Fernando Alonso says he feels sorry for George Russell and Mercedes that they didn’t get to celebrate the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix podium they inherited from his penalty – but is also sure that he’d have still beaten Russell if he’d been told of the penalty by the FIA in time.
Alonso finished third on the road in Jeddah but Aston Martin almost immediately lost its second podium of the 2023 Formula 1 season when a 10-second penalty was applied because the team had begun work on the car at his pitstop before an earlier 5s penalty for not lining up correctly in his grid slot was fully served.
Although that pitstop happened on lap 19 of the 50-lap race, the stewards’ investigation of it was only announced after the chequered flag and the penalty was bestowed after Alonso had already participated in the podium ceremony.
Alonso had finished 5.1s ahead of Russell on the road. Asked by The Race whether he felt he could have pulled out a sufficient gap over the Mercedes if he’d known he had to protect against a penalty, Alonso replied simply: “Yes”.
He had earlier told Sky that it was a “poor show” by the FIA, and insisted that as he had been able to celebrate on the podium, he hadn’t lost anything that really mattered so sympathy should be directed elsewhere.
“I think today is not good for the fans,” Alonso continued.
“When you take 35 laps to apply a penalty and to inform about the penalty and you inform after the podium, there’s something really wrong in the system. But it’s the way it is.
“I feel sorry for the fans. But I really enjoyed the podium. I took the trophy, I had the pictures, I celebrated with the champagne.
“Now to have 15 points or 12 points it really doesn’t change much for me. But it is a bit sad for the FIA, yes.”
The podium would’ve been Alonso’s 100th in F1, but when asked by The Race if losing that milestone in such a way felt unfair, he again redirected the sympathy to another party.
“No, it’s not fair for George, because I guess the Mercedes sponsors would love to be on the podium,” he said.
“But for us it’s good, we have [Saudi-based title sponsor] Aramco, we have the picture and I think it’s not fair for George because if he really was third in the race he should enjoy the podium and not me.
“So I feel sorry for George, for Mercedes’ sponsors, for George’s fans. For me, I only took advantage of this race.
“If George really deserved the podium, it’s sad that he could not celebrate it. For me, I enjoyed it.”
Video footage suggested the rear jack made initial contact with Alonso’s car before the 5s penalty had elapsed, but Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack intimated that the team may try to appeal the penalty ruling.
“We need to look at the videos and what happened exactly,” he told Sky.
“This is something we are doing now and I can’t really say at the moment how this is going to go.
“The regulations say you may not work on the car. It’s maybe a little bit ambiguous but this is something that we need to look at.
“We have a clear procedure for it, we have a countdown and everything was actually fully safe. There was no advantage gained from it. Let’s see how this develops.”