Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2024

What were Alonso’s battery and throttle problems in the final stint of his race?

Formula 1

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Fernando Alonso said he had to cope with a problem in his Aston Martin’s power unit towards the end of the Australian Grand Prix.

Speaking before the stewards announced his penalty for his driving in the moments before George Russell crashed at turn six on the penultimate lap, Alonso said he had “some issues for the last 15 laps, something on the battery on the deployment”.

His radio messages during the race reveal more about what Alonso was referring to. Curiously, they also show he reported “problems on the throttle” immediately after Russell’s crash.

Whatever was going on, it seems Alonso did not blame these throttle problems for his deceleration as Russell approached him, which the stewards later described as “extraordinary” and cited as the reason for the post-race time penalty which dropped him two places to eighth.

Alonso’s radio from the end of the Australian Grand Prix

Alonso ran behind Russell at the start of the race but jumped ahead because he was able to pit during the first Virtual Safety Car period. That turned his deficit of nearly four seconds to Russell into an advantage of almost six.

But Russell’s pace was slightly better and he closed on Alonso over the remainder of the race. By lap 42 Alonso had made his final pit stop, which put Russell ahead.

That left Aston Martin wondering whether Russell would attempt to run to the end without pitting again or take a fresh set of tyres and attack Alonso from behind on fresher rubber. Mercedes chose the latter:

Lap: 42/58 ALO: 1’27.347
CroninTrack is all clear. Track is all clear. 17 laps to go. 17. Fernando HPP button off, HPP button off. And just the key management corners, but then good pace just in case Russell tries one stopping.
AlonsoRace situation?
CroninSo basically Russell’s our race. If he tries to one-stop he’s currently 18 seconds ahead. I’ll keep you updated on the gap.
Lap: 43/58 ALO: 1’21.724
AlonsoYeah. And other threats?
CroninThe car behind is Lance, 10 seconds back. Same strategy as us but older tyres.
AlonsoFirst set, what was the axle limitation on this compound?
CroninSo it was very balanced Fernando, good balance. We’ve added the 0.3% since that first stint.
Lap: 44/58 ALO: 1’21.394
AlonsoGap to Russell.
Cronin18 seconds still, 18. Last lap Russell same lap time as us.

Russell duly made his pit stop and emerged behind Alonso. While this was unfolding the Aston Martin driver was asking his team whether he had the maximum power available from his Mercedes motor.

He asked a series of questions about one setting which he was told is used for “fuel burn”. This setting allows teams to use up their fuel more quickly.

It is needed because teams cannot judge precisely how much fuel they will need at the start of a race. Changes in the weather and the circumstances of a driver’s race can make a significant difference to how much fuel they consume.

As the end of a race nears teams are better able to tell how much they need. If they have too much, and are therefore carrying extra weight, they can choose to burn it off in order to improve their car’s performance. This is often needed in races where they have to run at reduced speeds due to Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car periods, as happened in Melbourne.

With Russell gaining and the laps ticking down Alonso was understandably eager to ensure he had every last drop of power available:

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Lap: 45/58 ALO: 1’21.454
AlonsoWhy HPP is off?
CroninRussell has boxed. Should be ahead. Be ready to use energy. 2.8 seconds, three seconds ahead of Russell.
Lap: 46/58 ALO: 1’21.344
AlonsoWhy HPP is off?
CroninJust checking with the guys, stand by, just checking.
CroninGap to Russell is three. You can put HPP button on for three laps. We’ll see. HP button on.
Lap: 47/58 ALO: 1’21.183
AlonsoWell I will need it when he comes. So you tell me why it’s off?
CroninFernando the button is just for fuel burn, yeah? That button is just fuel b- it’s not ACS. So you’ve got all the energy, you’re good.
AlonsoI have a lot more de-rating than before. So my question is, if you want to save fuel, tell me. It’s very easy.
CroninNo, no we’re good Fernando, we’re good. All good. Just try and keep the pace up. We’ve got 11 laps to go at the end of this one.
CroninRussell two seconds back, 11 more laps.
Lap: 48/58 ALO: 1’21.347
AlonsoIs there any way to have more energy when he comes?
CroninNegative Fernando, we’ve got the most energy we can get. We’ll just come down the strat switch if we have to keep using the energy button. We’ve got the most energy we can get.
Fernando Alonso, George Russell, Albert Park, 2024
Alonso was concerned how quickly Russell was closing on him

With five laps to go Russell was within DRS range of Alonso. The Aston Martin driver’s radio became quieter as he focused on resisting the growing pressure from behind:

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Lap: 49/58 ALO: 1’21.122
CroninTen laps remaining.
CroninSo these tyres are good to the end Fernando so we don’t need to do the lift-and-coast.
Lap: 53/58 ALO: 1’20.867
CroninDRS for Russell, he’s just got it that time.
Lap: 54/58 ALO: 1’21.035
CroninEnergy if you need it.
CroninFour more laps, four more laps.
Lap: 55/58 ALO: 1’20.952
CroninThree more laps, three more laps.
Lap: 56/58 ALO: 1’20.752
CroninStrat 10, strat 10. It’s the right thing to do. Two more laps.

On lap 57, Alonso backed off over 100 metres earlier than he had previously done for turn six, and touched the brakes, then accelerated, then braked again for the corner. Russell closed suddenly, washed out wide in Alonso’s slipstream and spun into a barrier, his wrecked Mercedes bouncing back onto the circuit.

After Russell’s crash, Alonso reported some kind of problem with his car. It appears he did not make any mention of it before the incident at turn six. However the stewards’ verdict does not indicate Alonso referred to this problem as a contributory factor in why he slowed down.

As he toured around under Virtual Safety Car conditions, Alonso referred to pressing something with the “maximum of my strength” at one point. As his onboard camera was facing his rear wing at this time it is not possible to see whether this was something on his steering wheel or elsewhere. The team has not explained what he was pressing:

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2024
Alonso told Aston Martin to “check the throttle”

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CroninSo you are all clear behind now.
AlonsoThere are problems on the throttle.
CroninVirtual Safety Car, slow down. Get your delta positive.
CroninSo Russell has reported that he’s okay, Fernando, just for info. It’s Virtual Safety Car, just positive at Safety Car, you’re good on your delta. Nobody’s in the pits. So there’s one more lap to go, one more lap.
AlonsoCheck the throttle.
CroninYeah, we can see that, yep. Something’s failing.
AlonsoSomething is stuck.
AlonsoI’m pressing, yeah, maximum of my strength.
CroninIt’s a double yellow now, so go slow through here.
AlonsoWow. Is he okay?
CroninYeah he’s reported that he’s alright. He has come on the radio to say he’s okay. Russell is out of the car. If you can get it to the end, that’ll be mega. Got the chequered flag coming out now.

Despite the field circulating at reduced speeds under the Virtual Safety Car conditions, Alonso appeared concerned he might not be able to finish. His engine note stuttered at times:

Chequered flag
CroninCan I have MFB blue, MFB blue override. Position 12. MFB Blue override position 12.
AlonsoI don’t know if I will make it. We are not damaging the engine or something?
CroninJust checking. We’ve been told that you can get it back if you can. Just checking.
CroninSo we’re happy it’s not damaging anything, Fernando. Double yellows here, obviously.
CroninOkay mate well done. We’ll have to have a look at that, I’m not sure exactly what’s happened. You finished P6, Lance P7. Good job.

In their press release issued after Alonso’s penalty Aston Martin did not refer to any problems on his car or concerns he might not have been able to finish the race. Whatever was going on in his AMR24 may have had no connection to the Russell incident, but for now it remains unexplained.

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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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32 comments on “What were Alonso’s battery and throttle problems in the final stint of his race?”

  1. This is rather conniving from Alonso. Had he had an actual problem connected with his throttle, he would not have received the penalty. Simple as that.

    Rather, as soon as he realised Russell had gone off, and that he might get looked at by the stewards for the unsafe driving of having backed off the throttle c. 100m earlier than usual in the preceding corner, he came on the radio raising a difficulty in applying the throttle.

    For me this is the part that I don’t like – his driving leading up to the preceding corner was erratic, and was a significant contributor to Russell’s off (though you could say that Russell shares at least equal blame, for being less cautious, and we have seen this style of driving before not receiving a penalty). But to then come on the radio and spout this nonsense is just dishonest. Sorry, but it is.

    1. People might stab me for this but I honestly don’t think Alonso’s behaviour contributed to Russell’s off. From the onboard, Russell seems to be going full throttle until the very last instant when he slides off the road. I think he just spun off on his own, probably aided by the dirty air being so much closer. But he wasn’t under Alonso’s wing when Alonso backed off, he was far enough (for a F1 driver) at that point.

      I think he just smelled blood, maybe a problem with Alonso, an engine stutter or something and over did it. He wouldn’t have known at that point that whatever slowed Alonso down was intentional. If it was a brake test, he’d have corrected with the steering or inmediately brake. But he didn’t, he was going straight into him with his foot hard on the throttle.

      1. Same feelings here. Alonso’s telemetry on that section does not seem neither ‘erratic’ (it fits the profile of a slower car, not a driver doing random things) nor ‘dangerous’ (Russell did not have to react to anything unexpected until he spun because of the dirty air). To call it a ‘brake test’ you need to also check Russell’s telemetry to have the whole picture.

        Alonso knew that, after what happened to Russell, he might be blamed for his crash because of his tatics: slow him down to better defend the position in the next straight, make Russell react and change his initial optimal approach for the overtake. That’s why he made up that throttle problem. He caught himself red-handed. Being honest would have help him better: just tried something different within the limits of racing, check Russell’s telemetry to confirm.

        1. What a nonsense. The telemetry was all over the media. Everyone can see, he jumped on the brakes, downshifted, upshifted and accelerated again, on his way into the corner. This is erratic driving at its best.

          1. unless you know the balance of his car you really cant comment on his shifting pattern, also chances are you drive an automatic with almost no real engine braking.

          2. There are like 50+ other laps, you can compare his telemetry with. Also he jumped on the brake much too early, then again went on the accelerator, before the corner. You dont even need to look at his shifting pattern, if you think the down-up-down-down-down makes sense, approaching a corner.
            There is no other explanation, apart from the obvious.

          3. I am sorry I did not convey the idea with words. Let me try with an image:

          4. He went back on the accelerator to run a constant velocity before corner entry, this effectively balances the car and allows him to take the corner at a reduced velocity (slow in, fast out).

            The reason why he was at constant velocity at corner entry was to have the most optimal balance and gave his tires the best possible fit/response for corner entry.

            Slow in, does not mean approaching a corner at a decreasing velocity, it means corner entry at a lower speed. His shifting and method are consistent with attempting to yield as little change of balance as possible through the beginning of the turn in order to get a much faster exit.

            If you look at his trace he bottoms out much slower than any other exists, yet he is able to approach his time/velocity points, like any other lap, because his acceleration was that much greater.

            This is simple physics. Shifting off, or differently has a net effect on the impulses to the tires, which affects the traction, as well as how much power is being delivered to the rear, as well as affecting the degree to which engine breaking affects the balance of the car, in to the apex.

    2. Welcome to Mind Reading 101

    3. The stewards would not have forgiven Alonso if they deemed the throttle and brake problems were insufficient to explain the situation. While something like that would typically be mentioned, it may not have been if it was a sufficiently minor element of the eventual justification (e.g. if it was decided to go with an approach suggesting that driving would have been OK even with a fully intact car, the issues would have been given less or zero weight).

  2. If the post crash conversation was a ploy, bully for the team playing along.
    “Cronin Yeah, we can see that, yep. Something’s failing.”

    1. An Alonso team playing along after an accident… Heard that somewhere before….

  3. Deliberate or not, this whole controversy doesn’t help his chances to join Mercedes and Russell.

    1. My first thought

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      27th March 2024, 18:46


      Well Russell is at Mercedes and I would actually say what he did to Bottas who was in a Mercedes was a fair bit more dangerous. It isn’t like the teams focus on a one off occurrence for the driver they select.

    3. If they need him, they’ll hire him. I think what happened in 2007 (which still irks them) is worse than this

      1. @fer-no65 That said, Alonso is also the driver Mercedes (the engine supplier, not the chassis part of the team) blamed for the 2007 situation. It’s not clear he ever got forgiven.

    4. hes not that stupid. lolz.

    5. Nothing could be further from the truth. Did you hear Toto Wolff pouting after the incident? No, because he knows what Alonso did is not that unusual.

      He only said he thought Fernando braked earlier than on the other laps This after Russell‘s car was virtually demolished. He usually would’ve have been incensed but he won’t shut the door because Alonso will be his first choice if Max doesn’t come over.

      He also knows it was more Russell‘s fault and he has seen it before. If anything, I think Russell should be concerned. Russell is not going to be a great driver. He simply doesn’t know when to back off..
      If Mercedes makes Alonso an offer, which they will do if they don’t get Max, the decision will be his.

      I think it would be Alonso who does not want to take a chance with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Horner offers him a seat which he would prefer.

  4. This certainly shows the mindset of today’s F1 drivers where as it is they have more than enough technology assistance in driving their cars. It would be better to put in robots in the car and make them drive as if you do not have the skill to drive, you should not, there is absolutely nothing wrong in what Alonso did and racing drivers need to learn to drive using their driving skills, it was not brake testing, just a drop in throttle, if you cannot manage that as a racing driver, then you should stop racing.

    1. it was not brake testing, just a drop in throttle

      And braking, and downshifting, all where one would not normally do so or be expected to.

      1. Exactly. That down shifting was done to slow the car, he used that instead of the brakes, knowing his use of the brakes would be clearly seen in the telemetry. This tells me this was premeditated as a ploy to try and fool any later data analysis.

        When Hamilton accused Alonso of brake checking him in the previous race, no one heard him. Maybe someone should revisit that data. It seems to me this dangerous manoeuvre was a ploy by Alonso to unsettle the airflow of the car behind.

        This might be ok on the straights, but is very dangerous on those high speed corners where the car is reliant on its ground-effect downforce to keep it planted.

    2. Many chefs can tell you tomatoes are fruits but can be used largely like vegetables.

      A good chef can tell you that if you want to combine the taste of tomatoes with coffee in the same dish, one had better know what one is doing.

      A great chef will know that even if one knows how to combine the taste of tomatoes with coffee in the same dish, that it should not be tried if the resulting flavour would not be to the stewards’ liking – even if everyone at home thinks it is fantastic in the specific dish the chef is cooking.

      F1 expects greatness, not just being good.

  5. On that point, I think TBF to the team they would have seen from the telemetry that his throttle application on the straight was not constant – so at that point, and in the moment, his engineer would be seeing information which appeared to confirm what Alonso was telling him.

  6. The important thing about all of this is that, with Max and Lewis gone, it was up to Alonso to provide the entertainment, and he wasn’t found wanting. The younger ones should have a think as to why he’s still one of F1’s dynamos.

    1. Bring back Piquet Jr. to add a bit of “entertainment” as get Fernando a win finally

      1. I don’t mean entertainment for its own sake. Many of the drivers qualify and then cruise around. Alonso was at least trying to race, and if you look at Russell’s onboard for the laps preceding the crash, he really should have expected Alonso to try to slow him down at every corner. I don’t like brake testing, but given the lack of evidence as stated in the report, he had refrained from crossing the line here.

  7. This attempt at a coverup by Alonso is what really drives home that Alonso knew that he went too far.

  8. A shameful and clumsy maneuver and cringe coverup antics by Fernando. Not exactly what you would expect from a racer with his experience. Mistakes can happen to anyone, its how you deal with them, that makes the difference.

  9. Obviously, he knew what he did, and tried to cover it up with an excuse. Penalty was correct, can we all move on…

  10. Alonso was doing his normal racecraft that dances on the line of being legal. If Russell hadn’t ‘pulled a singapore’ and binned it, the stewards wouldn’t have investigated. This speaks more to Russell cracking under pressure than erratic driving.

    1. Yeah, the same way they ignored Hamilton when said Alonso was brake testing him in the previous race.

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