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. Arun Srini said on 27th July 2009, 3:18

    Keith’s debate has been brought to fresh light following the wheel incident from Renault, and also the injury sustained by Massa. So closed cockpit team has 2 more reasons to debate huh?? Anyway, also the pre race analysis from this site has been spot on, if only I voted for Hamil in my fantasy game :((

  2. Jonesracing82 said on 27th July 2009, 3:30

    BMW also got away with it at Barcelona ’07, the wheel didnt come off but he did a lap knowing it was loose!

  3. Quoting examples of 2008, 2007 or before in which teams weren’t punished is completely missing the point. In light of the 2 freakish accidents, a penalty HAS to be given.

    Regarding the harshness, it may be a bit harsh. But if the penalty were any lesser, teams would laugh it off. Also, this is the first instance of a team being punished for a ‘loose fitting’ offense, so there is no precedent for deciding what is ‘fair’ penalty.

  4. Mel Hutchinson said on 27th July 2009, 5:58

    Max and his cronies strike again. While I agree that Renault is guilty of negligence, Braun GP’s negligence resulted in consequences, they seriously injured a driver. I ask you, which act is more dangerous? If the FIA wants to protect drivers, fine we are all for that. Everyone is fortunate that the Renault incident didn’t have the outcome of Felipe Massa’s crash and injuries and no one should be living with the tragedy that Henry Surtees’ family is enduring. That being said the FIA has to be consistent. It doesn’t matter is it’s a spring, a tire, or whatever if a part from a racecar becomes a dangerous projectile then the same punishment needs to apply. If Renault is suspended then Braun GP should be suspended too. Common sense tells us that the potential to cause injury is not as bad as actually injuring someone! Wake up Max!

  5. savage said on 27th July 2009, 7:46

    Marshalls decisions seem to be getting more severe and how many locals will go to the gp if there no.1 son is not in the thick of it , that quali performance would have sparked hysteria in valencia and spain could have three drivers in there home race this year giving them alot to cheer about .
    what will this do for piquet?

  6. DGR-F1 said on 27th July 2009, 8:24

    I have some questions about the whole weekend:
    1. Since the parts came off Barichello’s car in Q2, seriously injuring Massa, why were the Brawn cars allowed to carry on in Q3, and in the race? Surely Brawn’s mechanics needed some sort of penalty, if not the factory, for failing to build it properly.
    2. Why was Kimi’s penalty left to be decided after the race? That basically meant nothing was going to happen!
    3. Yes, the penalty against Renault is harsh, and possibly just a knee-jerk reaction to events, but there have been two similar incidents (one fatal, one nearly fatal), and the Alonso wheel could have been a third. I didn’t like the way it was bouncing towards the cameraman or whatever he was on the inside of the corner!
    In a weekend of strange incidents, why is only one out of three actually given a sensible reaction by the ‘officials’?
    I still don’t believe the FIA Stewards really know about racing or care about either safety or competitiveness. We need a shakeup and a re-education from top to bottom, even if it means people losing their positions……

  7. Baz said on 27th July 2009, 8:40

    The problem here, yet again, is the inconsistency in how incidents are handled and how punishments are handed out by the stewards. Sadly their decisions are not based on applying the rules firmly and fairly or for the good of the sport.

  8. FLIG said on 27th July 2009, 9:05

    Yeah, well, Briatore never learns. He was a crook when he started and he still is a crook… Ban him all you want, he’ll still come back eventually with new tricks and dirty moves.

  9. Accidentalmick said on 27th July 2009, 10:20

    I might be a bit late posting this but…

    I dont remember seeing the wheel man’s hand go up in the air. He was certainly still touching the wheel as Alonso drove off. If that is correct then it was a mistake by the lollipop man.

    Certainly the wheel man would have known the wheel was not on properly but less than a minute later it came off and everyone knewn.

    I think Renailt as a whole just did not have time to diseminate the information from the wheel man and react to it and to suggest that they knowingly released an unsafe car is a spin to make the FIA look good.

  10. Brawn said on 27th July 2009, 11:21

    its a huge over reaction to the recent death.

  11. Shin said on 27th July 2009, 11:30

    After reading all the comments I am surprised nobody even questioned how the stewards got to the conclusion that the team knew the wheel was not secured. Because this is the point, isn’t it? They knew and let him go. What kind of team would do that?! Why letting Alonso come out of the pits knowing that the wheel is going to take off and the race will be ruined? Are these the guys who spend months training how to secure the wheel and just doing this? Was it just a stupid mistake they did not realized until it was too late?

    I really would like to see those two conversations with the team manager and how the stewards got to the conclusion. I would shut up if the team manager just said “yes, we knew”. Then may all hell fall on your team and ban you not for one race but for the whole Championship for imcompetence. However, if this is just interpretation, and my guts tell me so in this political business of money and power, then I don’t understand such a punishment. Penalty? Yes, of course, money, constructor championship points, etc etc. Ban? Ridiculous… For the same reason, because this is a business, Renault will probably be in Valencia.

  12. Don’t FOM have an obligation to have at least 20 cars on the grid for each race? I recall reading something a while ago when Bernie said that was in the FOM contracts with the tracks.

    Maybe it’s not in the Valencia contract but if it is, and the Renault ban stays, what’s going to happen?

    FIA rules state that teams can only run two cars per race, so to make the numbers up to 20 a new team would have to enter. That doesn’t seem likely.

    And, I don’t see the Valencia track being particularly understanding given that, as things stand, they are minus the driver all the home fans want to see.

    Rather than Bernie getting Alonso a Ferrari seat for the next race, I think his efforts will have to go into overturning the Renault ban, perhaps having it replaced with a hefty fine and disqualification for the constructors’ championship.

    • VXR said on 27th July 2009, 12:35

      Don’t FOM have an obligation to have at least 20 cars on the grid for each race?

      2009 sporting regs.5>

      5.7 An Event may be cancelled if fewer than 12 cars are available for it.

    • gabal said on 27th July 2009, 12:40

      No, the limit is 18 cars according to deals with tv stations.

      • VXR said on 27th July 2009, 17:27

        So the race goes ahead,but isn’t televised.:)

        Would the race not go ahead if the Ferrari’s and McLaren’s or whoever spun off on the formation lap ?

  13. Blazo said on 27th July 2009, 13:10

    The Renault mechanic was trying to fix the wheel on properly when the lollipop man let Alonso go. They know the wheel wasn’t on properly. This is completely different to other incidents where it was a genuine accident (like Barrichelos spring coming off). This was shoddy and dangerous pitwork and needs to be clamped down on.

  14. gabal said on 27th July 2009, 13:11

    When was this kind of punishment made for the whole team before in the history of F1? I recall BAR being punished for cheating with tanks…

    • Patrickl said on 27th July 2009, 14:31

      Wasn’t Sauber once told their cars could not race in Brazil after they lost some wings (they clamied this was due to a bumpy track)

  15. PJA said on 27th July 2009, 13:18

    I haven’t had time to read the 260+ comments so far so I apologise if any questions have already being answered.

    I think the punishment is way too harsh. When I heard on the news that Renault had been suspended from the next Grand Prix my first reaction was what!? The decision seemed to have come out of nowhere as there had been no indication during the race coverage that the incident was even being investigated.

    To say that Renault knowingly released Alonso from the pit stop without the wheel being properly secured is ridiculous, why would Renault purposely ruin a good chance at a podium?

    How many times have we seen a driver try to nurse his car back to the pits when it has some kind of problem? If there has been an official change in policy regarding situations like this because of what happened to Surtees and Massa then I think a public announcement should be made and not just informing the teams in a private meeting.

    Also does anyone know why the stewards decided to investigate Raikkonen’s start after the race, yet at the previous Grand Prix they managed to investigate and punish Webber’s start during the race itself? I thought as the stewards decisions are supposed to be more open this year I may have missed an announcement that had been issued between the two races about a change of policy regarding when an incident at the start should be investigated. Personally I don’t think either start deserved to be punished as they are no different to starts that have been happening for years.

    I think over the past few years F1 stewards have made some really poor decisions, but I think the stewards at this Grand Prix must be among the worst.

    • Patrickl said on 27th July 2009, 14:34

      To say that Renault knowingly released Alonso from the pit stop without the wheel being properly secured is ridiculous, why would Renault purposely ruin a good chance at a podium?

      Indeed I asked the same question. The answer is “they released the car without fitting the wheel nut retainer

      They might have thought the wheel was on just fine. The car can probably run fine without the extra security, but it doesn’t comply to safety regulations.

      Of course it would also have made sure they detected that the wheel nut was in fact not fastened properly.

      the difference I see between the Raikkonen and Webber penalty is that Webber wa on his own when he rammed Barrichello while Raikkonen was in fact forced into Vettel by Hamilton and Webber coming right.

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