Alonso slams "incompetent" Miami F1 stewards after penalty

Fernando Alonso has explosively accused the Formula 1 stewards at the recent Miami Grand Prix of “incompetence” and sees no improvement in the championship’s officiating despite the FIA’s post-2021 changes. 

Fernando Alonso, Alpine

Alonso and his Alpine team were left infuriated by a post-race time addition penalty the double world champion received for cutting the Miami track’s tight chicane during the closing stages of F1’s most recent race.  

The stewards felt that in doing so Alonso gained a lasting advantage by running off-track, which he disputes.  

Ahead of this weekend’s Spanish GP, where Alonso was speaking in the pre-practice press conference, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer had insisted his driver had "lifted twice, significantly" after cutting the Miami chicane while running ahead of Mick Schumacher.  

The penalty was Alonso’s second of the Miami race after he was also handed a five-second addition for hitting Pierre Gasly, with the second dropping him out of the points having finished eighth on the road. 

Alpine had already described the second penalty as "wholly unjust" and "difficult to accept" in strong, separate public defences of Alonso from Szafnauer and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, with the former calling on the FIA to clarify the rules regarding handing back any advantage when no positions have changed if a driver goes off-track ahead of a rival. 

On Friday, Alonso also called the second Miami penalty “unfair” before suggesting his anger was partly provoked because he felt the Miami stewards had taken the decision “without asking [for] any proof” and had therefore been left with “their hands tied” once Alpine had presented its case. 

The document announcing Alonso’s second penalty referred to the stewards reviewing “video evidence” but not car telemetry Alpine would have been able to supply post-race, where it had “the right to appeal certain decisions of the stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits”.

On lap 53 of the Miami race, Alonso, who was in DRS range of Schumacher’s chasing Haas during the track’s first DRS zone a few moments earlier, cut the Turn 14/15 complex and in doing so gained enough time to leave his rival without DRS on the subsequent straight.

Although Alonso audibly lifts twice and waves a hand in apology a few moments later, he appears to still be further ahead of Schumacher at the next braking zone, where the German is attacked by Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel, which complicates any attempt to give back the chicane-cutting advantage because Schumacher and Vettel then collide a few corners later.

“We believe that it was very unfair and it was just incompetence from the stewards,” said Alonso.  

“They were not very professional in Miami.  

“I missed one corner and then I gave back the time on the lap, but obviously after you miss one corner, there is the sector time just after that corner, so the [purple mini-sector] colour [comes up].  

“They took the decision without asking [for] any proof.  

“So, we arrived after the race with all the proof and all [the data showing] the time back that we gave and they were just packing up. They were not even in the room.  

“We came there, we showed them all the data. So, they said ‘give us five minutes’.  

“And then they found themselves with their hands tied, probably because they issued the penalty already and they didn’t know how to get back from that document.  

“So, it was very bad and honestly… it’s already the past, but it is something that should not happen in Formula 1, with professionals and the standards that Formula 1 has right now.” 

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The FIA has been approached to comment on Alonso’s assertions, but had yet to respond by the time of publication. 

The governing body and F1’s officiating process have been under heavy scrutiny since the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP controversy, with the FIA appointing new race directors for 2022 – Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas – and implementing a new remote ‘VAR’ system to give its officials additional in-race support. 

While Alonso’s comments above refer specifically to the Miami stewards, which are appointed by the FIA to act independently in interpreting its rules regarding any incident, and not the FIA’s race director (in that case Wittich), he also did not hold back when discussing a perceived lack of improvement regarding the governing body’s F1 officiating so far this year. 

When asked by Autosport if he had seen any such improvement since the FIA’s much-publicised reforms, Alonso interrupted the question to reply: “For sure not” 

When pressed on what issues he still feels need to be addressed in this area, Alonso suggested there were “a couple of things already that proves we still need to improve a lot”, as he indirectly referred to previous decisions made by Wittich, who has been the race director at every event so far this season. 

Wittich has race director experience from his time in that role in the DTM, Formula 2 and Formula 3, as well as time spent in a supporting role at F1 events before 2022, while Freitas, who is making his debut as an F1 race director at Barcelona this weekend, was previously the World Endurance Championship’s race director after a long career officiating GT and touring car racing. 

“You need to have some knowledge about racing before being a race director or trying to monitor a race,” Alonso added. “And I don’t think that knowledge is in place at the moment.  

“I know there is a new race director here. I think Freitas has a lot more experience with WEC and with other categories at the top level. And I think that will already improve things.  

“But it was not… I mean, even the accident we had in Miami with Carlos [Sainz] and Esteban [Ocon] – we pushed to have some barriers there and some tyres or TecPro, whatever, and no one did anything.  

“So, when you don’t have that knowledge of racing, it’s difficult to talk.” 

Alonso insisted he does not think F1 safety standards have been compromised in 2022, but suggested there have been occasions where the drivers’ concerns have not been sufficiently acted upon. 

This episode follows on from the to-and-fro between Wittich and the drivers since the Australian GP in April regarding the ban on wearing jewellery and non-compliant underwear in cars during F1 sessions. 

“Safety has been good and probably this year we have the safest cars and circuits and everything – [the] environment is very safe now in Formula 1,” Alonso concluded.  

“We just need to keep improving that. We are the only ones driving the cars and feeling the crashes and things like that in our bodies, so when we feel something is needed, I think we should be listened [too].  

“In Miami and some other examples we didn’t have that because it seems the focus is in another place.” 

Previous article What is DRS in F1, how does it work and is it automatic?
Next article McLaren reveals 10 upgrades for F1 Spanish GP