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

2009 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

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

  1. Bernie to the rescue? – didnt you see him throw a swipe at briatori before the race – knowing he is one of the lead fota members what a perfect excuse for max’s lap dogs to attack?? – the wheel came off – no getting away from that – but wasnt there a device which tied wheels on or was that scrapped??
    and was that a Fia decision or the teams – I think it was after a spate of wheels coming off a few seasons ago??

    1. The tether was there, and worked OK. It holds the wheel center (I don’t know its technical name, the part that stays in the car in pit stops) to the car, so that it holds the wheel after the suspension breaks in a crash. In this case the problem was attaching the tire to that wheel center.

    2. Mark Hitchcock
      26th July 2009, 21:47

      There’s a tether that keeps the wheel+suspension attached I believe.
      Today it was part of the wheel nut that wasn’t attached properly, not the tether.

      But I think the tethers do need to be looked into, there have been a few occasions this season where wheels have come off in crashes.

  2. never thought I would see posts like the above on this site. PlanetF1 is out there for people who don’t understand the sport. The stewards have lost the plot on this one because of last weekend and Massa yesterday. Nobody should die or be severly injured for sport but all the drivers want the “danger” money. I have watched and see too many go in40 years of the sport, take out the risk and it dies. What happened to Alonso should never be punished, how many F1 fans have videos of DVD’s of Gilles on 3 wheels??? Lets get real and not go crazy over 2 freak accidents

    1. Thank you, everyone here has lost their minds.

  3. Yesterday, Massa was struck by a piece of broken suspension. Today, Red Bull sent Vettel back out knowing there was something broken on his car, suspension-related.

    Surely if Renault can be penalised for this offence, Red Bull should recieve an equal punishment for failing to “ensure that their cars comply with the conditions of eligibility and safety throughout practice and the race” by knowingly sending Vettel back onto the track with damaged suspension.

    And even in that case, this punishment is far too harsh for so many reasons. The whole Renault F1 team shouldn’t be punished for one guys mistake. These things are going to happen in F1, like the incidents with Massa last year and Albers in 2007 with fuel rigs, Barrichello on Saturday and Raikkonen’s stop in Valencia last year.

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      26th July 2009, 23:03

      Red Bull clearly didn’t know what was wrong with the car or they would have tried to fix it instead of just changing the wing.

      Renault knew what was wrong. And even if they didn’t realise until a few corners into the lap, according to the FIA they didn’t even disagree with Alonso when he said he thought had a puncture.
      They evidently made no attempt to warn Alonso, that’s the negligent and very stupid thing that they did. And that’s why they deserve the ban.

      If that wheel had hit someone (which Renault knew it could have if they knew the wheel was loose) then we’d be looking at much more than a race ban.

    2. Did didn’t realize it was the Suspension. On the Radio he just said it wasn’t driveable and he had no more control. The brought him in the next lap, changed the front wing because they thought that was the problem and if you watched the pit stop, you would have seen that a few of the pick crew checked the back of the car and didn’t see anything, then sent him back out. Next lap they called him because he still had problems, and kept him in. They didn’t do anything wrong.
      The fact is, they showed good communication with their driver, and he obeyed their orders. Red Bull did nothing wrong in Vettels situation.

  4. thats a fair one
    This eye brow man should not drive
    and the spanish ppl should have no f1 any more after what happened last year

    1. this is “racism” against Spaniards… punish the guilty guy/s, do not generalize… please, stop those comments

  5. Iv`e sped read the comments and I`am sure no-one has mentioned that Renault knew the wheel was gonna go south(If the frisbee falls off, the wheel will follow), also in turn 3 you can see the wheel move about 2-3 inches to the right, Alonso must of noticed this. But the thing that sealed there ban was that the wheel bounced at a very dangerous height across the line that a following car would of took to overtake the slower car. Tha fact that it nows leaves room for Alonso to drive for Ferrari next race is just a coincidence( Yeah right, if you beleive that your believe anything ).

  6. If Renault did send him out knowing that the wheel nut was not secured then the penalty is fair, if not too soft. Especially after the Surtees incident. I do agree that if that and the Massa incident had not happened then there would have been hardly any fuss made; but the fact is they did happen, and we could really do without any more horrific accidents, which this could have easily caused. Just thankfully he wasn’t near any other driver!

    I guess it’s hard to determine whether they released Alonso knowing the wheel wasn’t secure, maybe there should have been more talks with the team, but I do feel it was a fair penalty to hopefully deter any more incidents like it. Anything harsher would have been very unfair.

  7. This is just ridiculous. First of all, why would you do that to the Spanish fans? If I were all of them, I’d demand refunds for the tickets I bought! Then this is also an extremely harsh decision. Very very harsh. If this had happened in Germany, we would have thought nothing of it. The team did not release Alonso, it was the lollipop guy. And once they’d realized that, what were they supposed to do? Tell him to park it? Throw away the race? That’s outrageous. He was also moving much more slowly than the others, so even if the wheel did come off, it wouldn’t really be too much of a danger. And if this is happening to Renault, how come Brawn were allowed to start this race? This is extremely unfair, and I think it just shows that FOTA were stupid to abandon their breakaway plans…

  8. Surely if the car was too dangerous to continue race control should have either told the team to tell him to stop, or told the marshals to wave the black flag with the orange circle. After all that is what it’s for isn’t it?

  9. I think the worst thing the team did was not inform Alonso, even after he radioed in thinking he had a puncture. I say it’s fair, but maybe a knee jerk reaction after the incidents of this last week.

  10. It’s double standards. Renault get suspended but McLaren lie through their teeth and get reprimanded.

    Renault racing error = suspension.

    McLaren deliberately lie = no suspension.

    It’s easy to see who they like best.

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      26th July 2009, 23:07

      Did Mclaren’s lie put people in danger? No.
      Did Renault apparently misleading Alonso put people in danger? Absolutely.

      The error by Renault was the lollipop man letting him out of the box, the punishment is for not telling Alonso to stop the car when they realised what was wrong.

    2. Mclaren acted properly during that race. They didn’t put any ones life in danger. The issue is not Mclaren, the issue is the FIA.

    3. Yeah, it’s a double-standard all right. Were you saying that after McLaren got the fine and edjection from the championship in 2007?

      I agree that Renault should not be treated this harsh, but there is surely no double-standard when it comes to McLaren in this case.

  11. I don’t understand why some people believe that every single one of the 44 millions of spaniards are racists and are going to do abusive chants to Lewis, and don’t deserve to have a GP. Is it me or there are a few “the Sun” or “Daily Express” readers in this post?

    1. I agree with you on that one. Sadly, you are going to find at least a few fans with bad taste in every sporting venue, in every country around the globe. As I said, I don’t think Spain should get two races handed to it, but the vast majority of fans there are good and respectful from what I can see.

    2. Who says that all 44 million spaniards will?

      A few of them might.

  12. (Through gritted teeth) I have to agree with the stewards on this one.

    It is unacceptable to have a wheel come off, especially as we have seen the result it could have, and has had very recently.

    Some people have short memories.

  13. well there goes half the crowd…

    1. probably.

  14. As a brit living in Spain I object strongly to your assumption that the spanish will take it out on Lewis. We went to the race in Barcelona this year and yes the spanish dont like Lewis and they dont have to, but it isn’t racist they just didn’t like the shenanigans that went on with Mclaren in 2007.
    As for this ban I think it shows a total disregard to joe public who have paid their hard earned money for a ticket to see their hero’s race. After all it isnt the first wheel to come off an F1 car so the punishment doesnt appear to fit the crime here.

  15. I was quite suprised when first reading of this news, and even more suprised now. I do not disagree with the need for a penalty, but a penalty of this magnitude is surely over the edge. Which leads me to the obvious…there is some motive at steak here besides the punishment.

    Max won’t shead a tear at seieng Falvio and company miss one of Alonso’s home races. The events of the past week proved the perfect reasoning, and the tire flying off the perfect excuse, for Max and his goons to get back at Flavio, et al. I tend to think that these events will push Renault over the edge in terms of F1 involvement, and who knows if anyone will catch them on the other side.

    Another note of interest is that I believe the teams were on the verge of signing their new Concorde Agreement, or whatever they are calling it these days. Don’t think for a second that the FIA was going to miss a chance to drive a wedge between the various teams involved with that process.

    At the end, Bernie is obviously furious. Aside from Bulgaria, Spain is the only place outside Asia that he actually cares about, so he’ll be working those phones like crazy trying to get Fernando into one of those red cars next week.

    Oh, wait…there’s four weeks until the next race? Yeah, that’s right, how silly of me to forget that a few good events were pulled from the schedule in the off-season……

  16. There is no way that Renault could go un-punished if they knew they were putting people in harm’s way.A hefty fine would have been suitable on any other weekend….but,not this weekend.Too bad for Alonso and his fans though.

    What a weekend in F1!!….I am looking forward to going back to work tomorow and getting a rest!

    And if I never see the phrase “knee-jerk” reaction again,it would be too soon.

  17. Just noticed while watching the highlights that the front right wheel man does something that I`ve seen a few times before, He places He`s hand in the finished position before rotating the frisbee, the few times Iv`e seen it before I`ve winced thinking someone is going to lose a finger one day doing that, normally they have a second or two to get away with it but this time the car is gone before the complete locking of the disc, `more haste less speed`

  18. Keith, in over 15 years I’ve been watching F1, it was nothing unusual for me today to see a wheel flying off a car shortly after a pitstop visit (and the driver doing a lap on 3 wheels), yet this case seems to set a prescedence as to how the situation was dealt with.

    Do you recall other such cases and how they were handled??

    I recall Manseel (91?) and Alboreto (94), but in both cases the wheel came off already in the pitlane. Nigel didn’t make a lap w/o the wheel on the track, and Alboreto retired just after exiting the pits.

  19. The knowingly bit is striking not just because of how it serves to distinguish this part-loss from Brawn’s but because it implies that the team consciously endangered Alonso here. This is Hitchcock murder-plot stuff here; on these assertions by the FIA a prosecutor probably would likely want to have a look. It’s pretty over the top.

    But, Alonso, from what I read, did not jump in to defend the team. Remember how he ranted about sabotage in 2006? Just saying.

    Anyway, its harsh, but the sport has to take a look at the risks to the enterprise. Yesterday, in the States, FoxSports website’s only headline on the race, which they were to broadcast here was, “driver fractures skull.” Nice, right? Not even his name—because people here wouldnt know Felipe Massa from Adam. That’s not the publicity the sport needs and action has to happen to prevent another such occurence. Imagine the headlines if a name brand driver was coming up behind alonso and had his car destroyed or worse by the tire. Headline: “F1 is a dangerous freakshow.”

    Even aside from these considerations, and though the penaly this harsh, the risk issue is in fact serious. All the talk about getting balls and manning up and facing the danger is pretty silly. The drivers take risks to partake in the sport but they don’t have to be exposed to others willing or grossly negligent acts without recourse. If that’s really the case here, then Renault deserve a good slap in the face as well as the hand.

  20. The Almighty Joe Saward have a point:

    Thus the decision is easily justifiable in terms of safety. It is, however, inevitable – whether the FIA likes it or not – that the move will be seen by some in F1 circles as some kind of a payback for Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, who has been one of the leading members of FOTA in recent months.

    It will not help that the FIA Stewards in Budapest include some of Max Mosley’s strongest supporters, who are advised by Mosley’s right hand man Alan Donnelly.

    One of them is none other than Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the UAE representative, who confessed last year to have personally provided Mosley with 41 votes for last year’s confidence vote resulting from Mosley’s spanking scandal. Ben Sulayem later became an FIA Vice President. It is somewhat ironic that Ben Sulayem was given the opportunity to show off his driving skills in a Renault F1 car in Dubai a few months ago.

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