Australian GP | Alonso: FIA was “quite harsh” to penalise Sainz for contact at the restart

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Fernando Alonso believes the five-second penalty that was handed to his fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz for their collision at the third standing start of the Australian GP and dropped the Ferrari out of the points was too heavy. He also reflected on the “craziest race” he had in Melbourne in his entire career.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team

Fernando Alonso had a “rollercoaster” of a 2023 Australian GP, according to his own words, after picking up his third consecutive podium finish in three races in an incident-packed race at Melbourne, in which he fought at the very front of the grid for the majority of it, battling with his former McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton for second place.

But the late safety car and subsequent red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s crash meant that a final two-laps sprint to the chequered would take place, with the third standing start of the day after an earlier red flag for Alex Albon’s heavy shunt at the exit of turn six.

Alonso settled behind Hamilton and Verstappen as the pack reached the first corner on the late restart, but a lock-up for Carlos Sainz meant the Ferrari went straight into the back of the Aston Martin, spinning it around into the barriers, but no damage was done.

As not all of the cars had reached the control line before the final red flag was thrown due to the incident between the two Alpine cars, the race would restart and finish with the order of the starting grid at the restart, minus the cars that retired – meaning Alonso would maintain his podium finish, but that didn’t prevent Carlos Sainz from getting a five-second penalty for causing a collision, dropping the Ferrari driver out of the points.

Speaking to media after the race, Alonso said he feels the penalty for his fellow Spaniard was “quite harsh” given the circumstances:

“On the contact with Carlos [Sainz] after the restart, I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it so I think the penalty for him was quite harsh in the end.

“I didn’t see the replay properly, but for me it feels too hard.”

Alonso has been racing in Melbourne in Formula 1 since 2001, and says the latest iteration of the race was the “craziest” he’s experienced at Albert Park, proving to be a “rollercoaster” even for a driver as experienced as he is. He mentioned how he pushed Hamilton hard during their battle for second place and praised the seven-time champion for his driving throughout:

“It was very confusing, a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions going on,” he said. “At the end, P3 and P4 [for Aston Martin] feels good, good points.

“And it was not an easy race. I think matching the pace of Mercedes was not easy, also Ferrari and Alpine were putting some pressure behind me.

“I tried to force a mistake from Lewis [Hamilton] all race long, trying to get close, but he drove fantastically well as the champion he is, no mistakes,” he said. “I only remember one lock-up [from him] in turn 13, in 58 laps, so it was not possible today to put pressure, but we’ll take P3.”

The two-time world champion believed Aston Martin’s good pace at starts could move him up to second, but says he was well aware of the risks involved in such scenarios, as he “almost” ended up in the barriers on the outside of turn three:

“I was pretty sure that I could be second, to be honest, in the last start, because we’ve been very good, very strong on the starts. It was good again, I was side-by-side into turn 1.

“[But] you also sometimes have to realise there are a lot of risks as well. Every time there is this kind of restart, and maybe you end up with a DNF – which was very close for me this time.”

The Spaniard said the many red flags, safety cars and general confusion at the end of the race proved “difficult to understand”, but was glad that despite the late incident he was able to keep his podium:

“Many things going on at the beginning [of the race], but then also at the end now, you know – the last half an hour it was difficult to understand what’s going on.

“The first red flag did help us, because George [Russell] and Carlos came in,” he said. “So we took those places for free. And the second red flag probably didn’t help, obviously, with the incident there.

“But then we got lucky again and we had another opportunity now to just see the chequered flag in P3.”