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, 18:18

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

  5. 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!

  6. 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?

  7. 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??

  8. 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!

  9. 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!!!

  10. 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…

  11. SoLiD said on 26th July 2009, 18:27

    Alonso at Ferrari would be nice…. But then STR might be more realistic? ;)

  12. Daniel said on 26th July 2009, 18:29

    Im Sorry But After Last Week The FIA Need To Take Measures On Stopping This Happening.

    These Our Very Heavy Tyres! Renault Made The Mistake They Should’ve Secured It Properly!

    They Must Take The Blame. This Will Be Interesting… If Massa Isnt Back Which I Hope He Is.. But If Not.. Will Alonso Drive For Ferrari? Hmmm I Wonder!

  13. It is as if everything has been conspired to make Alonso drive for Ferrari. Isn’t it Keith?

    Even autosport (and Keith as well) writes this time “unless he moves to another team”.

    Why does every event in the motorsport world have to do with Alonso going to Ferrari.

    This is about Renault being suspended, why, and what, and how about that incident.

    If Red Bull were fined in Australia, then clearly there is a precedent for this kind of 3-wheeled antics, so Renault have been negligent. But then, the penalty is also harsh. But given the present context of the accidents, its hard to say that FIA have done anything wrong.

    Its a knee-jerk reaction, no doubt. But thanks to it, the now know what is the price to be paid for having loose components on cars. It will make them pay more attention henceforth.

  14. Bartholomew said on 26th July 2009, 18:30

    This is too harsh. Could have just punished Uncle Flav with no pancakes daily for a month.

  15. Manuel F said on 26th July 2009, 18:32

    does anybody think Brawn GP should be punished as well for the loss of dangerous debries during qualifying?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 18:34

      Again, no, because they couldn’t reasonably have prevented that. The point the stewards make is that Renault knew the wheel was not on properly and didn’t tell Alonso. It’s a different case I believe.

      • Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 26th July 2009, 21:07

        But we have a precedent here, dear Keith. Do you remember when Red Bull was put under investigation when his suspension collapsed, and FIA was to suspend the team? Why oh why there wasn’t such an investigation on the Brawn’s suspension? I wait anxious for your answer….

        • There is an investigation in progress into the Brawn/Massa incident, Roger. Since it’s more wide-ranging than a simple “Did Brawn do anything against the regulations?”, it could be a while before we hear any results.

      • CJD said on 27th July 2009, 9:35

        I seem to remember that some cars had a sort of keeper pin that stops the nut coming off the car. Renault would still have the pin in the pit if this is general usage.

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