Fernando Alonso has been reinstated to third place at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, following a successful appeal by his team, Aston Martin, to the FIA’s Stewards. The team successfully argued that a penalty given to Alonso during the race was based on an incorrect interpretation of the regulations.
Alonso had briefly led the race in the opening laps, but was handed a five-second penalty for lining up outside his grid slot. He was then given a further 10-second penalty for not serving the first penalty correctly. This dropped him out of the podium places and promoted Mercedes’ George Russell to P3.
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Initially, the stewards had ruled that due to the rear jack touching Alonso’s car prior to the five seconds having elapsed, the penalty had not been served correctly. However, Aston Martin successfully argued that the FIA had misinterpreted the regulations in their decision-making process.
In support of their petition for review, the stewards were shown minutes of the latest SAC meeting and video evidence of seven different instances where cars were touched by the jack while serving a similar penalty to the one imposed on Car 14 (Alonso’s car) without being penalized. The team argued that the alleged representation of an agreement between the FIA and the teams, that touching the car in any way, including with a jack, would constitute ‘working’ on the car for the purposes of Article 54.4 (c) of the Sporting Regulations, was incorrect.
The stewards had to decide if there was a “significant and relevant new element [that was] discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned.” After reviewing the video evidence and hearing from the team representative of Alpine and the relevant members from the FIA, they determined that there did exist significant and relevant new evidence as required under Article 14.1.1 to trigger a review of the decision.
They concluded that there was no clear agreement, as was suggested to the stewards previously, that could be relied upon to determine that parties had agreed that a jack touching a car would amount to working on the car. In the circumstances, they considered that their original decision to impose a penalty on Car 14 needed to be reversed, and they did so accordingly.
Alonso therefore retains his third-place finish at Jeddah and his 100th F1 career podium finish. The decision is a significant victory for Alonso and Aston Martin, who were able to successfully argue their case and demonstrate that the stewards had made an incorrect interpretation of the regulations. It also highlights the importance of teams being aware of the regulations and being willing to challenge decisions when they feel that they have been unfairly penalized.
The incident involving Fernando Alonso’s podium finish at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has highlighted the need for greater clarity on the rules around “working on the car” during a race. The FIA has announced that the topic will be discussed at the next meeting of the Sporting Advisory Committee on March 23, with the aim of providing a clarification ahead of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. The FIA has emphasized its commitment to reviewing and improving its processes to ensure fair and transparent regulation of the sport.