A close call between Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg went largely unnoticed during the chaotic early period in Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix sprint – but ended up translating into a stewards’ warning to Alonso.
The two-time F1 champion was among those drivers swapping from the start-mandated wets to intermediates after the opening lap of green-flag running – as opposed to those who had got the change out of the way right as the rolling start was being carried out.
Haas driver Hulkenberg was among those in the latter group, and was coming out of La Source just as Alonso was exiting the pits.
With the pit exit on the right side of the track and the racing line on the left, Alonso came out and gradually shifted his Aston Martin to the left side, squeezing Hulkenberg in the process.
Hulkenberg subsequently overtook Alonso around the outside of Les Combes, before the Spaniard then spun his AMR23 on the gravel at Pouhon and got it beached in the barriers.
“He enjoyed my turbulence,” snarked Hulkenberg in the aftermath.
“He pushed me off pretty aggressively at Turn 2, and I think karma hit back at him.”
Both drivers saw the stewards after their respective media appearances, and Alonso was indeed deemed in the wrong – but only in so far as to yield a warning.
This, effectively, is only intended as a deterrent against a future repeat, as unlike reprimands multiple warnings do not automatically translate to grid penalties.
“Alonso was exiting the pits and moved over to the left, causing car 27 [Hulkenberg] to have to take action to avoid a collision,” read the stewards’ verdict.
“Alonso explained that he had no visibility to the rear at the time, and that he had driven on the far left of the track at that location on every lap in order to maximise his forward visibility.
“While the stewards accept these facts, the move from the right to the left in this case, while [Alonso was] slower than the cars that had remained on track, caused the potential for a collision.
“Considering the conditions in mitigation, the stewards issue a warning.”
Though the stewards also described Alonso as having breached the ‘change of direction’ rule in their wording, he did maintain a steady course from one side of the track to the other – this differing from the normal applications of said rule.
Alonso said he “had everything to lose either way” even if he had stopped for inters earlier, as he would’ve had to double-stack behind team-mate Lance Stroll.
“Just a bad day in general. No qualifying lap in SQ2 [the second sprint qualifying segment] with the red flag, now we were well out of the points, only first eight score points so it was worth risking but we’ll see tomorrow if we can take some points.”
Alonso is due to line up ninth on the grid on Sunday, while Hulkenberg will be 20th, his Friday qualifying ruined by a hydraulic issue.