Renault banned from European Grand Prix following Alonso’s wheel loss

2009 F1 season

Renault did not warn Alonso his front-right wheel was loose

Renault did not warn Alonso his front-right wheel was loose

Renault are to be suspended from the next round of the world championship – the European Grand Prix at Valencia – following Fernando Alonso’s wheel loss in today’s race.

Renault's punishment is:

  • Too harsh (68%)
  • Fair (27%)
  • Too soft (3%)
  • No opinion (2%)

Total Voters: 3,121

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The stewards’ decision says:

Having carefully reviewed the available film recordings and radio recordings and having met the team manager twice to discuss the matter the stewards believe:

1. that the competitor knowingly released car no. 7 from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel nut itself may not have been properly secured,
2. being aware of this failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pit lane,
3. failed to inform the driver of this problem or to advise him to take appropriate action given the circumstances, even though the driver contacted the team by radio believing he had a puncture,
4. this resulted in a heavy car part detaching at Turn 5 and the wheel itself detaching at Turn 9.

Offence: Breach of article 23.1.i and Article 3.2 of the 2009 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.

Penalty: The competitor ING Renault F1 Team is suspended from the next event in the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship.

The relevant articles are as follows:

3.2 Competitors must ensure that their cars comply with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race

23.1.i) It is the responsibility of the competitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so.

This weekend’s stewards are Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Morrie Chandler and Lajos Herczeg.

The penalty means Fernando Alonso will not be able to drive for Renault in his home Grand Prix.

He may be able to drive for another team and suspicion will inevitably fall on Ferrari. They will probably need a driver to replace the injured Felipe Massa and Alonso has long been linked with a move to the team.

Alonso lost his front-right wheel following a pit stop on lap 11 of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The wheel was not properly secured after the stop and it came loose shortly after the wheel fairing had come off the car.

This is the first time a team has been banned from a race as punishment for a car shedding a wheel. It seems the FIA are clamping down on the teams taking such risks after the accident that claimed Henry Surtees’ life last week, and Massa’s serious crash in qualifying yesterday.

Following the Australian Grand Prix Red Bull were fined $50,000 after allowing Sebastian Vettel to drive along the track following a crash which had torn a wheel off his car.

However you have to ask where was this kind of diligence from the stewards when Kimi Raikkonen was allowed to drive round Magny-Cours with his exhaust hanging off last year?

Renault has confirmed it will appeal the decision. The last team to be suspended from a race was BAR, which was banned from the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix in 2005 after claims it had run its cars underweight.

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303 comments on Renault banned from European Grand Prix following Alonso’s wheel loss

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  1. Siwongo said on 26th July 2009, 17:47

    To be honest I think that is a bit harsh, they wouldn’t have done this two weeks ago, they are only doing it to try and make out they are the good guys.

    • Sebastien Carter said on 26th July 2009, 17:48

      Agreed, I have a feeling it’s a bit of a knee jerk reaction to debris on the track. The Valencian crowds aren’t going to like this too much.

      But Alonso in a Ferrari…hmmmmm

      • Kherubim said on 27th July 2009, 4:22

        Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that Alonso will be in red next race.

        There is a Spaniard who drives for Ferrari and recently won the 24 Hours of Le Man who can fill in for Massa (Marc Gene)…

        • Indeed – he’d still be driving for Renault at least until the end of the season (though Flav told BBC they’re looking at it on a race by race basis — curious!). Allowing him to sub for Massa would result in Renault knowing too much about the Ferrari car — and vice versa.

    • I think it’s perfectly reasonable.

      Wheel tethers would never have been put on the cars if that Italian marshall hadn’t been killed. Situations change from events.

      Nothing against Alonso, not at all his fault and I feel incredibly sorry for him, but with everything that’s happened, to know that Renault intentionally left him on his way knowing it wasn’t secure is disgusting.

      When I saw it wobbling, I was instantly concerned, when it flew off, there was nothing to stop it hitting Alonso’s head.

      Correct decision, unfair on Alonso yes, but 100% totally and utterly fair on Renault.

      • kelosma said on 28th July 2009, 23:38

        it wasnt renaults fault the guy changing the wheel tried to secure the retainer even when alonso was diving away but the man with the lollipop left him go too soon

        • So basically it’s not Renault’s fault because it was their employees fault?

          Renault let him on his merry way, didn’t tell him to leave the track and didnt tell him his wheel was loose.

      • race_sceptic said on 1st August 2009, 6:29

        There was a period of a few seconds when it would have been clear to Alonso that his wheel was in danger of coming off. At this point, he should have pulled over immediately out of respect for the safety of the other drivers. Given that he chose to ignore this, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for him. In fact, I think that he should be punished for his reckless behaviour in addition to the team’s penalty.

  2. Good. Motorsport has had 2 freakishly similar and dangerous accidents in the last month. Also, Alonso should’ve stopped the car the moment he saw the tyre vibrating so violently. The team could’ve also communicated the same. How you can endanger your own and fellow drivers’ lives after something tragic happening so recently is beyond my understanding.

    • Steve said on 26th July 2009, 18:46

      I’ve got to disagree with you….STRONGLY!
      If I saw Fernando or infact any driver stop the car instead of trying to nurse it back to the pits I would of felt cheated as a viewer. Sure in a perfect world Alonso would of been stopped before he left the pits but by the time people knew what was going on he was already a few corners in. I think people complain too much about their being a lack of racing one week then put in place all these over the top rules which kill racing the next.

      • Bendana said on 26th July 2009, 18:59

        Because so long as you’re entertained, its okay for the drivers to have their lives threatened, right?

        • Siwongo said on 26th July 2009, 20:30

          They are paid to entertainment, now that in no way means I want to see them get hurt, but they signed up for it, it’s part of the sport and people need to deal with that.

          Yes it’s tragic what’s happened over the past two weeks, but safety is amazing considering how quickly these drivers are going. We need to look at this properly, not just get all worked up because of two similar incidents in 2 weeks.

          • Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 26th July 2009, 20:53

            I think it’s a bit too much to expect some guys to read the whole post before throwing some trash on Alonso. What the FIA stewards said it’s that the team never said a word of what was happening to the driver…. but you know…. you have to be able to read and then make a judgement… and only then make a comment. This blog is loosing it’s quality on the comments fast and furious. A shame.

          • I found Alonso’s driving on the lap when the wheel fell off rather strange and too quick. If you think you have a puncture, the proper thing to do is to drive slowly back to the pits to minimise tyre and, in extreme cases, aero damage (the latter looks likethe eventual cause of the car’s retirement). Even without information from the team, Fernando has been driving F1 cars long enough that he should be able to do damage limitation.

            Fernando shouldn’t have been put in that situation though. At the very least, Reanult need to do more pit stop drills…

    • Hazel said on 26th July 2009, 19:02

      Alonso didnt realise the wheel was loose, he’d contacted his team via radio thinking he’d had a puncture, and one of the reasons for the penalty on the FIA website was that the driver never got told about this. Alonso wasn’t to know the tyre would fly off and by the time it had it was too late. Fair enough a punishment should be issued but surely being suspended from the next round is a bit too harsh. The punishment wouldnt be as harsh a couple of weeks ago.

    • Martin said on 26th July 2009, 20:22

      How can so many people on this forum be this ignorant. or all of you just neutered.
      Racing has risk, racing creates situations where everything doesnt go right. This penaly is rediculous, and I dont even like Alonso or Renault. Is it going to be common practice that every time something happens on the track there is going to be someone or some organization held accountable.
      I see it now Hamilton doesnt cross his arms correctly during a press conference and boom there goes McLaren for another race, Ross Brawn forgets to button his top botton aand there goes Brawn for a race.
      All of you guys need to grow a pair or find a new sport to watch.

      • Senor Paz said on 28th July 2009, 0:19

        I don’t need to grow a pair because I was born with one.

        What an idiotic post, congratulations.

  3. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 17:50

    at best they should have put a monetary penalty, not ban them!!!! this is absolutely idiotic!!

  4. Didn’t Renault/Alonso lose a front wheel at the Hungarain GP 2006? Nothing happend back then.

    So should Brawn not get bann for losing the spring?!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 17:52

      That was just the wheel nut I think. But I’e seen F1 cars lose wheels before without teams getting penalties like this.

      • Yeah, you are right, Alonso then crashed.

        I doubt that Renault had intentionly not informed Alonso, maybe they thought it was only the fairing? (I saw loose fairing on Ferrari and McLaren before)

        • F1Paul said on 26th July 2009, 19:40

          That the competitor knowlingly released car no. 7 from the pit stop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel nut itself may not have been properly secured.

          I think the knowingly bit is the key. That’s the difference between this and any other incident of a car losing a wheel. But I still think it’s harsh. They didn’t deliberately release him without the wheel being secured, so it’s a big accident, but an accident all the same. Perhaps making them start from the back would be a little better, but a total ban? People make mistakes, and in this sport every judgement involves a level of risk; sometimes they are life threatening, but everyone involved is aware of the risks when they sign up.
          Would love to see Alonso in the Ferrari though, just for one race. He shouldn’t be punished for the team’s mistake, so Renault should allow it. Would this be a first if he did move to another team for one race?

  5. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 17:51

    maybe alonso might take massa’s emty seat at ferrari, is that a possibility?

  6. Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 17:52

    Did they warn the drivers before the race that they should park their car if a part was threatening to fall off?

    If so then I can understand it, but otherwise this is just utterly lame.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 17:54

      I broadly agree – this is a very harsh penalty, but if the teams were warned this sort of thing wasn’t going to be tolerated any more (and Red Bull’s punishment at Melbourne suggests that is the case) then that’s a different matter.

      • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 18:03

        Red Bull was punished for not calling Vettel in. That’s not the same as telling him to park it.

        Vettel tried to finish the race with that broken car.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 18:20

          I haven’t got the stewards report on that incident to hand but a report from the time says:

          The German driver’s Red Bull team was also fined $50,000 for instructing Vettel to stay on track despite running on three wheels.

          Telling him to stay on track is surely the same as telling him not to park it?

          • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 18:38

            Yes well, the team told him not to pit.

            Vettel just kept on going round (going past the pit lane entry) hoping he could keep the cars behind him during the safety car period. He caused quite a commotion.

            In fact this caused Trulli to fly off and Hamilton to pass him, ultimately triggering the whole lie-gate debacle.

          • Oliver said on 26th July 2009, 18:56

            Vettel’s car was already too badly damaged to continue the race and was shredding sharp carbon fiber all over the circuit. The team just wanted the car brought back quickly to the garage.
            In Alonso’s case, the car was still working reasonably well, had lost a wheel that was traveling not so fast and also in the direction of normal traffic.

            Many teams have driven back with only 3 wheels attached. The main contention here is that Alonso was released from the pit area without a properly prepared car and also the team failed to notify him of the problem.

            Can I hear anyone saying the FIA are “over reacting”!!!!

          • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 23:08

            Wrong, Vettel was told to stay OUT. He didn’t go into the garage quickly, but he went past the pitlane entry onto another lap.

      • Journeyer said on 26th July 2009, 18:03

        Very good point there, Keith. Forgot about that…

        • gabal said on 26th July 2009, 20:22

          Why don’t they use black flag with orange circle in cases like Vettels in Australia is beyond me. In my opinion this is too harsh penalty, they should have punished Brawn as well then as the debris from their car caused Massa’s injury…

          I wonder if the same punishment would happen if pitwall told Alonso what is the situation.

  7. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 17:53

    I think alonso making it back to the pits on 3 wheels is not allowed, the team should have told him to park it.

  8. Bernard said on 26th July 2009, 17:54

    Yeah this is a direct response to the saftey concerns surrounding parts falling off cars, especially when they are avoidable as in the case of not putting a wheel on properly.

  9. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 17:54

    It means Alonso will miss his home event that takes place in Valencia next month, unless he moves to another team.

    a cryptic remark,perhaps from autosport??

    i’m sure there will be rioting in valencia if alonso is not allowed to race!!!

  10. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 17:56

    if that is the case even brawn must be banned for 5 races, at least the renault wheel didn’t knock someone unconscious!!

    • The difference is, something broke off of the brawn, whereas on the renault it was never put on properly at all!

    • redbird said on 26th July 2009, 22:55

      I’m baffled by this whole debate and quite suprised by what Keith’s attitude seems to be. The stewards have awarded the penalty on the basis that the evidence they gathered shows that the team KNOWINGLY released a car that posed a severe threat to safety and, further, did not even inform the driver EVEN when he radioed in that he had a problem. In other words the team, despite the very recent tragic evidence of the possible fatal outcome, deliberately and avoidably risked the lives of their own and other drivers. This preclude any discussion about parking the car after the wheel came off or of any other incident where there was no KNOWING act of recklessness. If the stewards analysis of the evidence is correct then the fact is that Renault committed an act of reckless endangerment that in any other circumstances would likely result in criminal charges, never mind a race ban. If that wheel had caused another death would you guys still be bleating on about the penalty being harsh because after all ‘it’s a big boys game’? Apparently a lot of people think that fibbing to the stewards deserves the loss of a seasons contractors points and a mega fine but deliberately risking lives is a much less serious issue.

      • neracer said on 27th July 2009, 15:51

        very well said.

      • Daffid said on 28th July 2009, 21:07

        Absolute tosh. Let’s see this alleged evidence the Stewards have gathered. Are we to believe that the guy on the lollipop – who is the one who released Alonso – looked down and said, “Yeah, wheels not on right, but sod it, I’ll let him go.”
        Nobody knowingly released anyone – why on earth would they, what would they have to gain? They would much have preferred a 10s longer stop and the wheel on right.
        The stewards have issued a ridiculous statement – not for the first time – and everyone seems to have swallowed it. Another ridiculous decision, defensible only if you you live in the FIA dreamworld.

  11. Nitro said on 26th July 2009, 17:57

    Its just a knee-jerk reaction from FIA after the fatal crash of Henry Surtees at Donington park when a tyre from another car banged his head. Not to forget Massa’s critical condition because of a spring from Barichello’s Brawn!

  12. jacaru said on 26th July 2009, 17:58

    So…a driver needs to stop at any problem to not risk losing a piece of the car? On those circumstances Vettel should have stopped too the moment the car was not feeling ok.

    There must be another reason other that the solely fact that the wheel broke loose.

    This seams Renault paying for everything that has happenned.

    • Hollus said on 26th July 2009, 18:41

      Yes, there is. Amateur stewards!
      Unbefu##%%##lievable!
      Mandatory 30 second pit stops starting next season? Next: tea break at 5.

      • Martin said on 26th July 2009, 20:30

        100% agree, You would never see this in the US, maybe a drive thru penaly or a stop and go penalty be not this.
        This sport is being ruined by the nonparticipating officials in the FIA and the stewards they have. What a bunch of idiots.

  13. There are going to be some very angry Spanish fans… Come on it wasn’t the teams fault, mistakes like this happen, nobody got hurt!

  14. Why would Renault allow Alonso to drive a Ferrari, for one race, when they allegedly are attempting to keep him on the team for 2010???

    THAT would be idiotic IMHO.

    Could this also be backlash from Alan Doney led stewards for the leading FOTA teams? If Kimi receives a demotion for his first turn contact with Vettel, you can take that notion to the bank.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 18:02

      Raikkonen has already been cleared.

    • Noel said on 26th July 2009, 18:15

      Flav’s response during the pit walk on the BBC to the question “Will Fernando be racing at Renault next year?” was:

      “We’ll see, race by race.”

    • Paige Michael-Shetley said on 27th July 2009, 9:42

      “Why would Renault allow Alonso to drive a Ferrari, for one race, when they allegedly are attempting to keep him on the team for 2010???”

      1. $$$$$$$ for Flavio, Alonso’s manager and the owner of F1’s TV rights in Spain
      2. $$$$$$$ for Renault, either for a loan fee from Ferrari, Bernie opening his pocketbook because Valencia would clearly be an utter failure without Alonso in the race, or both

      It absolutely will happen. It makes too much sense for everyone involved in F1 for it to not happen, and the people who really make the decisions in F1 will see to it that it does.

      Remember: it’s not unheard of for a driver to drive for one team during a season while being under contract with another. Vettel tested for BMW-Sauber and filled in for the injured Kubica at Indy 2007 while being under contract with Red Bull.

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