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Formula 1 Saudi Arabian GP

FIA widens F1 grid boxes after Ocon and Alonso penalty controversies

The FIA will widen the grid boxes used for the start of Formula 1 races ahead of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix following recent Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso controversies.

Starting grid lines

Ocon and Alonso were respectively penalised at the Bahrain and Jeddah races that opened the 2023 campaign after lining up too far outside of their grid slots.

In each incident, Ocon and Alonso had placed their wheels over the white painted lines on the edge of the grid boxes – but remained behind the yellow line that denotes how far forward a car can start – and so were handed five-second penalties as a result of being out of position.

From this weekend’s race in Melbourne, the grid boxes have been made 20cm wider compared to the last round in Jeddah at 2.7m – with the previous 2.5m width actually 20cm wider than the 2.3m wide grid boxes that were used in 2022.

The FIA is also going to trial a new central 'guide line' paint marking - put down the centre of some of the grid boxes on the Albert Park pitstraight - to be sampled by drivers during practice starts that close out free practice sessions and will be likely fitted to the rest of the grid if deemed helpful during the tests on Friday.

Starting grid lines

Starting grid lines

Photo by: Alex Kalinauckas

The FIA is understood to have made the initial move to widen the grid boxes for the start of 2023 as a result of the challenge for drivers in seeing around complex bodywork in modern F1 cars. Visibility has been a major talking point among current drivers given the move to massively change the chassis rules for 2022, as well as the Halo cockpit protection system that has been in place since 2018.

But following the Ocon and Alonso controversies in the opening two rounds of the 2023 season, the governing body has – after discussing the issue with the teams – agreed to make F1 grid boxes even wider for the foreseeable future.

In separate incidents following their grid gaffe penalties, both Ocon and Alonso were additionally penalised for their mechanics working on their cars too soon before serving their initial punishments in Bahrain and in Jeddah.

But infamously in Alonso’s case the additional 10s penalty was rescinded after his Aston Martin squad successfully argued the rule in question was not clear enough in relation to the use of jacks at penalised pitstops.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, lead the field away at the start

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, lead the field away at the start

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Speaking after the Jeddah event, Alonso owned his grid spot infraction, saying: “it was my mistake”.

“I need to pay more attention to that,” he added. “[It] is a little bit also strange that in two races, two cars, Esteban and myself. We have similar things.

“So maybe this is cars, or the Halo, whatever it is interacting with the vision of how we position the car. But anyway, that was my mistake.”

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Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director, George Russell, said he felt the penalties handed too his peers for their grid positioning were too severe.

“I understand why these rules are there, we've got to stick within the guidelines, a little bit of common sense needs to be shown,” the Mercedes racer stated in Jeddah.

"Ultimately I think he [Alonso] was a bit to the left, was that right? He gained nothing from this, perhaps a five-second [penalty] is too much.”

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