FIA clarifies rule which caused Alonso penalty confusion in Jeddah

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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The FIA has issued a sporting directive to clarify what counts as “working on the car” when teams serve pit stop time penalties after confusion with Fernando Alonso in Jeddah.

The first two rounds of the Formula 1 season have both seen drivers handed penalties by the stewards due to their teams judged to have been “working on the car” while serving five-second time penalties during the penalty period.

Article 54.4(c) of the F1 sporting regulations states that when a car is serving a penalty it “may not be worked on until the car has been stationary for the duration of the penalty.”

Esteban Ocon was handed a ten second penalty in Bahrain after an Alpine team member touched his car while serving a penalty and Alonso was originally handed a ten second penalty after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after the rear jack touched his car while also serving a penalty, costing him his podium finish.

However, after Aston Martin exercised their right to review of the penalty and presenting seven separate instances of cars being touched by the rear jack while serving penalties without being penalised, the stewards cancelled Alonso’s penalty and restored his third place.

In light of the incident, the FIA has now issued a sporting directive to address the “lack of clarity in the wording” of the regulation and “conflicting precedents” that Alonso’s original penalty had revealed. From now on, all “physical touching” of cars or drivers “by hand, tools or equipment (including the front and rear jacks)” during the period of a penalty being served with now be considered as “work” on the car and in breach of the regulations.

The FIA has also confirmed that grid boxes will be widened by 20cm and a centre line added to assist drivers in finding their grid slot at the start of a race. Both Ocon and Alonso’s original penalties were due to being in an inaccurate starting position on the grid, a rule that has been reiterated for 2023.

Several drivers have complained that the current generation of F1 cars offer low visibility of grid markings which has been reduced in part due to the move to 18-inch wheels in 2022. The new widened grid slots will be trialled during this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, with the FIA gathering feedback from drivers following the race weekend.

The FIA also noted that “several other elements” of the sporting regulations are being reviewed with potential clarifications or redefining to avoid future confusion.

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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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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    8 comments on “FIA clarifies rule which caused Alonso penalty confusion in Jeddah”

    1. Everything about this is great. Let’s do more of stuff like this going forward.

    2. all “physical touching” of cars or drivers “by hand, tools or equipment (including the front and rear jacks)”

      Ouch! That means a rework of the pit box procedure for all the teams, a lot of practice by drivers of stopping exactly where they are needed without the aid of the front jack “braking”. It probably involves a slower approach to the box too.
      A sort of “be careful what you wish for” except it just one team(AM) poking the bear (stewards) and everyone got bitten.

      Maybe we need a sweepstake on the number of pit box overshoots that will occur.

      1. Nah, SteveP, that doesn’t count, as in that case, it’s the car that’s touching the jack, rather than the jack touching the car. Of course, if that stands, then the team will design clever suspension that brings the wheels to the handguns and automatically spins the wheels to undo the nuts, without the handgun needing to be moved… :)

    3. I find it funny that instead of simply changing the word “work” with “touch” they felt the need to say “all instances of physical touching the car is considered work, bla bla bla”

      1. RandomMallard
        31st March 2023, 10:23

        @fer-no65 I believe changing the “work” to “touch” would require a physical change in the sporting regulations, which would require a meeting of the F1 Commission and a vote and the teams’ approval to implement (and as it is mid-season, I think it requires the unanimous approval of the teams). By releasing this clarification, the FIA can avoid that whole process, because they are simply explaining how the regulations will be interpreted from now on.

    4. It was always interpreted this way. They just didn’t want to boot Alonso off the podium because he’s proving to be the only driver making this start to the season somewhat interesting. And fair play to Aston Martin for using that leverage, but the FIA is once again looking silly with their obsequious officials.

    5. Look out for the side jack, making its debut on Saturday in Melbourne, designed for optimal competitive servicing of a car during a penalty stop under a loophole in the new regulations.

      1. … or Indycar-style built-in jacks that are always touching the car…?

    Comments are closed.