until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Alonso handed hefty penalty for braking before Russell crash

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Fernando Alonso has been given a 20-second time penalty that halves his Australian Grand Prix points total for an "unusual manoeuvre" that contributed to George Russell's last-lap crash.

The stewards placed Aston Martin driver Alonso under investigation shortly after the race concluded, having been right in front of Russell when he lost control of his Mercedes at the Turn 6 right-hander and crashed out of seventh place.

The stewards "extensively reviewed the situation that occurred prior to the crash" as well as the incident in question.

Russell was following around half a second behind Alonso heading into the corner, where Alonso explained to the stewards that he "intended to approach Turn 6 differently" that lap by lifting earlier and carrying less speed through the corner for a better exit.

Russell told the stewards that Alonso's manoeuvre was "erratic" and it took him by surprise, with the resulting lower downforce at the apex of the corner causing him to lose control and crash.

The stewards said telemetry showed Alonso had lifted slightly more than 100m earlier than he had going into that corner during the rest of the race and he also "braked very slightly at a point that he did not usually brake" - though the stewards ruled Alonso's braking was so slight it wasn't the main reason for the car slowing down - and had downshifted at a point he hadn't elsewhere in the race. He then proceeded to upshift and accelerate towards Turn 6 then lifted before the corner.

Alonso said he'd planned to slow down earlier but had misjudged this and had to accelerate to get back to speed - a manoeuvre that created, in the words of the stewards, "an unusual closing speed between the cars".

Alonso was judged to have breached article 33.4 of the sporting regulations, which states: “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.”

The stewards said they had not considered Russell's crash when deciding Alonso's fate and admitted they did not have the data to decide whether Alonso's manoeuvre was intended to disturb Russell or was simply a different line to the one he'd previously taken into Turn 6.

"Should Alonso have the right to try a different approach to the corner? – yes. Should Alonso be responsible for dirty air, that ultimately caused the incident? – no," the stewards added.

"However, did he choose to do something, with whatever intent, that was
extraordinary, ie lifting, braking, downshifting and all the other elements of the
manoeuvre over 100m earlier than previously, and much greater than was needed to simply slow earlier for the corner? - yes by his own account of the incident he did, and in the opinion of the stewards by doing these things, he drove in a manner that was at very least “potentially dangerous” given the very high-speed nature of that point of the track."

The stewards went on to refer to the harsher penalty guidance that has made 10s the baseline penalty for 2024, as revealed by The Race.

There is also an "aggravating circumstance" consideration whereby the stewards can consider a drivethrough penalty.

As the stewards ruled Alonso's manoeuvre to be meet this threshold rather than being a "simple mistake", he was given a drivethrough penalty.

As the race was already complete and Alonso could not serve that, this was converted to a time penalty of 20 seconds and he drops from sixth to eighth place in the classification.

It promotes Alonso's Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll into sixth place and RB's Yuki Tsunoda into seventh.

Alonso said he was "disappointed" to have received the penalty and defended his actions.

"In the closing laps, George caught me quickly. I knew that he was coming, then he was in DRS range for five or six laps, so I was just doing qualifying laps to stay ahead," Alonso explained.

"I wanted to maximise my exit speed from Turn 6 to defend against him. That's what any racing driver would do, and I didn't feel it was dangerous.

"It's disappointing to get a penalty from the stewards for what was hard but fair racing.

"Still, I'm glad that George is OK. It was not nice to see his car in the middle of the track."

Team boss Mike Krack called it "surprising" but said "we have to accept the decision. This will not distract from a positive day".

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