FIA ‘draconian’ and ‘pretty poor’ over Alonso penalties

The FIA has come under pressure for the penalties handed out to Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the opening two rounds

The FIA has come under pressure for the penalties handed out to Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the opening two rounds

The FIA has been urged to revise its ‘draconian’ grid box penalty which has caught out Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the opening two F1 races this season.

Motor sport’s world governing body has also been declared of “pretty poor” handling with regard to the second penalty for Alonso after he had already celebrated on the podium his third place in Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

In the first race of the year in Bahrain, Ocon was punished for the incorrect positioning of his Alpine in the grid box, leading to a five-second penalty.

It was a case of déjà vu a fortnight later at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit as Aston Martin driver Alonso was also punished for being wide to the left of his marks.

Both incidents remarkably led to knock-on 10-second penalties, with the two teams accused of working on their cars at pit stops before the initial five-second punishments had elapsed.

Whilst Ocon was rightly penalised a second time, the Saudi Arabian GP stewards overturned their ruling for Alonso three hours after the race had elapsed given certain ambiguities were highlighted.

Alpine sporting director Alan Permane feels the grid-box penalty needs to be addressed.

“Ours was a fair cop,” said Permane. “We were four-tenths too quick (in working on the car), so no argument from us at all on that.

“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.

“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.”

Drivers can’t see grid-box lines

Outlining the difficulties involved for all 20 drivers on the grid, Permane added: “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.

“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.”

Solution offered to slow decision making

The Sporting Advisory Committee, which constitutes members of the FIA and the sporting directors from all 10 teams, is due to meet on Thursday (March 23) to discuss the “conflicting precedents” surrounding Alonso’s second penalty.

What concerns Permane the most is the fact a decision was not aired until shortly after the race had finished.

The FIA cited the fact that they thought the matter was closed until a complaint was made late in the race by a rival team, understood to be Mercedes.

Speaking prior to the FIA issuing its statements surrounding the Alonso saga, Permane added: “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.”

With regard to the sanction of a 10-second penalty if the initial five seconds has not been applied correctly, Permane said: “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.”

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