Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

FIA to review rule which led to Alonso penalty controversy this week

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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The FIA will act immediately to amend an inconsistency in its rules which led to Fernando Alonso temporarily losing third place in yesterday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Aston Martin driver was demoted to fourth place shortly after taking the chequered flag in Jeddah. But several hours later the FIA stewards announced his penalty had been overturned and Alonso’s 100th podium finish was restored.

He was originally penalised 10 seconds after the stewards ruled Aston Martin had failed to serve another penalty correctly earlier in the race. They decided that by touching Alonso’s car with a jack while he was serving a five-second time penalty, his Aston Martin team had broken the rule forbidding them from working on his car while the sanction was being observed.

The stewards noted they “stated that what was agreed at the [Sporting Advisory Committee] meetings with the teams was that no part of the car could be touched while a penalty was being served as this would constitute working on the car.”

However Aston Martin successfully petitioned the FIA to reinstate Alonso to third place after pointing out other teams had acted the same way while serving past penalties. “Having reviewed the new evidence, we concluded that there was no clear agreement, as was suggested to the stewards previously, that could be relied upon to determine that parties had agreed that a jack touching a car would amount to working on the car,” the stewards agreed.

The conflict between the two interpretations of the rules is now set to be addressed before the next round of the world championship in Australia.

“The subsequent decision of the stewards to hear and grant the Right of Review by the competitor was the result of new evidence regarding the definition of ‘working on the car’, for which there were conflicting precedents, and this has been exposed by this specific circumstance,” said an FIA spokesperson.

“This topic will therefore be addressed at the next Sporting Advisory Committee taking place on Thursday, 23rd March, and a clarification will be issued ahead of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. This open approach to the review and improvement of its processes is part of the FIA’s ongoing mission to regulate the sport in a fair and transparent way.”

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    27 comments on “FIA to review rule which led to Alonso penalty controversy this week”

    1. Yes, it makes sense to clarify the rule before this sort of thing happens again. But how were the different members of the SAC allowed to leave the meeting with differing interpretations of what was agreed? That suggests a process that is not very robust.

      1. Yeah, this is very clearly something that should have been cleared, put on paper and signed off between everyone before they started using it to penalize anyone @red-andy. And I agree it show how badly organised the FIA seems to be that they “thought” it was agreed when it clearly was not so much.

      2. @red-andy I’m thinking if there has been similar occasions did they get the penalty or not. Because FIA thinks it is illegal to touch even with the jack there must be at least one occasion where penalty was applied or it hasn’t happened (highly unlikely) and it has only been in the books.

    2. And why was the penalty given 30 laps after the event ?

      1. Because Toto was waiting till the end to point it at FIA.

        Either way, the rule must be changed and the pitstop personel must be clear at least 1 meter from the car when they serve a penalty.

        1. Good luck enforcing that they are not 95 centimeters away from the car instead of 1 meter.

          1. Well. you have cameras above every pit, you could put a tape on the road behind which the personnel would need to stand. And then via video footage, you could give a penalty or not. F1 VAR needs to have cameras with zoom in function, so that should work :)

            Anyway, I think it really is probably the jack thingy only, just clarify and get on with it.
            But there needs to be I think a rule set, that a penalty needs to be given to a driver no later than 5 laps after the event had happened. But then again, what if there was again unclarity like in Alonso’s case and what if he had done another pitstop? You would probably not deduct 10 seconds of his race time after the race was finished..


          2. That’s easy you draw a line in the pit lane and all your team have to be behind that line until the time expires for the penalty. If you cross that line and don’t serve the penalty correctly you apply a 10s stop and go penalty. That 5 s time penalty is far too lenient anyway so losing a extra few seconds is fine. This is a very simple problem to solve.

        2. Because Toto was waiting till the end to point it at FIA.

          Most places it’s traditional to blame the guy that left most recently – so it must be Binnotto’s fault.

        3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          20th March 2023, 14:34

          @bluechris setting a distance of 1 meter would make it even harder as they would need some kind of line around the vehicles and then folks would say “well, does the tire have to be behind the line? What about the cables for the guns???”

          It’d be like the offside in soccer with VAR checking everyone’s noses to see if they crossed the line ;-) Wait, the 3rd mechanic blinked there and one his eyelashes (Martin Scorcese length) crossed the line. Penalty!

          But I agree, it should be clearer and unambiguous.

        4. Because Toto was waiting till the end to point it at FIA.

          😒 This whole “blame Mercedes for everything” schtick is getting really old now…

          But even if it was Mercedes and they did wait, surely that would just be cleverly playing the game? And they would have no game to play if the stewards had done their job properly in the first place.

    3. Once (20 years ago or so), the penalty had to be handed out within 25 minutes of the infringement otherwise it had to be dropped. I don’t know when or why that changed but that rule would have prevented the farce we witnessed yesterday.

      1. Electroball76
        20th March 2023, 10:44

        The lawyers want to charge for at least one hour of their time!

      2. Teams must be informed within 25 minutes of the decision, not the infringement.

    4. Simple(ish) solution. Nobody except the lollipop man/woman can leave the garage for the five seconds?

      1. Except then it’s no longer a five second penalty is it?

        1. Make it a three second penalty then! Looking at how fast these guys go, that should work out at 5 seconds before working on the car. Anyway, the important thing is to keep personnel away from the car until the penalty period has elapsed, so we don’t have these dubious calls to make.

          1. Okay, how about simply saying nothing touches the car for five seconds? Is that so difficult?

    5. WHY rip off the driver, if the mechanic is an idiot???? Rather hit the team with a hefty fine($100 000+) and make it count towards the budget cap. I can guarantee you, that mechanic will get his marching papers before the FIA can issue the penalty.

    6. F1 needlessly complicating things again. It’s not a common law court, no matter how many Englismen are involved. If the rules were badly enforced before, that’s not a reason to keep doing so.

      Aston Martin definitely saved time by working on the car during the penalty timer, and the penalty was the good decision. The only thing wrong was that Wittich and his FIA stewards were apparently incapable of watching it at the time. Bad officiating once again.

    7. They should also review the error that caused a hasty SC deployment for something more than perfectly manageable under VSC or even yellows.
      I’m surprised they seemingly didn’t learn from the Suzuka error with Gasly, which was also about somehow losing track of where all cars are despite the modern technology available.

    8. Make it less complicated by defining work as when the car begins to move from jacking, the wheel nuts taken off, etc. Let them get in place if they want with their guns up against the nuts, the jack touching the car, etc. It’s idiotic to penalize someone for accidentally brushing the car with their hand or the jack resting up against the jack point instead of a mm away. Also, they should just add the time of the original penalty at the end instead of the original penalty + 10 seconds to boot in the event they touch it accidentally or .1 too early, which gains no advantage.

      That way the spirit of the law will be made enforced rather than minor technicalities. But I 100% guarantee they’ll define it as no contact of any kind with the car be made.

    9. Why did it take so long for the decision? There was less than 10 seconds of video to review.

      1. Politics and big team influence

      2. Incompetence. It’s clear from the comments on here that this was noticeable even from just the TV feed. This means one of the following:
        a) The stewards and ROC didn’t even bother to look
        b) They saw it and didn’t think it was against the rules initially, but way later changed their minds.

        Either way it’s completely unacceptable and shows the officials to be woefully incompetent… But what else is new?

        1. It was option 2. If you read the relevant FIA decision documents, the ROC said the pitstop was okay initially, and on the last lap were given information by race control which prompted them to review the pitstop and decide to give a penalty.

          There is no doubt one of the other teams supplied the information during the race because the officials had considered it okay.

          1. Then it’s still incompetence and ignorance.

            Tbh, I wish they’d stop teams from being able to protest during the races. Leave enforcement of the sporting rules to the officials. Barring technical disqualifications, nail down the result at the end of the race.

            I would allow protests outside the race, which should be able to be escalated to a neutral 3rd party. If the officials are found not to have correctly applied the rules, the FIA should:
            1) discipline and/or give training to the officials involved as appropriate
            2) apply non-retrospective penalties to a team and/or driver who broke the rules (e.g. fines, grid penalties for the next race, points deductions in one or both championships)
            3) allow any team negatively affected by the official’s mistake to seek financial redress from the FIA

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