Alonso: F1 will have "huge problem" if Austin penalty is upheld

Fernando Alonso warns that Haas’ US Grand Prix protest against his damaged Alpine represents “a huge problem” for Formula 1 if its admissibility and his subsequent penalty are upheld.

Alonso: F1 will have "huge problem" if Austin penalty is upheld

Alonso was handed a 30-second post-race penalty at Austin last weekend as the stewards decided his car had been running in an unsafe condition due to damage sustained in his airborne crash with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll – specifically his right-side wing mirror moving around before later falling off.

The penalty dropped him from seventh to 15th in the final classification and nullified his sterling drive back from running last after the crash.

This followed Haas lodging a protest against Alonso’s result and that of Sergio Perez due to the Red Bull driver’s right-side endplate getting damaged in a lap one clash with Valtteri Bottas and then falling off.

Haas was particularly upset that neither car was called in, as in similar situations at three other 2022 races Kevin Magnussen was being forced to pit for repairs after getting a black-and-orange flag.

Alpine then lodged a protest against the circumstances that led to an investigation into Alonso’s result and penalty, because Haas submitted its protest 24 minutes after the cut-off time for such action and because FIA race control officials never showed Alonso the black-and-orange flag indicating they felt his car was unsafe.

A hearing with the USGP stewards to determine if the protest from the French manufacturer is admissible will be held via video conference later on Thursday at 6pm local Mexican time.

If Alpine’s protest is deemed as admissible, which Alonso feels confident enough in to state he is now “optimistic that we will keep seventh place”, a separate hearing will then be arranged so Alpine’s protest can be heard.

Fernando Alonso managed to finish seventh at Austin despite colliding with Lance Stroll.

Fernando Alonso managed to finish seventh at Austin despite colliding with Lance Stroll.

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

At Thursday's the pre-event press conference at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Alonso explained why he was so confident he would keep his seventh place, before issuing a warning about the future of post-race protests should Haas’s claim be upheld, as well as what could happen to drivers running with damaged cars in future events.

“First of all, you cannot appeal any decision of time penalties – that’s how the rules are written,” he said.

“Which is nice, because whatever decision you take you cannot appeal – I would love to have that when driving!

“But we protested basically because [the Haas protest was submitted] out of time and there were a couple of things – that the FIA was not showing me the black-and-orange flag.

“They thought the car was safe to keep driving. The car went to parc ferme, passed all the scrutineering, green light on parc ferme, and then the protest arrived too late.

“So, between all I think there is no doubt that this was not the right decision to take.

“And if this is the right decision to take, it will open a huge problem for the future in Formula 1.

“I think 50, 60, 70% of the cars will have to retire when they have an aerodynamic device that is not properly fixed, because the car is gonna be unsafe.

“It will also open [that] if 20 minutes too late it’s OK to protest – is one month too late? Is one hour too late? Is 10 years too late? When is too late?

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“That, I think, we cannot afford. As I said, this is a very important day for our sport.

“I don’t care about seventh, I’m not fighting for the world championship. But if this goes ahead, I think we will open a very… we don’t want to open that box.”

Alonso, whose reported 42G impact in the crash with Stroll does not appear to have resulted in him suffering any ill-effects ahead of this weekend’s race, called his Sunday at Austin “a rollercoaster of emotions”.

He also insisted he has full confidence in F1’s officiating – which has been under major focus after the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP farce and several other controversial decisions since – ahead of the hearing into the admissibility of Alpine’s protest.

“[The] FIA has been very transparent to us this year,” Alonso explained.

“The new leadership with Mohammed [Ben Sulayem, FIA president] I think are doing things a little bit different than in the past.

“So, I fully trust what they will decide. I think there are a couple of things that were very clear that were made wrong from their side [regarding the in-race calls that meant Alonso was not shown the black-and-orange flag].

“I’m very confident I will be again P7 again in Austin. If I’m not P7 at the end, I’m sure they will explain why and we will see it clear. So, I’m very relaxed about that.”

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