Grid slot, Albert Park, 2023

Alonso unsure F1’s grid slot changes will help drivers avoid penalties

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso does not think new grid slot guidelines for this weekend will help drivers to avoid inaccurate start position penalties as he did in Jeddah.

The Aston Martin driver became the second person this year to earn a five-second time penalty for not being sufficiently inside in his grid slot at the start. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon earned an identical penalty during the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The FIA revised its rules regarding the grid boxes ahead of the start of the season. Drivers are now required to position their cars between the lines either side of their cars, as well as behind the line denoting their grid position.

However drivers have highlighted the difficulties in seeing the confines of their grid slot from their cockpits, particularly since F1 moved to 18-inch wheels at the start of last season.

“It is difficult,” said Alonso. “And apparently this year it seems even more, because in two races to have two penalties is a bit strange.

“In my case it didn’t change much from last year. It is difficult. We are very concentrated on the yellow line, to not go too far forward. So you approach the box, not looking at the box – you are looking on one side of the cockpit – so maybe that’s a bit of a distraction. But I made a mistake there, so we will try to be more focussed on the box this weekend and avoid any penalty.”

In response to the penalties, the grid slots at the Albert Park circuit have been modified for this weekend. Each position has been made 20cm wider and a guiding line has been added to the centre of the slot in an effort to help drivers gauge their position on the grid.

However, Alonso is unsure how helpful the new measures will be. “The centre line, I don’t think so. Because as I said, you approach the box looking sideways – you’re not looking forwards,” he said. “So that’s the biggest difficulty. But the 20 centimetres will help, I guess.”

However he pointed out the arrangement of the starting grid at some venues will pose additional challenges.

“There’s going to be some circuits – maybe Monaco or Imola – that you start a little bit sideways anyway, because if not you crash if you start just straight. So we have to see how we apply the penalties and things like that in those races. But no one wants to get the penalty for the start.

“Also I think the FIA doesn’t want to have any problem with that, because there is not a performance advantage as long as you don’t go too forward. So hopefully we avoid anything from now on.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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9 comments on “Alonso unsure F1’s grid slot changes will help drivers avoid penalties”

  1. Firstly, I think Fernando’s grid positioning in Jeddah was deliberate. Rosberg highlighted in Sky’s coverage that his start times are typically 0.2s slower than those around him and it was proven consistent again in Saudi. Alonso knew that by being as far left as possible then Perez couldn’t squeeze him. We all know Alonso in second place will do everything to get into turn 1 first as he admitted in Canada last year. His only chance at victory was to be first in the first corner.

    This leads to my second point – Alonso also knew the penalty was worth the crime. For most of 2021 he bemoaned the track limit rules and said he was ‘relearning’ what was acceptable. To my mind a five second penalty is a total waste of time. It’s worth breaching track limits for if it gains you a position or even breaks DRS and it’s an easy penalty to give for indecisive stewards like with Vettel in Canada.

    Furthermore, a 5s penalty under a VSC when running first is not the same as one when you’re 8th and end up in traffic and down to 14th in normal racing conditions – something on guaranteed SC tracks like Jeddah we should consider. I think Alonso did.

    1. Agreed. Alonso is no dummy, and has openly debated which penalties are worth taking. His even practised his line to cut T1 in, I think, Russia on the formation lap.

      These guys can drive at speed around Monaco. If they wanted to, they can position their car in the grid slot. And they do pretty much all the time.

    2. This should say “Rosberg notices Perez’ starts were .2 slower”

    3. @rbalonso Several people were visibly further out of position than Alonso in Jeddah 2022 but were not even investigated. That may also have been a factor.

  2. With grid boxes 20cm wider, staying inside should be easier.
    His point about Imola & Monaco is good, though, given the respective grids are slightly curved rather than wholly straight, so stopping slightly sideways is effectively unavoidable.

  3. Idk why they don’t just paint additional lines on the track to help drivers line up. It’s not like we want to test drivers skills at parking f1 cars.

  4. These are the best drivers in the world. They stop in a pit stop within centimetres of a set point from 80kph.

    If they wanted to park their cars in the right place they could.

    They’re either trying to avoid driving on the dirty side of the track or gain an advantage by not being directly behind the car in front.

    If they wanted a solution just make them drive down the right or left side of the track from the back of the grid in line with their relevant grid box.

    1. They manage that by having a lot more practise (at least a dozen stops over the weekend) than they get for the grid (one if they’re lucky, and likely not in the slot they end up racing from). Your proposed solution also has the same problems as the current situation.

    2. The pit stop comparison doesn’t really work. When you’re doing a pit stop, there’s an entire team of mechanics that the driver can see positioned in the exact spot the car needs to stop. On the grid, they can’t really see anything. They still nail it 99.9% of the time, but it’s much trickier than a pit stop.

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