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. Stubie said on 26th July 2009, 18:34

    I am a bit ambivalent about the penalty, but I tend to agree with the need to enforce some kind of punishment given the end result of the bouncing wheel.

    This, I think, was less about him driving back to the pits on three wheels, than it was about the team understanding that he did not have a puncture, the team understanding that the wheel was going to come off and the tether was not going to function, and then letting him drive near full bore until it came bouncing off.

    and of course, I have to say something about the exhaust piece on Raikkonen’s care at Magny-Cours last year…
    how much do think that piece of his exhaust weighed? would be curious to do a comparative analysis on its weight and the spring in Massa’s incident
    Then we should look at the relative speeds. Massa to the spring and the exhaust piece ripping off on the corner.

    to understand the lethal potential that incident had, remember that the damage to Felipe occurred with him wearing his racing helmet, the spring weighed about 3/4 of a kg and he ran into it at about 170mph (weights and speed are my guesses from reports so far, I could be way off)

    with the exhaust piece, Kimi was turning that corner at about 150 mph, I am sure that exhaust piece must weigh more, but more importantly, spectators, camera men etc, would not be wearing any protection.

  2. net.sticks said on 26th July 2009, 18:35

    The punishment is fair – if they knew, first, they never should let the car out, but they did worst – they didn’t even tell the driver…

    Now they’ll pay – and pay hard, because the next GP is in Spain (Valencia), Alonso’s house of groupies, so, no yellow and red flags on the stands… So sorry, old chap… :)

    I’m only astonished that they did this to Renault and didn’t find anything to penalize McLaren… Come on… it’s a classic by now – Stewards Vs. McLaren – Always seeking something to crash them! It would give a nice motion picture… lol

  3. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 18:39

    williams did the same thing to nigel mansell in 1991 at estoril, ofcourse he got black flagged for the race but williams was not handed a ban for the next race. seems too harsh. maybe they could fine them 25bn $ or so.

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

      I thought that was because they pushed Mansell backwards.

      • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 18:42

        Ah sorry, putting on the wheel in the fast lane.

        I thought they pushed him back once too. Or was that Prost?

        • Hakka said on 26th July 2009, 19:05

          You’re probably thinking of Nicki Lauda. He actually shifted into reverse gear and reversed into the pit stop! He wasn’t black-flagged during the race – his 5th place was tossed out after the race I think.

          • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 23:39

            That was Mansell probably? Or at least he did the same.

            Mansell backing up in the pitlane at the 1989 portugese GP:

            Mansell ignores the black flag and manages to crash into Senna taking the both of them out of the races.

            Amazing what utter idiocy drivers got away with back in those days.

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 18:43

      You can’t really compare this to ’91.
      Safety is a much higher priority than it was then so obviously putting people in danger will be more harshly punished now.

      • Adam said on 27th July 2009, 5:40

        Mansell was banned from the Spanish GP in 1989, which was the next GP after the Portugese, for the black flag pitlane incident. So in that respect the Renault ban isn’t completely unprecedented.

        • Patrickl said on 27th July 2009, 21:57

          If he was banned then that would have been for ignoring a black flag and for ramming Senna after he gotten that black flag.

          Like Schumacher almost took Berger off after he got his black flag. Think schu got a 3 race ban though.

  4. Rash Rob said on 26th July 2009, 18:41

    Lets hope the Spanish fans don’t let there frustration out on Hamilton. I fear we may see more racist abuse that goes unpunished after numerous warnings.

    • mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 18:47

      well done!!! you’ve spotted it! if that happens, i think f1 should move out of spain forever.

      • Juanjo said on 26th July 2009, 19:43

        I am a Spanish fan. I think your comments here a totally offensive. There were 2 people out of 130,000 that were dressed that way. Come on!

        • Daniel said on 26th July 2009, 19:49

          Well Them 2 People Have Let Your Country

          But Them 129,998 People, They Wernt Noticed.. It Was The 2!

          So Thats What People See…

          I Really Hope It Doesnt Happen This Year

    • IDR said on 26th July 2009, 19:38

      I’ve seen here as much racist abuse as in Barcelona

    • Lynn said on 26th July 2009, 20:49

      Come on now, why would the spanish fans take it out on lewis? It’s got nothing to do with Lewis.

      • Gman said on 26th July 2009, 23:00

        Indeed, I would think that even if Alonso isn’t in action next week, the fans have nothing to blame Hamilton for. If anything, they should channel their anger at the FIA I suppose.

        As for those Spanish fans, I haven’t been to the country but I suspect those fans that caused so much trouble were one a very, very small number…the vast majority of fans are probably well-behaved and act in a very positive manner. Sadly, you’ll find a few idiots at any sporting event in the world, and that was the case with the racism in Spain.

        I don’t think it’s exactly fair for Spain to have two races when other vital markets go without even one, but the handful of fans who acted up last season are no reason for F1 to stop visiting SPAIN ENTIRELY.

  5. sato113 said on 26th July 2009, 18:43

    i’m sure bernie will now intervene. how can he afford to have the valencia gp with 18 cars and without its home hero- alonso. will be interesting to see how renault’s appeal goes. i think bernie will have a word with the fia…

    • dsob said on 29th July 2009, 8:53

      Why would Bernie care?

      Bernie has already made his money from Valencia, doesn’t matter if zero spectators show up.

      • sato113 said on 29th July 2009, 18:46

        oh yeah i’m sure he wouldn’t mind…

        it’d be bad for the f1 image if the seats were half empty. and we all know Bernie’s job is to keep the image good. if no one turned up, the circuit would make a huge loss and maybe have to drop off the calendar. (good for us, bad for him)

  6. Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 18:45

    I don’t understand items 1 and 2 of the verdict.

    Are they seriously claiming that Renault sent Alonso on his way with one wheel loose on purpose? That’s just preposterous.

    They might have known the moment Alonso drove away and his wheel faring was spinning round, but by then it was too late to stop him.

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 18:48

      Of course it’s not too late to stop him!
      You tell him on the radio that something’s wrong and he has to stop, then you wheel him back into the garage.
      Alonso asked the team what was wrong because he thought he had a puncture and

      they didn’t tell him


      • Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 18:49

        oops, “they didn’t tell him” was supposed to be bold not quoted :p

      • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 19:01

        Number 1 say “knowingly released” and number 2 “prevent the car from leaving the pit lane”

        You are responding to the other numbers.

        So again, it makes no sense whatsoever that they would send alonso out KNOWING that the wheel was not on

        What, they are going to let hem do a lap with 3 wheels because staying in the pit for 2 seconds longer takes too much time?

        • Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 19:06

          They knew he had a loose wheel because the guy with the gun would have realised, it was obvious from the replay.
          So yes, they knowingly released him because they knew the wheel was loose…

          And like I said, they could have prevented him from leaving the pit lane by telling him to stop when they realised what had happened. Instead they didn’t tell him, even when he asked about a possible puncture.

          How can you not see what they did wrong?

          • Mark Hitchcock said on 26th July 2009, 19:08

            They obviously didn’t deliberately put the wheel on loosely, the only reason I can think of for them letting him carry on is that they hoped it was secure enough to carry on the race.
            A stupid and dangerous decision.

          • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 21:36

            Like I say in reply to Keith below. I simply misunderstood the verdict (which explains why I didn;t understand it …)

            They probably thought the “wheel nut” was installed just fine. Simply an extra safety was not installed.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 19:12

        What we don’t know here is at what point did Renault realise the the nut wasn’t on properly. Before they sent Alonso away? Before he got out of the pits? The FIA presumably believe it was the former, hence points 1 and 2 of their verdict. I’d like to know how they know that.

        • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 21:34

          Actually, rereading the verdict, they say that they didn’t install the “wheel nut retaining device” and knowingly sent out the car.

          Sorry, I misunderstood this for “not fixing the wheel nut”.

          So indeed Renault might have thought the wheel was fine, but simply an extra safety device was missing.

          Obviously these things are there not just for fun.

          That turns the thing completely around. Indeed they knowingly took a risk and didn’t even inform Alonso.

        • Gman said on 26th July 2009, 23:02

          Exactly- that was the first question to pop up in my mind. After all, what team knowingly sends their star driver out on track with a bad wheel?

        • dwp said on 28th July 2009, 5:03

          Looking at the BBC coverage there is a replay after the incident showing the right wheel going on and one of the wheelmen moving the “spinner” into the locking position. Believing the wheel is on the lollypop man releases Alonso and you can see the wheelman repeatedly trying to get the spinner to lock, at least 2 attempts, as the car moves away. At this point ONE member of the team knows the spinner didn’t lock. How long it took to tell the team manager what happened and what action was taken we don’t know as we don’t have the information that, presumably the stewards had.

          I voted too harsh. I do think a fine is justified but unless a team must be perfect these incidents will occur.

          What I find unfair is that apparently Alonso was not found culpable for any part of the incident, the team was, but by punishing the team they are also punishing Alonso, and Piquet (assuming he would drive in the next race).

          Hopefully more intelligent heads will prevail on the appeal.

          BTW I am not a big Alonso fan, actually I am a F! fan ;-)

  7. net.sticks said on 26th July 2009, 18:46

    Too bad what Kimi did to Hamilton and Webber on turn one “requires no further action” by FIA…

    He could have killed the race for both of them, right there… and no punishment.

    I guess we must be getting used to it, after all, last race, Webber ended Hamilton’s race also on turns 1/2 by hitting him with the front wing on a rear tire, puncturing it…

    It’s live… or not – it’s those incompetent FIA Stewards that have no qualifications to do what they do and abuse their power, just to get their names on the net and the papers…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 18:48

      What’s he supposed to have done wrong? I saw nothing untoward.

      • Lutz said on 26th July 2009, 19:38

        Neither Hamilton or Webber mentioned anything about Kimi doing something wrong.

        But after the penalty Webber got in Germany I understand your point.

        • adz2301 said on 26th July 2009, 21:50

          This kind of incident is inevitable though when you’ve got Mclaren and Ferrari now consistently qualifying around positions 4 to 10, especially at first corners like Nurburgring and Budapest. Unfortunately, we might get more of the same at Spa and Monza in particular, where 4 cars side by side into the first corners just won’t fit.

    • dwp said on 28th July 2009, 5:18


      Webber ended Hamilton’s race also on turns 1/2 by hitting him with the front wing on a rear tire, puncturing it…

      I watched the tape and Webber didn’t “hit” Hamilton. Webber never moved left into Hamilton, instead Hamilton came across a bit too soon and didn’t clear Webber.

  8. vet4snak said on 26th July 2009, 18:49

    we need to start discussing about felipe’s potential repalcements…
    and potential….Alonso…with suspension in place….if the Ferrari-Alonso rumor is true, then they might as well bring it forward..

    maybe we should start a poll and see what happens..

    i think we should also sticky Massa’s current situation on the top, so that the topic doesn’t fall behind in to next pages

  9. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 18:52

    Are the FIA getting even with Alonso’s 2009 F1’s ‘worst year in history’ remarks and criticism?
    Will they even let him drive for Ferrari this year?

  10. mp4-19b said on 26th July 2009, 18:54

    i don’t think so renault will allow nando to go to ferrari for a single race. i think its never happened before. flavio will murder alonso if he does move on.

  11. Rash Rob said on 26th July 2009, 18:59

    Spain is lucky to have a GP full stop. Some of the abuse a driver receives is unacceptable. The FIA’s toothless threats of punishment should be executed. Alonso missing his home GP shouldn’t be an issue because there shouldn’t be one. Renault did not warn the driver therefore a race ban is the correct punishment.

    • So you should punish hundreds of thousands of well behaved fans because of a few simple, racist, waste of space idiots? should british GP be banned because of that idiot that ran along silverstone during a gp? especially when they are specifically suppose to keep the track safe? No, that would be unfair and stupid. Imagine the outcry over that.

      • Rash Rob said on 27th July 2009, 17:53

        Yes. For letting them walk around freely with painted faces and racist t-shirts. They shouldn’t be let in and other spectators should not stand for it.

  12. Hollus said on 26th July 2009, 19:01

    Nice place to place my comment, as a spaniard. Congratulations to Hamilton for another flawless, start to finish win. OK, from lap 8, but he already looked good for the win by then. I know most spanish fans see it like that too, but one cannot avoid a person in 10000 being an idiot. So, please, don’t take it too seriously if 6 people out of 100000 say something bad about Hamilton.
    Back to the penalty. I found it ridiculously hard, it is a new interpretaion of the rules, etc, etc.
    But what I dislike the most is the perverse logic behind it. Renault, knowingly, did this, and then, Renault, knowingly, failed to do that. Well, if I met this guy, Renault, in the street, I would ask him why, but since Renault is not a person, I would like to give my interpretation of how it might have happened:
    There is a pit stop, and one mechanic doesn’t get the wheel quite perfect. Everybody is in a rush, because there is a race going on. The guy sees that the wheel is kind of OK, even if he may (or may not) know that something didn’t quite snap in place. He hesitates for a second. Then the lollypop guy releases the car and alonso is off. 20 guys rush back to the garage, each one with functions to perform and places to go. Likely the mechanic at the wheel tries to talk to some important team manager. 15 seconds pass before he manages that. Alonso notices something funny with the car, can see the thing rotating with his wheel. In the garage, they all wonder what’s that, is it a puncture? Maybe by then the mechanic has managed to speak to one person, “the wheel what?!” Oh, not good, are you sure? Call the data guy on the telemetry, what can he see? Well, the wheel looks bad, but doesn’t look like falling off after five corners, he can surely come to the pits and change it. So, telemetry guy, is it a puncture? Oh, the wheel fell off!
    Seriously, the full drama involving Renault, a team of about 40 people in the spot, all very busy, happened in about 40 seconds.
    A tiny bit harsh, maybe?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 19:09

      Hi Hollus – What are the Spanish media saying about it?

      • jacaru said on 26th July 2009, 19:16

        Spanish media opinion is that the measure is too harsh. It is also though that if Renault must receive a punishment, it’s drivers should have not been involved in it.

    • Oliver said on 26th July 2009, 19:33


      Thats exactly how I think it happened. But funny still. :-)

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 26th July 2009, 20:51

      Well said, Hollus.

      • gabal said on 26th July 2009, 21:57

        I agree, I think chief mechanic did a mistake as the guy on the wheel didn’t signal he is done. Alonso was released after 5 seconds – that is extremly short pit-stop, even for 3-stop strategy.

        • Adrian said on 27th July 2009, 9:21

          The guy with the wheel DID signal he was done.

          His hand was up in the way they do to signal everything was done, but his other hand was still doing something to the wheel fairing.

          Renault may not a have reaslised that the wheel would come off, but they probably realised that the fairing wasn’t on properly and could come off – which it did.

  13. This is not even about Alonso, or Ferrari. Its about Renault, who in normal circumstances, have not done much wrong. But in present context, their mistake isn’t trivial.

    Just imagine if FIA didn’t do it, Planet-F1 and Keith would be jumping and screaming “FIA allow reckless Renault to go unpunished inspite of 2 freak accidents happening in the space of a week”.

    Now, the teams know the price to be paid for having loose components on the car.

    Having said that, I wish that Renault appeal his upheld otherwise the Alonso to Ferrari rumours will go into overdrive in this 3-week break.

    • John H said on 26th July 2009, 22:38

      People aren’t in the main saying they shouldn’t be punished – just that the punishment seems too harsh for the crime.

  14. Austin said on 26th July 2009, 19:01

    Keith has a driver ever driven for 2 teams in the same season? If not I don’t think the FIA would allow it anyway.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2009, 19:05

      Oh yeah it’s happened loads – Vettel in 2007 is the most recent example I can think of.

      • Austin said on 26th July 2009, 19:19

        But that would mean releasing Massa and Alonso from their contracts. I don’t think Ferrari would want to do this at this time to Massa. I think they owe it to Massa and his family to wait until he comes out of hospital and let them decide on Massa’s future with Ferrari.

    • Damon said on 26th July 2009, 19:15

      The most legendary case was with Michael Schumacher in 1991. He drove his first F1 race in a Jordan, but the next race he was already in Benetton :)

      • Austin said on 26th July 2009, 19:45

        I remember that now, Jordan took Benetton to court, but Benetton won. Eddie Jordan forgot to get Schumacher to sign a contract. The rest is history as they say. Imagine if EJ did have a contract. Would Schumacher be 7 time champion today? The mind boggles :)

    • David A said on 26th July 2009, 21:52

      Vettel, Salo and Trulli have.

    • Tim said on 27th July 2009, 9:06

      In 1994, Johnny Herbert drove for three teams – Lotus, Ligier and Benetton. There are other examples of drivers switching teams twice too.

  15. TommyB said on 26th July 2009, 19:02

    The stewards are the idiots for not giving a Safety Car when that thing fell off. After yesterday you think they’d worry about debrie like that on the track. Complete idiots

    • Tiomkin said on 26th July 2009, 19:05

      The wheel wasn’t on the track, so didn’t impede anyone, hence no safety car.

    • Hollus said on 26th July 2009, 19:16

      Well, that is my point. That doesn’t make much sense either. There is no time to deploy the safety car before the wheel stops moving! Big groups of people need a certain amount of time to take decisions.

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