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 (1%)

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

  1. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 18:04

    this is the latest

    A statement issued by the stewards on Sunday night said that there had been multiple breaches of the regulations by the Renault team.

    Stewards talked to Renault representatives twice after the race.

    The statement said that Renault “knowingly released car no. 7 from the pitstop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured.”

    It added that Renault, “being aware of this, failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pitlane….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.”

    It said that the team’s actions had compromised safety in breach of Article 3.2 of the Sporting Regulations, and in breach of Article 23.1.i had released the car from the pits before it was safe to do so.

    Renault has been reminded of its right to appeal the decision.

  2. Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 18:06

    BTW Mohammed Ben Sulayem knows about taking wheels off of a Renault Formula 1 car. Good to see a steward with hands on experience finally.

  3. Daniel said on 26th July 2009, 18:09

    The punishment was an emotional, yet understandable, reaction to the “flying debris that hit helmets” issue, that surely became the most concering safety problem in Formula 1 these days, given the last events… I think that, more than the penalty itself, the conclusions were very harsh, almost saying Renault intentionally released Alonso without the safety device… It would be something like conscious negligence or even recklessness in criminal law… anyway, too harsh… won’t Brawn be investigated?

  4. Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 18:10

    If they really didn’t tell Alonso what was wrong, even after he said he thought he had a puncture then they totally deserve a suspension.

    This is nothing like Vettel’s accident in Australia, he crashed and decided to continue, this is different because Renault could have prevented the accident in the first place.

    It may well be a reaction to Surtees and Massa but in my opinion it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction.
    This incident shows that Renault have learnt nothing from the recent accidents so they need to be shown what they should be doing by being harshly punished.

  5. Chris said on 26th July 2009, 18:13

    I think the people that are saying Brawn should be punished are missing the point.

    Renault are not being punshied for the wheel coming off they are being punished becuase they knew the wheel was about to come off and did nothing about it. Thus knowling putting people lives at risk (which i for one belive is unacceptable and think the punishment is fair).

    The statement said that Renault “knowingly released car no. 7 from the pitstop position without one of the retaining devices for the wheel-nuts being securely in position, this being an indication that the wheel itself may not have been properly secured.”

    It added that Renault, “being aware of this, failed to take any action to prevent the car from leaving the pitlane….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.”

    Brawn had no idea that anything was about to happen and when they did relise what did happen they check Button’s car straight away. (the right thing to do)

    To put this in a real world example;
    – If I knew my car’s brake’s where broken and then i drove my car into somthing or someone i would be charge with either dangerous driving or mansloghter.

    – If i was driving along and my brake’s just failed and i went into somthing or someone it would be an accident.

    • Leah said on 26th July 2009, 18:16

      I was merely asking re Brawn but your explanation makes sense.

      As an FA fan, it still sucks, though!

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 18:18

      Exactly.

    • Tiomkin said on 26th July 2009, 18:25

      At last, a balanced view point.

    • redbird said on 26th July 2009, 23:22

      Well put Chris. It’s the deliberate choice to continue with a dangerous course of action that is key here.

      As I’ve said previously, if that was really the case they fully deserve the penalty. I really find it hard to believe they would be so stupid as to think there was anything to gain from releasing a car with a loose wheel. Do you think their appeal will be on the basis that they did NOT know the problem before releasing the car?

  6. Lynn said on 26th July 2009, 18:13

    Having seen the stewards statement, they did the right thing. Lucky for Renault someone was not hurt. Life is more important than any race. Is that not so.

  7. An absolute joke.

  8. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 18:14

    Renault are going to appeal, but will it do any good? A usual 10 place grid penalty and fine would have been more appropriate.

  9. Leah said on 26th July 2009, 18:15

    How likely is it Fernando could drive Massa’s Ferrari? Would it even be possible?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 18:32

      Incredibly hard to say, it’ll all come down to what’s in the contracts I guess. If Alonso has a get-out clause which allows him to drive for another team if Renault are to miss a race, then it’s conceivable.

      Button and Sato didn’t go off to drive for other teams when BAR where banned for two races in 2005. But neither of them would have been as coveted by other teams as a twice-champion.

      • Leah said on 26th July 2009, 18:51

        OK< thanks. I suppose we just have to wait and see then, especially with Renault appealing.

        Would be nice to see Fernando in a Ferrari but I didn’t think it could possibly happen in these circumstances!

        • gabal said on 26th July 2009, 20:53

          But driver switching teams mid-seasons isn’t unprecedented. Maybe Alonso has a clause of getting out of contract free if Renault brought him in dispute (like we know Hamilton has). He will deffinetly not be happy with this decision.

    • Paige Michael-Shetley said on 27th July 2009, 11:53

      Well, there weren’t any openings for Button or Sato to fill in 2005, while Ferrari have a driver injured. It’s no use for a team to sit a driver for one race for someone else and then put him back in the car as the permanent driver. It’s not good for the working relationship with the driver who you have signed on as a permanent man.

      Then again, if they had been banned the race before, he would have had the opportunity to drive a McLaren at San Marino in relief of the injured Montoya! Yet another chapter in the story of Button’s pre-Brawn life: right situation at the wrong time!

      But you are right: Button wouldn’t have been nearly as highly coveted then as Alonso would be now. Adding to that, Ferrari have an open seat due to an injured driver, and Toro Rosso could conceivably have an open seat as they are mainly putting Alguersuari in the car to bring him up to speed for next season.

  10. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 18:16

    John nobles report on autosport

    Renault has confirmed that it will appeal the FIA’s decision to ban the team from the European Grand Prix for the events that led to a wheel coming off Fernando Alonso’s car in Hungary.

    The team lodged its paperwork and a deposit for the 6000 Euros fee for the appeal, with a hearing now likely take place in the summer break before the European GP on August 23.

    The paperwork, lodged in conjunction with the French motorsport federation, was signed by Renault’s team manager Steve Nielsen and was received by the FIA’s stewards’ advisor Alan Donnelly shortly before 7pm.

    • On a tangential issue, this is the first I’ve seen of a €6000 charge being applied to appeals. Last I knew it was €2000… …the FIA is clearly feeling the pinch in these economically harsh times.

  11. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 18:18

    These are the regulations on the formula 1 site

    Teams may use up to four drivers during a season, all of whom may score points in the championship. A driver change may be made with the permission of the stewards any time before the start of qualifying. The new driver must use the engine and tyres allocated to the original driver.

    On top of this, in each of Friday’s two practice sessions teams may run additional drivers, though each team is still limited to two cars. Any holder of a Super License may run as an additional driver, but stewards must be informed of a team’s plans before the end of initial scrutineering on the Thursday prior to practice.

  12. Shagrathian (@shagrathian) said on 26th July 2009, 18:19

    In Rubens’ situation, that wasn’t on purpose, neither this one, though. But Renault could prevent it, let’s admit. Eventually, there was an tyre flying around and it looks pretty horrible, especially after what we’ve been through these couple of days. So I think it’s fair. We’ve seen some harsh decisions before, but all of them made because of a reason.

  13. Renault’s punishment is very harsh, especially in keeping with previous examples of similar things (e.g. Raikkonen’s exhaust at Magny-Cours last year), but in the context of the last week it is understandable.

    What is not acceptable, however, is that if the stewards are going to come down hard on Renault like this, that Brawn were allowed to start the race at all given that problems with their suspension seriously injured a driver yesterday.

  14. jacaru said on 26th July 2009, 18:20

    I agree with the punishment now that we know the FIA statement.

  15. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 18:22

    i wanna know whether the same punishment would have been given, if it were a ferrari instead?

    • Chris said on 26th July 2009, 18:30

      To be honest what ever your views on this and i personally disagree with you dispite being a McLarren fan we are never going to know so what the point!

  16. Dave said on 26th July 2009, 18:24

    If Renault messed up in a pit stop causing a wheel to come of Alonso’s crawling car, then how come Webber and Red Bull don’t get banned for damaging Ruben’s car the other week, potentially causing debris from his car. Or Raikkonen and Ferrari for driving into and damaging the suspension of Vettel, Or Red Bull for not telling Vettel to park it when his suspension broke and he drove to the pits etc.

    And on and on.

    Despite it being an emotional response, it screams of the usual inconstancies. What did Webber do in Germany that Raikkonen didn’t do today?

  17. SafirXP said on 26th July 2009, 18:25

    As much as I dislike Alonso but it surely wasn’t his fault! Why punish the driver for this? Name me one F1 driver who’d park his car.

    Should’ve been just a fine! Penalise the team not the driver!

    • Tiomkin said on 26th July 2009, 18:32

      They aren’t punishing Alonso. They are punishing RENAULT, and Alonso is part of TEAM RENAULT.

      I believe the punishment after appeal will put them at the back of the grid.

    • Shagrathian (@shagrathian) said on 26th July 2009, 18:34

      Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Piquet has nothing to do with that situation, but he(or who replaces him) doesn’t deserve this. Point-ban for the team could be an acceptable decision.

    • John H said on 26th July 2009, 18:35

      Surely there must be something in Alonso’s contract preventing him from driving with Ferrari anyway?

      I like Damian’s points above. If Renault really did release him knowingly then fair enough, but the decision to actually release him from the pit seemed to be a split second one.

      Once the wheel’s lose, Alonso was trying to make it back to the pits – fair enough. For example, should have Hamilton pulled over in Monaco 2008 because his rear tyre could have flown off??

  18. John H said on 26th July 2009, 18:25

    Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Morrie Chandler and Lajos Herczeg?

    Why oh why do they not have stewards who have raced in F1?
    Why oh why are we talking about this again in 2009. Arrrghh!

  19. mani said on 26th July 2009, 18:26

    It is little harsh though, but, I like this part in your article…

    “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.”

    putting aside the situation, it is always intriguing to see a top driver in a different car with in a season… that would, in a way, give a picture of his talent and the comparison of the cars he has driven.

    I’m in no way happy about it and I feel really sorry for Massa and his accident that lead to this situation, but since this possibility in now on cards, it interests me a little to see this happening!!!

  20. Damian said on 26th July 2009, 18:26

    In the FIA’s defense, the issue here is that Renault willfully released their driver when they knew their car was dangerous, that is why the radio communication is being used as evidence. (As far as we are aware) in the previous similar incidents the teams have been ignorant to the problem.

    The flipside, as people have mentioned, is that this could be a knee-jerk reaction to the accidents involving Surtees and Massa.

    The compromise position is that, considering the sensitivity of this sort of situation right now, Renault were politically careless to release a car like this, considering what has happened recently.

    The truth is, we’ll never know, but it’s become very fashionable to assume the FIA is wrong all the time rather than to take their word for it. I’d prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt, considering they are in possession of all the facts and we are not.

    Imagine the headlines if this situation had got to the press and Renault *hadn’t* been punished. I can see the headlines now: “FIA do nothing after Renault risk another serious injury… or worse”.

    • Nicely put, especially the last paragraph. That sums up why the suspension is ‘not wrong’.

      • Hakka said on 26th July 2009, 18:54

        Excellent comment. I think the only thing that is debatable is the harshness of the penalty given that it is FA’s home grand prix and Renault’s major market. A fine and a suspended ban might have been more appropriate.

        I think the FIA should make more use of suspended or probationary penalties.

        • LewisC said on 26th July 2009, 21:54

          I very much hope that it makes NO difference at all which race(s) would be missed by a team suffering a ban, in the same way as it shouldn’t matter which team/driver committed the offence…

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