Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023

Alonso says F1 ‘shot itself in the foot’ after CCTV fault cancels practice session

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso said Formula 1 let fans down after a problem with a CCTV system meant first practice was abandoned after four minutes of running.

His Aston Martin team arrived at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve intending to test a series of upgrades it brought for its AMR23. However Alonso was only able to complete three laps in his car in the first session before it was red-flagged.

The session was initially halted when Pierre Gasly’s car came to a stop on the circuit due to a problem on its spare steering wheel, which had been fitted for the opening session as a test. However race control was unable to restart the session due to a fault which meant it was not receiving up-to-date CCTV pictures, and therefore could not monitor the 4.3 kilometre track to ensure the safety of drivers.

“It was a shame,” said Alonso. “I think it was not ideal for the teams, but mostly it was for the fans that came very early to the circuit, and we were not able to run in FP1.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
Gallery: Canadian Grand Prix practice in pictures
“From time to time it seems that we are shooting [ourselves] in our feet as a sport. These things are a little bit embarrassing.”

Alonso was able to cover 38 laps in second practice, which was extended to make up for some of the lost running in the first session. He lost further time as the session was red-flagged twice and heavy rain fell in the final 10 minutes. Alonso said the delays left Aston Martin without enough time to fully evaluate the changes to their car.

“We didn’t have time because FP1, unfortunately, the cameras or whatever on the circuit didn’t work and we didn’t have a Plan B, as all these times in this sport.”

However Lance Stroll played down the effect the disruption had on their preparations. “It’s the same for everyone,” he said.

“The car is feeling good,” he said. “I think we’re looking pretty good.”

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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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31 comments on “Alonso says F1 ‘shot itself in the foot’ after CCTV fault cancels practice session”

  1. And, as I have been saying ad nauseam, Neils “Bumper Lanes” Wittich, throws a red flags and SCs for absolutely anything. Instead of stopping everything for a car that should only take 30 seconds to push off, why not issue a VSC if you want to be overly cautious. There’s zero reason for a red flag anytime a car needs to be recovered. Until Bumper Lanes came along, this was never done.

    1. The FIA thought they were seeing the cars in real-time. It is only when this accident occurred, that they realized they weren’t. I’m guessing the feeds were stored and then relayed to the FIA. You can understand why they need to see the cars in real-time and not be delayed even by a few seconds. The red car was the only way to address this technical issue.

  2. throws red flags and SCs*

  3. Well said Alfonso. Yesterdays apparently “Over the top” reaction to a cctv fault seemed very much like an over reaction to the situation.
    However very well worth remembering that the current over cautious approach by the FIA & Race Directors. Are all the result of Jules Bianchi RIP, who passed away in Nice on the 17th July 2015, from injuries sustained in an on track accident in Japan nine months earlier.
    During the 2014 Japan Grand Prix, Jules Bianchi lost his life in a horrific crash. The French motor racing driver who drove for the Marussia F1 team, lost control of his car in very wet conditions and collided with a recovery vehicle. Reports suggested that he had suffered a diffuse axonal injury.
    He underwent emergency surgery and was placed into an induced coma, and remained comatose until his death on 17 July 2015.
    Bianchi was the first Formula One driver to die as a result of an F1 racing accident since Senna’s death in 1994.

    1. I’m not sure how cctv, which as far as I understood is camera-related stuff, relates to the bianchi crash.

      1. Fred Fedurch
        17th June 2023, 13:33

        Closed Circuit TeleVision. It’s right in the acronym.

    2. Is one eventually fatal accident in 30 years that took place in far more chaotic conditions and when the cars were a lot less safe justification for absolutely everything Bumper Lanes Wittich does? I don’t think so. I’d agree that they needed to reset how they dealt with heavy recovery vehicles in areas where a car could go off. But we’ve gotten to the point where this guy red flags races for a small amount of gravel and SCs for cars that have pulled off no matter how safely they’re placed.

      We’ve gone beyond prudent safety measures, to ignoring common sense. If a car has pulled off in the opposite direction of car momentum and is partly blocked by a barrier and it’s an extremely slow turn to boot, there’s zero excuse for a race stoppage. I hated when F1 used to allow marshals to be on the track itself (sometimes just a foot or two off the racing line) recovering cars with drivers who essentially didn’t slow for double yellows and they used to do even crazier things than that and got lucky it never resulted in disaster. That was one unacceptable extreme. Now we’ve come to an opposite extreme. An extreme where I face more danger racing my 1971 BMW 2002 with a top speed of 120 mph than F1 drivers face.

    3. Let’s not forget that the Suzuka race should have been moved to an earlier slot in the day due to an oncoming typhoon, the race shouldn’t have been in progress as the medical helicopter couldn’t fly due to weather, Bianchi was driving a bit too fast for the conditions, and honestly, they should have flagged the race a few laps before.

      I also feel that if F1 wasn’t so pathologically opposed to active suspension, a “rain mode” switch could have saved both Sutil and Bianchi from crashing.

      NONE of these issues applied to FP1. They have marshals around the entire track, all of whom have buttons that they can signal to race control with. All the cars have GPS trackers. If CCTV is the only way they know if a car has gone off, or had an accident, they’ve already got problems.

      1. grat – Indeed, not to mention, CCTV didn’t exist since F1’s beginning, so temporarily going without that footage should be doable.

        1. I wanted to say this too, but only expected I’d be blasted by this new gen of DTS fans who don’t know anything besides this bubble wrapped F1.

          I think fans and media need to start making an issue of how overly cautious F1 has become under Wittich. Masi was already bad, but Wittich is downright farcical. I feel like much of F1 media is afraid to bring up the topic as it’s very easy to vilify anyone who criticizes overly extreme safety measures as “out of touch.” I remember Brundle use to brutally criticize the the FIA/F1 for too many safety cars and not running in wet weather conditions that were perfectly drivable. Then all of sudden he stopped. Maybe it was because he didn’t want to endanger his son Alex’s F1 TV career as he seems to be being groomed to replace Martin when he retires. If this isn’t made an issue soon, it’ll become too ingrained to ever reverse.

      2. I also feel that if F1 wasn’t so pathologically opposed to active suspension, a “rain mode” switch could have saved both Sutil and Bianchi from crashing.

        Absolutely not true.
        Active suspension, if it had any effect at all, would most likely have made it all even worse – Bianchi, in particular, would quite possibly have been even more confident and driven even harder with such a system ‘protecting’ him from reality and its consequences.
        Remember, multiple other people were extremely lucky to walk away from this particular incident with only mental scars. There were literally only inches in it.

        F1 isn’t opposed to active suspension – it’s just that it simply is neither a sporting, nor a safety, enhancement. It detracts from part of the sporting element by replacing it with a technical/computerised/automatic element. It’s been done, it interfered too much and cost too much, and so it was removed. Hopefully forever, if they’ve got any sense at all.
        No need to fuss about it – loads of other stuff is deliberately left out of racing cars for the same sporting reasons.

        Besides – no magic ‘rain mode’ switch could have made the rain instantly stop or slowed the driver down in respect for the double waved yellow flags which he ignored.

        1. Like the FIA, you are incapable of differentiating between “mild” active suspension such as Magneride, and the tons-of-force Thou Shalt Be Absolutely level active suspension of the 1990’s.

          What said switch could have done is soften the suspension to make the car more compliant, and less likely to shoot off the track like an unguided missile in wet conditions.

          Magneride, btw, is a fairly uncomplicated system where the shocks are filled with ferro-fluid, and electromagnets can change the damping / rebound characteristics on the fly. It’s been on road cars for nearly two decades.

          1. Active suspension is active suspension.
            Exactly – as you say, this ‘tech’ is old hat and has been done and largely glossed over already in standard mass production. Why would F1 want this old, basic, slightly unpredictable tech? A simple, known, consistent, already highly refined and perfected damper is still a better means for producing a known result, and at much lower cost that works perfectly well for pretty much every motorsports series on the planet.
            Then there’s the reliability factor – imagine the consequences when that system fails at the wrong moment…. And inevitably it would, because everything does.

            And no, softening the damper (or any kind of adjustable spring) wouldn’t have prevented or substantially altered Bianchi’s crash. He made a major driving error that no suspension system – active or otherwise – would or could have overcome.

      3. CCTV isn’t just used to monitor an accident, but generally to monitor the track. If there were protestors on the track they would need to see this immediately, the same for debre on the track. The red flag was called because they only discovered there was a delay with the feeds when they were looking at this incident.

        I guess they will now check each track, eg someone walks the track with a walky-talky [or a mobile phone ?] and they review their feed for a real-time [ish] response.

        1. Fred Fedurch
          17th June 2023, 14:06

          If there were protestors on the track they would need to see this immediately, the same for debre on the track.

          Which is quicker? Flipping through screens or cameras (which are historically/notoriously poor quality) or some guy yelling in a walkie talkie as soon as he sees something?

          Don’t answer. It’s rhetorical.

        2. Again– There are dozens of marshals around the track, with hotlines back to race control.

  4. Indeed or more so race control.

  5. Electroball76
    17th June 2023, 8:15

    If only they had some laymen with walkie-talkies they could position around the track

  6. Rocket attacks are fine though

    1. Fred Fedurch
      17th June 2023, 14:08

      Crater in turn 7. Copy.

  7. Ah yes the much needed cctv which is so helpful. … like for when a car goes off. And everybody can see the car is safe on the tv feed… but not on cctv so they throw a red flag.

    1. The cctv system isn’t simply used to see when cars are off track, It’s used to monitor anything that could be a safety issue including things the TV cameras won’t be able to monitor and director won’t be looking for.

      The TV cameras move to follow the cars and the director is watching the action.

      The cctv cameras are static and positioned to cover every inch of the entire track not just to see when cars go off and when they are recovered but also to monitor things like if someone or something else has entered the circuit, Are all the marshals where they should be behind the barriers among other things. They are also used in accident investigation and any insurance situations that may come up.

      It’s a system thats been in place for 20+ years now and to my knowledge this was the first time there has ever been a fault with it and it’s certainly the first time a session has been impacted by it.

      I do however recall times where test sessions were halted by cctv issues back when testing was unrestricted.

      1. We seemed to do just fine before we had CCTV. Even without CCTV they have more views of the track than F1 directors have had at any point during the 2000s.

  8. Several sarcastic comments about the lack of CCTV – seemingly (deliberately?) oblivious to the fact that TV cameras can’t point at everything at all times, and that F1’s safety systems have evolved to rely on them not just for instant vision but also for safety reviews after the fact.
    This is the modern world we now live in, remember. For better or worse….

    1. You seem to vacillate between pointing out many of these changes are for the worse and criticizing people for not accepting it. You know reversing poor policies is possible and happens every day, right? It’s especially doable when it comes to organizations like F1, which can easily change how things are done and which often responds to widespread criticism (and, yes, often doesn’t too).

      Just like something could be done to address your spot on observation about too much tire data playing a large part in boring, predictable races, something could be done about this. Better to make noise and hope the issue picks up traction than take every change for the worse laying down.

    2. The problem reported was that the CCTV was working, but had a delay in it.

      Marshals. GPS trackers. Radio. Drivers. If F1 is SOLELY reliant on CCTV, it has a problem.

      1. They aren’t solely reliant on this system – but it is an extremely important part of the whole thing.
        They’ve also stopped and cancelled sessions due to lost GPS and comms in the past. What’s the difference this time?
        Is it worth injury or death? If they’d run the session and something happened, guess what the first question would be….

        They gave everyone an extra 30 minutes in P2 to make up for it, anyway. As if they needed it, given that they’d be far better off running straight into qualifying after a single short session.

  9. Another use for CCTV I noticed last week. The entire race?! All night, on an 8½ mile track?

    Corvette Racing utilized a spotter for the first time at Le Mans, in Andy Jaenen, a long-time spotter of Ben Keating. Jaenen had a seat in the team’s garage timing stand and spent the entire race flipping through the closed-circuit corner camera feeds to follow the GTE-Am class-winning No. 33 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R on track.

    fromSportscar365’s Le Mans post-race notebook

  10. Fred Fedurch
    17th June 2023, 13:40

    Never stop being Fred, Fernando.

    And if I was a marshal, I’d be asking myself why the hell I’m even there.

    1. And the funny part is that they’re the most commonly excited excuse for race stoppages. We must protect the marshals! And we should protect them, but having done marshal duty for the SCCA at the Long Beach GP (Indy Car) and club races, I can tell you they’re hard core race enthusiasts and rescue personnel who don’t want to be coddled. They usually have much bigger balls than the drivers and tend to have dangerous, adrenaline junky hobbies themselves.

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