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 (2%)

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

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  1. Bernard said on 27th July 2009, 14:05

    It is difficult to judge for us of course as we don’t get provided with all of the evidence.

    However in this instance it appears that the FIA are certain that the wheel safety pin was not engaged as a possible result of the wheel nut not being tightened properly (the safety pin locks the wheel nut and prevents it coming off, it cannot be engaged until the nut is on properly)

    The accident involving Hamiltons wheel two years ago highlighted one potential flaw in the design and it is possible that other flaws exist. Hamiltons’ wheel went on and the pin was engaged but the wheel nut was not fully tightened resulting in a small gap causing the wheel to wobble and rub against the brake drum which caused the wheel to fail. The wheel didn’t come off thanks to the pin but the nut was not on properly. The cause of this was found to be a failure of the wheel gun.

    Renault cannot claim that they have a faulty wheel gun as that doesn’t explain why their safety pin was not engaged, which is a manual process. This suggests that they knew the wheel at best didn’t have the pin engaged and at worst had both a loosely fitted nut and a disengaged pin.

    The only way Renault can get out of this is to prove that the safefy pin was engaged but subsequently failed, possibly as a result of the spinner not being in location.

  2. Andy said on 27th July 2009, 17:17

    Some insight from someone who’s father has worked in an F1 pitlane…

    1. The safety device on the wheel is the “frisbee” that is now used for aero control. This is one of thereasons why their future is in doubt.

    2. The frisbee is co-located with the wheel nut, but need to be rotated by hand in order to engage with the locking mechanism on the hub (this is very important).

    3. The TV feed is sent to the screens on the pit wall and in the garage (also important).

    So, it seems that the wheelman did not spin and locate the frisbee into the locking mechanism. Did he know? Unknown.

    However, the loose frisbee was seen on the TV feed in turn one and spotted (in the UK at least) straight away by the commentators. My father saw that and said “they’ll call him in straight away”.

    This is the crux – the evidence was there straight away on the video feed. Telemetry would have told them thatthere was no pressure loss on the wheel (each wheel has a transducer transmitting the pressure). There was no excuse for not giving the order to return to pits because the wheel was loose.

    Brawn will probably not have any evidence that the damper from their car was going to come off. There will probably be a build audit sheet as well as a full history of the part. Most likely that will demonstrate that there was no pre-knowledge of the part failing.

    Two very different circumstances. However, Renault should have communicated the issue with their driver and they didn’t.

    I was also interested in why Ferrari were not penalised for the broken exhaust last year. No definative answer, but probably down to the fact that there is less energy in parts such as exhausts, wings, etc, then there is in the wheel. The safety of wheels is specifically covered in the regs, such is the danger involved.

  3. Renault is appealing the penalty: The correct response may be to allow Alonso and Renault to race in Spain and defer the penalty to the race after that. That will satisfy the home crowds and still make the safety point.

    Watching that wheel bounce down the track is convincing enough that a penalty should be imposed, regardless of the circumstances. And a ban for one race also seems appropriate.

  4. YamaMoto GP said on 27th July 2009, 18:33

    At last, the FIA do something right!

  5. 1994fanatic said on 27th July 2009, 19:47

    Havn’t the last two weekends shown you that loose objects from other cars cause harm? I think the brawns should have been banned from the next gp too. Atleast alonso’s tire didn’t send a driver to the hospital.

  6. toncho said on 27th July 2009, 20:43

    ALO and the other drivers were put in danger, is fair to punish REN. But once again the FIA is punishing the drivers for their team mistakes. A (big) fine would be more apropiate

  7. carol treurnicht said on 27th July 2009, 20:58

    The FIA are not punishing Renault- they wil save loads of dosh in not having to go to the race……so where is the penalty here? They may have got one or two points in the race but its not big deal reight? No- the driver and the fans are being punished which is why I think the punishment is totally wrong. Fine Renault a thumping fine and/or deduct championship points but they are punishing the wrong people here. That is the point- not whether the team should be penalised or not.

  8. carol treurnicht said on 27th July 2009, 21:00

    PS- I also thought that up to now you only got bans for deliberately cheating which is totally different to the situation here……..but even Maccas cheating didn’t get them banned did it?

    • Patrickl said on 27th July 2009, 22:02

      McLaren didn’t cheat though now did they?

      Renault didn’t install a safety device. That means fielding an illegal car and thus cheating.

  9. Pat said on 27th July 2009, 22:33

    Totally the team and Alonso’s fault – The team could have stopped him before he exited the pits by radio, if not then Alonso would have seen exactly what we saw – a loose wheel on the front right of his car – and should have pulled over and stopped – instead he chose to risk both supporters and Marshalls’ lives – forget what has happened to Surtees and Massa this year – Alonso was around when the Marshall was killed at Melbourne by Villeneuve’s wheel flying off his BAR in 2001 and would have known a Marshall was killed by another flying wheel in Monza in 2000 both as a result of crashes – this was not a crash so the situation was controllable but they refused to do so – GUILTY AS CHARGED

  10. Kes said on 28th July 2009, 8:22

    I am a long time F1 fan that has supported Alonso for many years. To add interest in our household my husband supports Hamilton. After watching from the sofa at home for years and years we have finally saved up to go to Valencia to see the race. I agree that Renault should be punished but I am sorry I feel like it is me that is being punished. I will not see my driver race. I have read every comment and can only one where a driver has actually been banned from a race and that was for driving under black flag conditions. How can this offence even come close to that? Are they going to refund the entrances to all those that bought tickets to see their idol. How would the Hamilton fans be reacting if we were talking about him missing the British Gran Prix for a similar offence. I am hoping that the appeal sees some sense knocked into the officials. Vetel was not barred for his error so why is Alonso and Renault being barred for theirs?

  11. KES- Because of the death of Henry Surtees and the near fatality of Felipe Massa. Kinda changes everyone’e perspective on safety issues, I think.

    If not for the prior two incidents I don’t think there would have been a race ban for Renault.

  12. Kes said on 29th July 2009, 9:10

    According to the Spanish press this morning Bernie is pushing for Alonso to be in red for Valencia. Have any of you heard about this?

  13. Kes said on 29th July 2009, 9:34

    George K. I agree with you but the fact is that this doesn’t really punish Renault. They are not in the running for world championship this year. They won’t miss the points. Alonso is in the same situation but it does punish the fans who have paid to see him there. Surely there are other penalties that they can impose that don’t punish those fans that have paid to see him.
    Similarly I feel sorry for Massa fans that have paid to see him in Valencia and other races but this was an accident.

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