Grid rule Alonso broke is necessary despite “painful” penalty – Verstappen

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen sympathised with Fernando Alonso after he was penalised for lining up incorrectly at the start of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

However the Red Bull driver said the rule Alonso broke, which was revised before the start of the new season, is necessary.

Alonso failed to line up correctly within his grid position at the start of the race. The stewards noted “the contact patch of the car’s left front tyre was outside of the starting box.”

A change to the rules on starting positions during the off-season states drivers must position their cars between the lines on either side of their grid markings. Esteban Ocon was caught out by the revised rule in Bahrain and given the same five-second time penalty as Alonso.

Verstappen agreed it was a tough call for the Aston Martin driver, but said the rule has to be enforced to prevent drivers lining their cars up far out of position.

“I haven’t seen how much he was out of his box,” said Verstappen. “It is painful when it happens, but it’s a bit the same with with the white line with track limits. Sometimes you argue did you gain anything in going wide or not, going outside of it.

“I think at one point we do need a rule. It looks really silly if people start to take advantage of going really left and right.”

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He said the rule is tough to follow because the cockpit dimensions of Formula 1 cars make it difficult to position them accurately. “I don’t know what we can do better,” Verstappen admitted. “The visibility is just really poor in the car that is I think probably the main issue why you end up sometimes not fully correctly in your box.”

Race start, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
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Alonso’s woes multiplied when the stewards decided he had not served his penalty correctly and gave him a further 10-second sanction. That cost him third place to George Russell, who believes Alonso was treated too harshly by the stewards.

“I understand why these rules are there,” he said. “At the end of the day we’ve got to stick within the guidelines.

“But I think a little bit of common sense needs to be shown. Ultimately I think it was a bit to the left. Was that right? He gained nothing from this, perhaps five seconds was too much.

“Then with regards to his pit stop, again, I don’t know what happened and why he received a further penalty exactly. But a 10 seconds is too extreme in that case, again. So I’m not too sure, it’s just making a little bit I guess frustrating for everybody.”

Russell said it is “incredibly difficult” for drivers to position their cars correctly within their grid boxes.

“We’re sat so low,” he explained. “To put some perspective, we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre, so you can’t actually see the ground itself.

“We’ve got these big, long yellow lines pointing out, I can’t even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines. Determining your lateral position is really, really tough. So that’s why I think in this regard, we need to show a little bit more common sense.”

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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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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19 comments on “Grid rule Alonso broke is necessary despite “painful” penalty – Verstappen”

  1. If only there was person* with a flag or sign next to every pit box so they could use the pole as guidance..

    *visually pleasing example of course…

    1. pit box = grid slot

  2. Keith is funny
    FIA had 1 hour yo inform about the second penalty but they wait till the end?
    And Keith writes this post?
    Come on!

  3. RandomMallard
    19th March 2023, 21:35

    I’ll be honest, I don’t think this is really the problem, and most people can accept that Alonso was clearly outside the box, and so should be penalised. I think most people, myself included, are far more annoyed at the second penalty. Again, not at the penalty itself, because Aston committed the offence and it was consistent with what Ocon received last week, but the fact that it took 30 laps for the FIA to do anything and that by that point it was too late for Alonso to do anything to mitigate the penalty.

    1. Yep, and would say Mercedes was right and really clever to look at their own interest and not to report until it was too late for Alonso to try and mitigate (assuming this happened as never saw any sign on live coverage that this is being investigated). But had Aston known this is being investigated and potentially penalised with 10 sec, I’d think Alonso had the pace to build a gap of over 10 sec

    2. No. The penalty wasn’t necessary. They need to use discretion in all of these types of cases. As Coulthard said, Alonso only disadvantaged himself by being even further into the dirty line. Yes, we can’t have people being two feet outside their box, but come on. Ocon didn’t merit a penalty either. This is nanny state stuff.

      How bad has it gotten? A full safety car was thrown for a situation which didn’t even merit a yellow flag. That’s just embarrassing.

      1. Exactly Nick. I really don’t see what the reason for giving a penalty in this case is. Sure, I get the idea “make it easy to decide, just give a penalty anyime a car is x cm outside of XY box”, but really giving a penalty should only be in case there is a clear case for advantage being gained that way.

        1. Exactly. Whiting would have issued penalties for any of this. He had common sense. If it didn’t impart an advantage or safety (like an unsafe release), it almost never got a penalty. They need to hire an experienced director from another series who is not going to be intimidated by media headlines or whining team principals.

          1. Wouldn’t have*

            Safety risk*

  4. too late for Alonso to do anything to mitigate the penalty.

    There was clearly a forewarning as other teams were expecting a possible penalty, although I think they were generally expecting 5 seconds, AM did get him to up the pace and that’s why the gap back to GHl pulled out to a tad over 5 seconds. Unfortunately for Alonso the penalty was 10 seconds and he only missed out being behind LH by 3 tenths.

    It happened to Ocon last time, with 10 second penalty, so I’m not sure why others thought it would be 5 seconds for Alonso

    1. Bit of a joke on stewarding now cause since it’s been cancelled again, but my point was had they known it’s being investigated in a timely manner i.e. after the pitstop, he still had 30 laps or so at the time to build a bigger gap. He’s only been told to build a gap of over 5s like 2 laps before finish when it was obviously impossible to go over 10

    2. Steve, see my comment and caveats below regarding Alonso which I think is slightly different to Ocon. You are supposed to serve the penalty at the next pit stop. Ocon made a pit stop but failed to serve the penalty correctly in that stop, and hence was penalised for that. Alonso sat for five seconds in a SC period when time penalties cannot be served, so Alonso should have been penalised for not serving the penalty during the race, as opposed to serving it incorrectly. Apologies if this has already been discussed and dismissed on a different thread.

      1. Regulations specifically allow to serve penalties during VSC / SC though and there’s precedent of teams doing exactly this, article 38.3

        “In both of the above cases the driver concerned must carry out the penalty the next time he enters the pit lane and, for the avoidance of doubt, this includes any stop the driver makes whilst a VSC or safety car procedure is in use. ”

        Both cases (feel free to fact check fia regulations) refer to 5 and 10 seconds penalties

        Additionally they handed the penalty way too late, article 16.3 states:

        “Any decision or communication concerning a particular Competitor should be given to him within twenty-five minutes of such decision, and receipt must be acknowledged. “

    3. Mercedes seemed to have a forewarning, I guess it was them who pushed the FIA to revisit this issue. AM only reacted to hearing the radio calls between Mercedes and Russel

  5. Yeah it is really difficult. That’s why it’s in impossible for F1 cars to stop on a dime during the pit stops…

  6. I’ve just watched the race and I haven’t read the stewards reports or anything, so apologies if I am way off mark. I have this vague idea from previous seasons that you cannot serve time penalties under the safety car. I presumed that this was why Alonso’s first stoppage of five seconds was irrelevant. That just counted as a very slow stop under safety car. I didn’t think he could be penalised at that point for serving the penalty incorrectly since he hadn’t actually served a penalty at all. As to why the stewards waited for an hour to issue the ten second penalty, well if Alonso had made another pit stop which wasn’t under safety car, then he could have correctly served his five second penalty at that second stop. No-one expected him to stop again, but you still have to give him the benefit of the doubt. As he didn’t make another pit stop, it was until he finished the final lap that they could announce he had failed to serve the penalty in the race so it needed to be added to his time at the end. I thought that the rule in this situation was that the penalty was added to his time at the end of the race, so why it was 10 seconds instead of five puzzled me.

    As I said, that is from my memory of rules in the past. The rules change so much that I’ve probably missed an amendment which says it doesn’t count if you have your fingers crossed or something.

  7. Correct

  8. Ideally the FIA also makes the grid slots a bit wider to give the drivers a bit more margin when placing their car on the starting grid. If they make the grid slot 10cm wider than anyone still too much to left/right really made their own error and should get penalized.

    In the end the grid slot is as clear defined as the track limits and therefore luckily there should be no debate if it is a penalty or not.

    The FIA should also clarify to the teams, drivers and the fans the rules regarding serving time penalties during a VSC, SC and Red Flag.

    To my knowledge penalties may be served during a safety car and to be fair it makes little difference and could sometimes be more painful. Effectively, ignoring safety car effect, Alonso would lose 5 seconds when serving the penalty regardless if served with/without safety car. In either way Russell would not have overtaken Alonso as his gap was already near 8 seconds.

    1. Agree, it makes 0 difference if served under safety car or not, either way it adds exactly 5 seconds to the overall race time.

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