellow, which it was,” he said. “You can’t keep pushing. You can’t set a lap time.

“You should have to, on a double yellow, abandon the lap time. Which it was, it was a double yellow. On a single yellow you can lift and if conditions are improving with the lift, if you can demonstrate that with the data and you set a fast lap time, fine, if there’s a clear lift. But in a double yellow, for me it’s clear, you have to abandon the lap and that wasn’t the case.

“So I just think that there’s different decisions being made, which is funny.”

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Stroll does not intend to change his reaction to double waved yellow flags. “I’m going to stick to doing what I always do,” he said. “Just for safety, if it’s a double yellow I abort the lap, if it’s a single yellow, I lift and then I get back on the gas when it’s green again.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Istanbul Park, 2021
Alonso started fifth after he was cleared for Q1 incident
“I just hope the stewards really keep that consistency, though, because I think it’s very important for everyone that the rule is clear.”

Asked whether he plans to raise the matter with Masi at the next drivers’ briefing, Stroll said “I’m sure it’ll come up.”

By backing off considerably less than Stroll did, Alonso potentially put himself at an advantage if the conditions worsened on subsequent laps, making subsequent improvements impossible. The Alpine driver also believed he complied with the requirements of the rules.

“I heard the engineer saying ‘double yellow’,” he explained. “I saw the double yellow as well on turn one and on the dash on the steering and the dash becomes yellow as well. So it was very clear to me and I aborted the lap.

“But because it’s the first lap of qualifying, you still set the time. And then the following lap I was three seconds faster without aborting the lap. And that was probably the confusion.”

Although Alonso was cleared on the grounds he did not set a meaningful time, Masi indicated that had the conditions worsened the stewards could have given a different verdict.

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“Having spoken to the stewards later on, and also to the team, it was actually explained quite clearly that let’s call it if a dump of rain had come straight after, and it was a meaningful lap time, then the outcome would have been very, very different,” said the race director. “But the facts are that in the circumstances, it wasn’t a meaningful lap time.”

Masi will consider revisions to the yellow flag rules
The requirements regarding how drivers should respond to double waved yellow flags could be altered for future races to take similar circumstances into account, said Masi.

“We’ll have a discussion about that and might come up with some adjusted wording for future to remove any incentive whatsoever in that scenario. But it’s one of those unique situations that you could argue that everyone that set a lap time that first lap out, that went through double yellows, was a meaningful lap time because at that point in time it was the only lap that they had set, which was the case with Fernando.”

In Sochi the stewards gave Norris a reprimand, but no time penalty, after he crossed the white line at the entrance to the pit lane towards the end of the race. Norris, who was struggling on slick tyres on a wet track, approached the corner at less than half his usual pit entry speed but was unable to make the turn. The stewards took that fact in mitigation in deciding to only give him a reprimand for an infringement which other drivers have received stronger penalties for.

Masi defended the stewards’ decision not to penalise Norris. “The stewards made the decision at that point based on what they had,” he said. “And that’s history.”

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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...
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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53 comments on “Drivers to ask Masi why Alonso and Norris went unpunished for “very clear” incidents”

  1. The stewards made the decision at that point based on what they had

    This is the problem with Masi’s logic. Steward will always make different decision because time is progressing and every event has the characteristic of its own. There’s should be some consistency. If he didn’t respect that, why not let every steward interpret what was good or bad by their moral standard not by some rule book.

    By the way, hat tip to Stroll. Maybe the best thing is create new rule that deleted time set on double yellow but it will be disregard by Masi anyway.

    1. @ruliemaulana Penalizing a driver who’s already further ahead on track than a yellow section would be unfair.
      Also, those who’ve abandoned following a caution section but (inadvertently) set a lap time because of not pitting track conditions, etc.
      Some have mentioned VSC, but only worth trying if VSC could be mini-sector localized rather than universal as usual.

      1. @jerejj yes. Some rule might be unfair on certain condition. But we can’t have different ruling based on different set of conditions. What’s the point having a rule in the first place?

      2. Since the double yellow flags are specific to a certain place of the track, it could only affect anyone who has gone through the flags, and not anyone who was further ahead or who went through after the flags were cleared.

        In most situations, a lap time affected by a double yellow should be irrelevant anyways. A lap that’s 1, 2 seconds off-the-pace is useless. The only situation where a lap set while going through double yellow flags can be useful is in changing conditions, which are precisely the worst kind of conditions for car control, and therefore drivers should be discouraged from even trying to push.

    2. Good points. I join you on tipping my hat towards Stroll upon this occasion too!

  2. This makes me like Stroll a lot more.

    1. THAT sensational pole, yes.
      Possible Masi turnaround too?

  3. This whole meaningful lap time argument is questionable.
    Lap time is irrelevant anyway as long as a driver complies within the relevant mini-sector. This at least should be the case based on previous precedents such as Hulkenberg’s & Rosberg’s cases in 2016 Austrian & Hungarian GP QLFs, respectively. Yellow caution affects a single light panel interval at a time, not an entire timing sector, not to mention lap. Despite slowing considerably, lap time can still be improvable, even inadvertently, especially on changeable track conditions. How do you define ‘meaningful’ in this context anyway? What if double yellows appear in the very last mini-sector, in which case a driver would push through a lap until that point & lift-off effectively for the early S/F straight between the final corner & timing line. He could still end up being faster than his previous PB (unless he was doing his first flyer) if he was considerably faster on his delta. For example, five seconds but loses four because of abandoning his push lap, meaning still a second left. You certainly can’t consider this situation an attempt to set a meaningful lap time. Overall, everything outside the relevant mini-sector is secondary, so drivers should only be penalized if they haven’t complied when/where they should, irrespective of lap time or anything else.

  4. I’d argue that Norris was a hazard to others and himself while on slicks and pitting was essential and a safety call.

    1. @blik Indeed + disadvantageous anyway.

    2. Yeah, this makes sense to me too @blik.

    3. I’d counter that he crossed the white line due to a driving error, which equates to a penalty every other time. The rule is clear.
      Choosing to stay out too long on slicks was a (poor) choice, but is one that does not relieve him of the need to follow all of the rules.

      1. Further to that, if Norris had complied with the rules and started another lap as he was supposed to – if it was too unsafe to continue, he should be parking it and retiring.
        What are the rules for, anyway? Consistency and fairness for all, for starters…

        1. Then he has to abandon if it was to risky to others. Also he crossed the line twice, same event, but twice. Rules are rules, otherwise write a exclusive rule when a driver chose to stay in a tyre which at a certain point of a weather condition was unsafe to others and has the right to cross the white line

      2. The exact rule concerning lines or bollards at the Pit Entry was in Article 20.4 from the Race Director’s Event Notes of the Russian GP:

        20.4 Except in the cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the Stewards), the crossing by any part of the car, in any direction, of the painted area between the pit entry and the track, by a driver who, in the opinion of the Stewards, had committed to entering the pit lane is prohibited.

        In their decision, the Stewards mention explicitly that they do not consider this situation as force majeure:

        This was not considered as force majeure because it does not comply with the definition of force majeure in Article 20 of the FIA International Sporting Code.“.

        The penalty itself is at the discretion of the Stewards. A penalty of a ‘Reprimand’ was given.

    4. Didn’t driving fast is hazard to others and themselves? Let’s banned racing.

  5. let’s we all not forget the absurd penality Raikkonen received at Imola, for actually complying to the rules, when this gets discussed

  6. I really don’t see why lap times would matter at all in a double waved yellow circumstance. Does that mean you can do anything you want if you just slow down at the end of the lap?
    Rules should be made simple and all these unwritten appendages are not. That said stewards should still have the freedom to apply penalties according the circumstances.
    Being on throttle during the section of the track that has double waved yellow = this and next lap time deletion and a 5 second time penalty in race condition, always. This way a driver should know that doing so is futile and there is no advantage.
    I can imagine going full throttle through a damp wet corner with double waved yellows should result in a heavier penalty than, for example, dry conditions on a straight and the driver moves off the racing line to avoid the hazard but keeps throttle on. Perhaps it should be registered as two separate infringes for consistency’s sake. One for speeding through double waved yellows which always has the same penalty and then an additional penalty for ‘causing danger through double waved yellows’ or whatever, giving the stewards more freedom.

    1. The rule itself is perfectly clear already – under double yellows drivers must slow down and be prepared to stop.
      What’s not to understand?

      Could Alonso have stopped in that flag sector if needed? If no, then he deserves a penalty. Simple.
      Lap time is completely irreleveant. Sector time is largely irrelevant too, given that the stewards have telemetry to see who is lifting and who isn’t.

      1. @S Exactly, however they have recently blurred those lines with this nonsense about ‘meaningful laptimes’. The existing regulations were fine as they were. If a driver went through double waved yellows, whether on a ‘meaningful lap’ or not and doesn’t slow sufficiently he could and should be penalised.

        1. Agree @asanator.
          The problem is that a bunch of people flip out and go into meltdown when any team or driver is handed a penalty for any reason.
          So F1 are doing everything they can to reduce the number of penalties that make their business appear ‘unprofessional’ and ‘amateur.’ I mean, this is F1, where participants are too good to do anything wrong…. :/

  7. petebaldwin (@)
    12th October 2021, 14:00

    It’s good that the drivers are questioning this even if we all know Masi will ignore them and say “we did everything perfectly.”

    I appreciate that not every incident is the same and there has to be a level of common sense with the rules but it seems to just be done at random at the moment. As fans, we should be able to see an incident and know the outcome at least 50% of the time but I have absolutely no clue what they’ll decide these days.

    When they’re allowing people to fly past waved yellows but are giving penalty points for dangerous driving to someone who was in the middle of a 3 wide situation on the first lap in the wet, you know the system is broken.

  8. The thing that has become clear to me is that as more regulations have been added to the rulebook, As the rules of racing have started to be more clearly defined with different penalties specified for different things the only thing that has happened is that we have got more inconsistency, Less clarity, More unnecessary investigations into virtually everything & more completely unnecessary penalties. All of which have done nothing but drag the sport into disrepute over & over again.

    The argument for having more regulation with regards to on-track behaviour is always that it would be a free for all without them, Yet history tells us otherwise. We never used to have all of these regulations, investigations & penalties & i’d argue that for the most part driving standards were better in years past when drivers were just left to race. Yes of course you have the rare examples like Suzuka 1990 where a driver did something dangerous, unsporting etc.. but that was the exception & not something you saw all the time.

    The racing was better because drivers were allowed to race each other hard & we never had all of these silly over-regulation to create constant controversy over every little incident.

    1. I agree. This over-regulation makes the cure worst than the disease. Only when it’s saftey related I can understand a zero tollerance apporach. For all the other incidents it’s part of racing “let them race”.

  9. Agree those rulings were wrong and lessons should be learned.

    ‘Abandoning’ a lap for double waved yellow seems too much IMO. Only the sector needs to be abandoned. Set a defined time minimum. Average time of others that sector + 4 seconds for example. If incident is on sector border, 2 seconds on each bordering sectors etc.

  10. When Alonso had his little tirade about certain nationalities being favoured by the stewards he should have been thinking of his own?

    1. Witan

      When Alonso had his little tirade about certain nationalities being favoured by the stewards he should have been thinking of his own?

      Interesting, in the end the stewards made some interpretations of the rules that favoured him. Not saying those were wrong though, neither that Gasly didn’t deserve penalty for punting Alonso off track.

    2. He was probably thinking, never actually believing that anyone would see thru his own logic. Until you pointed this out.

      He is definitely one of the lucky ones: J-M Balestre would have personally black flagged him for that recon lap / first lap escape route stunt he pulled at the last race.

  11. After Whiting died in 2019 how did Masi get appointed as the FIA’s F1 race director? Was there a vote? Were there other candidates? He seems less than competent for such an important position.

    1. Coventry Climax
      12th October 2021, 20:12

      You seem to have missed a recent article about just this. Anyone with a link, to point @greenflag to it?

      It appears he was the intended successor anyway, but was thrown to the lions too soon. As it turns out though, to my opinion, it would not have mattered when he was going to be thrown to the lions anyway, as he is of the type that words explanations to his decisions after they have been made, as opposed to ever admitting he makes mistakes.
      I would not shed any tears if Masi were to go, and that’s putting it politely.

      1. Thank you. I found Rencken’s fawning article about Masi (https://www.racefans.net/2021/09/15/exclusive-michael-masi-on-his-first-50-grands-prix-as-formula-1-race-director/). It seems he was chosen when Whiting unexpectedly died and everyone screamed “Whatever will we do now?” and immediately chose him, without bothering to find someone qualified and experienced in running a major international sport. Masi’s only experience was that he was a motorsport administrator in race and rally direction in Australia. No wonder he’s fumbling all over the place and F1’s having one cock-up after the other. He’s quite young. Is F1 stuck with him forever?

      2. I don’t get what is so difficult to understand! Masi is the race director, not a steward. He doesn’t decide the penalties, the stewards do. He can’t even overide the stewards decision as far as I am aware. He does though have to appear after a race and justify their decisions to the public. He can refer incidents to the stewards to look at. That is all. Why people continually blame him for stewarding decisions and penalties is beyond me.

        1. Of course he’s not a steward, they at least understand motor racing. Masi’s job involves managing the logistics of each race, parc fermé inspections before races, enforcing FIA rules, controlling the start lights, and red flag deployment. He was also responsible for the ridiculous Belgian GP race points fiasco.

    2. I still remember Charlie Whiting trying to explain the penalty’s first corner Mexico 2016 and the famous radio message from Vettel the same race. I don’t think you can blame Masi for a system that is apparently not working

      1. Coventry Climax
        13th October 2021, 0:23

        Then tell me why his decisions always ‘need’ explanations afterwards, instead of being self-explanatory right from the start. The normal way of things would be to make a decision based on facts, and when you get the facts wrong, which can happen in a sport like this, you set things right, instead of coming up with yet more explanations on why your decision was right after all.

        1. it’s not the person but the system. Same as the VAR in football only leads to more discussion afterwards instead of consistency.

          1. Coventry Climax
            13th October 2021, 16:07

            Football? What’s that? Sounds like an awful disease.

      2. @grapmg Exactly. This rose-tinted view of the Whiting era is false. Plus the Brit bias was maybe even worse before as your example tells of.

  12. Whether it’s a meaningful lap time or not surely should have no bearing whatsoever. Should it not be a question of whether or not a car has been driven dangerously through double waved yellows irrespective of the sporting outcome? Of course that in itself can be subjective. Perhaps the VSC would sort it.

  13. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    12th October 2021, 22:19

    Barking up the wrong tree:)

  14. I have an opinion
    12th October 2021, 22:53

    Masi is not a racing steward. He does not make stewarding decisions. He should not be allowed to comment on the stewarding process as his silly answers are infuriating. The stewards themselves should be accountable and accessible to the media. The selection of stewards should also be more transparent.

    1. Coventry Climax
      13th October 2021, 0:33

      During the races he is right up there with the stewards though. Who do the stewards have to account to then, if not to Masi? He either just plays the role of being chief of the gang, or he really is. In both cases he’s doing a bad job, either talking where he has no authority to talk, or talk nonsense anyway. He likes to come across as the guy who can set, or at least interpret, the rules. If so, he’s also in the position to make things more clear, transparent and consistent. Yet he only makes matters worse, time and again.

      1. Coventry Climax, the stewards do not report directly to Masi – the stewards officially report to the Clerk of the Course, rather than directly to the Race Director.

        However, the Clerk of the Course is required to work with the Race Director during the event and does require the assent of the Race Director to approve certain actions, so there is some indirect control there. In addition, as noted previously by Dieter, Masi has also been actively involved in training stewards.

        1. As far as I know, the Race Director is in contact with the Stewards.

          The Race Director is in charge of the running of the race and everything that is related to safety (for example suspending the race with the red flag, deploying a SC or VSC period, assisting the marshalls with bringing the retired cars to safety,…).

          The Race Director is also in contact with the Teams during the race.

          If an incident happens it is usually picked up quickly by Race Control and normally the Teams will also flag it to the Race Director whenever they feel disadvantaged. The Race Director needs to report every incident to the Stewards.

          From that point on, the Stewards are in charge of judging the incident and deciding about the penalty (or no further action). They can decide during the race, but they can also decide to investigate the incident after the race (for example if both cars have retired), in order to hear from the drivers themselves.

          1. Coventry Climax
            13th October 2021, 16:15

            And to all of the above:
            I said:
            “He either just plays the role of being chief of the gang, or he really is.”
            Meaning he clearly just plays the role.
            The point is, he shouldn’t be talking about these things at all, not play the role, yet the fact that he does weakens his as well as F1’s credibility.

        2. Coventry Climax
          13th October 2021, 23:01

          And the Clerk of the Course is directly subordinate to the Race Director.
          Normally, subordinate means the end responsability lies with the one higher in rank.
          Which is the Race Director.

  15. While disagreeing with the referee is of all sports, on this level of motorsport, this simply won’t do. FIA should realise this and the fact they don’t makes both (the race director and FIA) look hopeless inadequate to organise events like these. The only reason they survived at all seems because of their commercial partner Liberty. Maybe it is time to build a new association.

  16. You don’t seem to understand how F1 stewarding works, Coventry Climax.

    Masi does not make stewarding decisions, as pointed out above. He is race controller and safety delegate – he is not lead steward.
    The stewards can make whatever decision they feel is right, and there’s nothing Masi can do about it except answer all the stupid questions the media throw at him afterwards. The poor guy tries his best to explain why and how they came to their conclusion, not whether he personally believes it was right or wrong.

    You don’t like it, stop listening and stop reading articles about it. Just accept whatever decision you think was right or wrong. Like in football or some other sport, where justifications and explanations don’t exist.
    The FIA are just trying to be more transparent….

    1. Exactly my thoughts as well.

    2. 100% this!

    3. Coventry Climax
      13th October 2021, 16:25

      Oh, I think I do. I also think you should read my reply again. Masi is -again and again- playing the role of head of the stewards instead of sticking to his own role. If indeed just answering to the press, like you suggest, the only correct answer should be: It’s not my place to comment on this.

    4. Coventry Climax
      13th October 2021, 16:30

      “Formula 1 drivers intend to ask race director Michael Masi how Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris avoided penalties in recent decisions made by the stewards.”
      Apparently they too do not understand how the F1 stewarding works?

  17. They know exactly which drivers are going through a sector at what time, so why not simply delete the time if people go through a double yellow? Then there is no more incentive to push.

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