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. Carl 27 said on 26th July 2009, 23:03

    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?

    • Gman said on 26th July 2009, 23:21

      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.

    • Patrickl said on 26th July 2009, 23:49

      Who says that all 44 million spaniards will?

      A few of them might.

  2. manatcna said on 26th July 2009, 23:10

    (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.

  3. Tom said on 26th July 2009, 23:17

    well there goes half the crowd…

  4. Dawn said on 26th July 2009, 23:28

    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.

  5. Gman said on 26th July 2009, 23:30

    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……

  6. Wesley said on 26th July 2009, 23:40

    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.

  7. Gusto said on 26th July 2009, 23:45

    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`

  8. Damon said on 26th July 2009, 23:56

    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.

  9. dmw said on 26th July 2009, 23:58

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. The Limit said on 27th July 2009, 1:36

    I voted the penalty as harsh, although Renault deserved to get punished for what happened. After seeing just how much damage a spring can do to a driver’s helmet and face, the thought of a tyre hitting someone is quite horrific. It could have come back and hit Fernando, another driver, a marshall, anything could have happened.
    Everybody is a little jumpy at the moment, following the death of Surtees and the injury to Massa. This could not have come at a worse moment for Renault, when the eyes of the stewards were on potential incidents like this and setting precedents.
    These things are not uncommon. Three years ago Alonso himself suffered from a loose wheel at Hungary, and ten years ago Hakkinen lost his wheel at Silverstone.
    On the flip side, politically, this has opened up the worlds biggest can of worms as to the future of Fernando Alonso at Renault. The next four weeks are going to be fascinating to see how the Spaniard reacts to the knowledge that he will not be driving in Spain, atleast not for Flavio Briatore atleast. I guess it depends on how advanced the supposed Ferrari/Alonso partnership is.
    If rumours were to be believed two weeks ago, the Scuderia were planning to announce Fernando as their new driver at Monza, replacing everybody assumed Kimi Raikkonen.
    Now that Felipe Massa is not around at the moment, and we all hope he returns soon, that has played directly into the hands of Alonso.
    I am waiting, like us all, to see what Briatore does! As Fernando drives for his team, and Flavio is his manager, will he let the Spaniard off the leash or fight to keep him? If he knows Fernando is going to walk to Ferrari anyway at Monza, then why fight to stop him driving for them at Valencia?
    If these rumours are true, I can see Ferrari making their intentions public at Valencia and not Monza. It is highly unlikely that Massa will be well enough to compete anytime soon, it would also light a charge under Kimi Raikkonen also.
    I still believe that, ‘if’ Massa returns to racing Raikkonen is done at the end of the season. I just can’t see that relationship going on beyond 2009. Interesting weeks ahead!

    • Lutz said on 27th July 2009, 5:52

      I really don’t think Ferrari will replace Massa for Alonso, that would be unethical to say the least. If Ferrari wants/needs to replace an injured driver then they should use one of the test pilots mentioned on other coments.

      Of course I’d love to see Alonso on the red car, but my guess is that it won’t happen in Valencia.

  12. Steve K said on 27th July 2009, 1:44

    Did anyone catch the Indycar Race? Fuel rig didn’t shut properly and Tony Kanaan’s car caught fire. This goes along with the closed cockpit debate. TK suffered some 2nd degree burns but imagine how worse a fire could be if driver is covered? Think about how much fuel is going to be in a F1 tank thanks to the refueling ban next year?

    Penalty on Renault is ridicules. People pay money to see these people race and they ban an entire team for one of the races? Just fine the hell out of them.

    • StrFerrari4Ever said on 27th July 2009, 2:17

      Yeah i watched that race and that was terrifying fire from inside the cockpit luckily he was still near other pit crews for the fire to be put out quickly.

      As for this Renault issue i can understand why they’ve taken this decision but it seems kind of harsh maybe a fine would have been better but will see whether Renault’s appeal is succesful if not Alonso would be itching i think to drive for Ferrai in front of his homecrowd which would make the Spaniards go ballistic.

      Piquet where does he stand in this well he might not have a drive for the European Grand Prix which is rather sad because i was beginning to like him despite the negativity surrounding him.

  13. Jay Menon said on 27th July 2009, 2:15

    Well, the FIA has done it again. How many times have we seen cars loose tyres after a pit stop? Never got penalized did they? This where the FIA is lacking in consistency, its obvious that they’ve reacted in the aftermath of the week’s incidents.

    What kind of team would knowingly send their driver out with a loose tyre? Were they hoping that it would magically torque up? I just dont it sometimes, the lack of common sense is largely lacking here.

    Having said all this, I think this could be the last straw for Alonso, he’s stood by the team and given all he’s got to bring the team to where they are, and when he sticks a clearly inferior car on pole, they go and forget the wheel nut. Thats it!..he’s off to Ferrai next year..he has to. There is no point plucking about in Renault, Flavio and his team have failed to deliver a good enough car.

    It would be interesting to see if he will be in Ferrari come Valencia…highly doubtful, but we’ll see.

  14. Colin said on 27th July 2009, 2:29

    Are the wheels secured by a tether, why did that not work

    • Bernard said on 27th July 2009, 3:26

      This is the reason for the ruling as outlined in the FIA statement. They didn’t lock the wheel before letting the car leave the pits.

      14.7 Wheel retention:

      14.7 Wheel retention:
      All cars, whilst under their own power, must be fitted with devices which will retain any wheel in the event of it coming loose.
      After the wheel nut is fastened, these devices must be manually fitted in a separate action to that of securing the wheel nut.

      • Oliver said on 27th July 2009, 8:21

        In the past the FIA was willing to wave of a single wheel nut infraction, that is…assuming 3wheels were secured and a 4th wasn’t. By the way we dont know if all 4wheels were not secured.

    • Oliver said on 27th July 2009, 8:19

      @Coling, how can u secure a wheel to a tether and still have it able to rotate?
      It is the wheel hub assembly and suspension that is secured. If the wheel is bolted securely to the hub then everything is fine, if not, then the tether is still attached, but the wheel is free to go where it wants.

      Imagine changing wheels during a race with the tether attached to it. :-)

  15. George said on 27th July 2009, 2:34

    Its true there are no precedents for such a hard punishment in the recent past, but probably neither had the FIA or teams tought of the serious consecuences involved, as had come to light in the last few days. Renault knew what happened to surtees, so up close what happened to massa, and in memory many more tragedies regarding tires comming off to the crowd, stewards etc in all sorts of motor racing. They should have insured the safety of everyone first. Not to mention forget about the wheel comming off and causing a surtees-massa incident, but alonso not knowing his wheel could come off at high speed in the straight or in a fast corner, he could have had a major accident

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