Alpine on “harsh and unnecessary” grid box penalties

Spread the love

The first two rounds of the 2023 season saw a significant increase in a rather peculiar type of penalties. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were both penalised for misplacing their cars within the limits of the grid box assigned to them.

Ocon’s issue on the Bahrain round was penalised with a five seconds time penalty, then a 10 seconds one due to the fact that the first one had been served incorrectly.

The same situation happened in Jeddah as well, with the stewards deciding that Alonso’s AMR23 had been parked a little too much on the left of his gridbox, thus earning a five seconds time penalty.

After the race, the Spanish driver received an additional 10 seconds time penalty as the mechanics appeared to resume the work on his car too soon when he was seering the first penalty.

However, three hours after the race the verdict was overthrown due to Aston Martin being able to produce seven examples of the same situation not being punished, and Alonso had officially achieved his 100th Formula 1 podium.

Teams have started to question the decision taken by the FIA, and even more the time taken to communicate them to the teams, as Alonso’s second punishment came well after the race, when neither him nor his rivals could have tried to push more.

Alpine Sporting Director Alan Permane discussed the issues in the post race press conference:

“Ours was a fair cop, we were four-tenths too quick (in working on the car), so no argument from us at all on that,” he replied when asked on the fairness of the many penalties that have been issued, especially commenting on Ocon’s 10 seconds.

“What seems a little bit draconian, shall I say, is this new regulation of where the car has to stop on the grid box. No one is getting an advantage from being 10 centimetres over to one side or the other. I don’t quite really see why.”

The misplacement of the cars on the grid is made even easier by a number of factors, included the fact that there isn’t a fixed rule on the dimensions of the grid boxes and that drivers can’t actually see the painted lines from the car:

“And they (the FIA) are free to paint the grid boxes as wide as they want. There doesn’t seem to be a regulation for that. Also, in a car, the drivers can’t see those lines. They can see them as they come up, but as they get close to them they just disappear. So it feels harsh, and unnecessary to me.”

Permane also mentioned how his driver had especially focused on staying within the limits in Jeddah after having his first race ruined by a number of penalties, but that he really wasn’t able to detect them:

“Esteban, he said he’s been concentrating all week (after what happened in Bahrain), but he said he got to the grid and he had no idea where he was. He said you cannot see it (the line), you don’t know at all. So it’s a strange one for me,” he concluded.

Asked if he believes the more severe punishment after a badly served first penalty is instead appropriate, Alpine’s Sporting Director found himself agreeing with the FIA: “I think it’s fair.

“It’s what we all agreed, that if you don’t serve a five-second penalty, then you will get a 10-second penalty. That was agreed and it is consistent, but I’m sure the FIA will look at that and think to themselves they can do better. I don’t think there can be any argument with that.”

Another matter of concern for Permane was the delay in the announcement of Alonso’s second time penalty: “I’m amazed because that doesn’t let Fernando then try and push to mitigate the penalty, and it doesn’t let Lewis (Hamilton) try and push to take advantage of that penalty. It’s pretty poor.

“Maybe there should be a rule that penalties need to be declared within a certain number of laps or something.”

The FIA disclosed after Permane’s press conference the fact that they had thought the case to be closed until late in the race, when they had received a formal complaint from a rival team, understood to be Mercedes who could have benefitted from it.

The Sporting Advisory Committee, which constitutes members of the FIA and the sporting directors from all 10 teams, is due to meet today (March 23) in order to discuss the precedent created with the reinstatement of Alonso’s podium three hours after the race.