Once again the part time Formula One race officials who are appointed by the FIA find themselves in bother. It appears they failed to follow the proper process when initiating the investigation into Fernando Alonso’s pit stop where he was forced to serve a 5 second penalty.
Fernando Alonso failed to start the race within the width of his grid box at the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP and was penalised with a 5 second penalty. Here the stewards were on point given they had awarded Esteban Ocon the same penalty at the previous race in Bahrain.
FIA officials under spotlight
However, from thereon it became a tale of incompetence and underhand behaviour which saw Fernando stripped of his P3 and then reinstated as the team protested.
Aston Martin’s jack man touched the car during the serving of the 5 second penalty, but the stewards failed to notice this otherwise they would have posted a notification of “investigation” on the official timing screens.
Toto Wolff inadvertently admitted, it was Mercedes who brought the matter to the attention of the race officials.
“We played the video up and down. It wasn’t entirely clear if there would be a penalty.”
Mercedes snitch on Aston Martin
Yet from lap 18 to the end of the race at lap 50, no investigation was instigated by the stewards into Fernando’s alleged misdemeanour.
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It was some 13 minutes after the chequered flag, the stewards posted on the timing screens they were investigating the Alonso pit stop for an infringement.
It was then another 12 minutes more before the initial decision was revealed that Alonso had been given a 10 second penalty which relegated him from P3 to P4.
F1 stewards rescind Alonso penalty
Of course it was in Mercedes interest to see Alonso penalised as both their drivers stood to potentially benefit.
But the plot thickens.
The penalty was rescinded following a successful Aston Martin appeal which demonstrated other examples from other races of jacks touching cars while they were serving a time penalty
The subsequent FIA statement explaining why the 10 second penalty ruling had been rescinded by the stewards makes for even further intrigue.
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“The request to the Stewards for review of the initial decision (Document 51) was made in the last lap of the race,” an FIA spokesperson said.
However, the stewards had not even issued a notification they were about to investigate the matter as Aston Martin reserved their right to appeal.
Clearly the Silverstone team were hedging their bets having discovered Mercedes treachery.
Eventually the stewards admitted, “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.”
FIA to review “car touching” rule
The FIA is now committed to reviewing the process by which this potential misdemeanour should be treated going forwards at the next Sporting Advisory Committee taking place on Thursday, 23 March.
They state, “A clarification will be issued ahead of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.”
This decision to be agreed is simple; is touching the car considered in breach of “working on the car” during a time penalty.
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It would be simpler for the stewards were this not deemed a penalty – given the amount of time it takes to examine the footage to clarify “a touch”.
Aston Martin denied for 32 laps
The result is still equitable as it is the same for all drivers and teams.
However, TJ13 has learned the investigation will examine the wider ramifications from the events in Saudi Arabia.
Firstly, because the matter was not instigated by the stewards, no official notification of an “investigation” was given to Aston Martin. Had they known a potential 10 second penalty was incoming they had 32 laps to ensure Alonso was clear by this margin from his closet competitor.
Let's hear it, team… 🗣
Ohhhhhh Fernando Alonso!#SaudiArabianGPpic.twitter.com/cAK2dWWxFo
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 21, 2023
Further, given Fernando tried to claim the fastest lap extra point by driving his quickest time on lap 50, clearly the Aston Martin had plenty of rubber left to push 10 seconds clear of George Russell behind him.
FIA consider banning “snitching” to F1 stewards
TJ13 also believes the FIA are considering banning teams from contacting race control with allegations of misdemeanours made by their competitors.
Referees in all sports make mistakes and have to own up to this after the final whistle sounds.
However, during ‘play’, the time required to considered appeals from teams about their opponents misdemeanours is an unnecessary distraction.
For Formula One in particular, this process already proved too cumbersome as the stewards are tasked with ensuring the podium places at the presentation are correct and not subject for later correction.
While the correct decision was made eventually in Abu Dhabi, this kind of elongated “investigation” merely served to put the FIA officials once again in the spotlight, when a good referee should rarely be seen.
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The man of the moment. 🏆
What a day for @alo_oficial. pic.twitter.com/JmoRk7cFwp
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 19, 2023
The Austrian is not doing MB any favours.
In other words stewards not doing their jobs right cannot have their errors pointed out to them by other teams. Just another proof the FIA is corrupt and needs replacing with a new Motorsport body.
Better read well. They can be pointed out after the race not during