Will Alonso get to race in Valencia? (Poll)

Alonso did just one lap at Valencia last year - this time it could be even less

Alonso did just one lap at Valencia last year - this time it could be even less

Renault goes before the World Motor Sports Council today to argue against its exclusion from the European Grand Prix.

The stewards at the Hungarian Grand Prix banned them from this weekend’s race after the team knowingly allowed Fernando Alonso to leave the pits with a loose wheel during the race.

Should Renault be allowed to race at Valencia?

  • Yes (71%)
  • No (25%)
  • No opinion (4%)

Total Voters: 1,183

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The crime

The stewards claimed Renault’s actions broke two clauses of the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations:

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.

Although it is hard to argue Renault did not infringe those rules, it is clear the stewards have chosen to take a tougher line on teams that allow their cars to race with loose parts. It’s not hard to imagine why, given the terrible fate that befell Henry Surtees accident recently, and Felipe Massa’s accident in practice.

There is some similarity with the French Grand Prix last year, when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was observed to have a loose exhaust pipe for several laps, which eventually fell off. It was within Ferrari and race control’s power to summon the car into the pits for attention, but neither party seized the initiative.

Meanwhile Massa was catching his team mate, and the words uttered by ITV commentator James Allen at the time ram home the comparisons between these two incidents:

Martin Brundle: There’s something hanging off – the exhaust is broken. I’ve been trying to look at it for a couple of laps, I thought I saw something flailing. I think it’s the right bank exhaust that’s hanging off…
James Allen: …which Massa might be receiving in the face before too long. [...]

Brundle: It’s not out of the question they could blank-and-orange flag that car because bits of exhaust pipe dangling in the breeze is quite dangerous for the cars following. It’s not out of the question the stewards may pull that Ferrari in so they can tear that off.

Raikkonen covered at least two laps with the exhaust hanging off the back of the car. Although it’s not entirely comparable to Alonso’s penalty, as Raikkonen was not sent out of the pits with the damage, it’s hard to imagine how the stewards could allow a repeat of the Raikkonen incident without being accused of hypocrisy.

The punishment

Although it’s hard to argue against whether Renault have broken the rules, given the apparent change in how strictly these particularly rules are bring interpreted, it seems incredibly harsh to punish them so severely.

(That said, it’s difficult to know what kind of advice the teams and drivers are given about this sort of thing behind closed doors. There is always a suspicion about how readily the governing body ‘reinterprets’ its own advice – such as the infamous ‘clarification’ about overtaking published in the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s penalty at Spa last year.)

Banning a team from an entire race is a very serious penalty usually reserved for those deemed to have deliberately broken the rules – such as BAR’s two-race ban in 2005.

The fact that Alonso may be denied a chance to race in front of his home crowd shouldn’t have an influence on the verdict. But it probably will – Michael Schumacher’s two-race suspension in 1994 was itself suspended, allowing him to compete in his home race.

This could take the form of a deferred penalty, or changing the penalty into a large fine. The circuit’s representatives have already suggested this could happen.

The WMSC may rule that the driver should not be punished for what was the team’s mistake – a line of argument that Alonso (and Hamilton) benefited from in 2007’s ‘spygate’ saga. Nor would it be the first time Renault was found guilty but not penalised.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some workaround is achieved to allow Alonso to compete at Valencia.

But these decisions about interpretations of the rules have in the past proved completely unpredictable and lacking in consistency. It reminds me of South Park’s view of how the US government has reacted to the economic crisis:

So which square do you think the headless chicken will land on? Three-race ban? Ten-point bonus? Bail-out?

The WMSC decision is expected on Tuesday.

Read more: Renault banned from European Grand Prix following Alonso?s wheel loss

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61 comments on Will Alonso get to race in Valencia? (Poll)

  1. Spiffy said on 17th August 2009, 0:11

    I rather think that the headless chicken should land on ‘no constructor points’ – as it was the team’s mistake and not Alonso’s, allow Renault to race in Valencia but render them ineligible for constructor points.

    • just take the constructors points since it wasn’t the drivers fault

      • Scott Joslin said on 17th August 2009, 9:16

        Can we not shoulder some of the blame on the driver. Ok so it wasn’t his fault that the wheel wasn’t put on properly, but he decided to keep driving even though it always looked like it was going to fall off. If we make the driver blameless in these situations they could ignore what the team say anyway and just keep on driving even though it is potentially dangerous.

        I think a suspended ban for the rest of the seaon would do.

      • Scott Joslin said on 17th August 2009, 9:17

        Can we not shoulder some of the blame on the driver. Ok so it wasn’t his fault that the wheel wasn’t put on properly, but he decided to keep driving even though it always looked like it was going to fall off. If we make the driver blameless in these situations they could ignore what the team say anyway and just keep on driving even though it is potentially dangerous.

        The driver has a duty of care too in my opinion.

        I think a suspended ban for the rest of the seaon would do.

        • Nirupam said on 17th August 2009, 9:31

          No, we can’t. Because in this case, the team did not inform the driver at all that the wheel was not connected properly and that it looked like it was going to fall off. Trust me, no deiver would like to see himself in the position Massa currently in, by keeping on racing in “potentially dangerous” condition.

        • Spiffy said on 17th August 2009, 13:45

          he decided to keep driving even though it always looked like it was going to fall off.

          To us the viewers at home perhaps, but don’t forget that the drivers are so low down in the cockpit that Alonso would have had extreme difficulty seeing exactly how bad the wheel’s problem was – he reported that he believed he had a puncture, and since the team didn’t tell him otherwise, in his mind there was no reason to pull off of the circuit.

          Watching the footage back, the wheel itself only started to come off half a corner before it actually did, so Alonso didn’t have any time to make an informed decision.

          • Moo Point: Like a cow's opinion, it's Moo!! said on 17th August 2009, 15:22

            And as you say, he thought he had a puncture. When a tyre starts to delaminate, the part of the tyre the driver can actually see can move around so even then he may still have thought it was a puncture.

  2. bwells said on 17th August 2009, 0:36

    Well again… it seems that we’re flogging a horse named Ferrari but it’s absolutley true that it was crazy to let Kimi drive around the French GP last year..
    I know Ferrari has special F1 powers but it’s starting to get ridiculous…

  3. matt said on 17th August 2009, 0:55

    Brilliant clip, and does actually seem identical in terms of randomness to the FIA’s punishment method. Except instead of the ‘$90 trillion’ option there’ll be a ‘$100 million fine’ option, ‘penalise random driver’ instead of ‘go to congress,’ ‘tax the teams and circuits’ instead of ‘tax the rich,’ ‘indian tracks’ instead of ‘indian casinos,’ and ‘assume a position of such ridiculousness that it prompts teams create their own championship and abandon F1, therefore forcing the championship towards fail’ instead of ‘let fail.’

    And instead of killing a chicken, Mosely picks a prostitute at random from a large selection, and whichever card that prostitute is hiding behind her back becomes the FIA’s course of action. And he gets spanked with it.

  4. Ned Flanders said on 17th August 2009, 1:06

    Renault will get to race- if they don’t I’ll eat my hat. And if Romain Grosjean isn’t Piquet’s replacement, I’ll eat my football boots.

    And on the Ferrari incident at France last year- it was unbelievably stupid of the FIA to allow Raikkonen to continue with his exhaust hanging off. If a relatively small spring could do so much damage to Massa, imagine what that exhaust pipe would have done. At least the FIA/ FOTA war means that the stewards are no longer Ferrari biased and incompetent- now they’re just incompetent…

    • Achilles said on 17th August 2009, 7:30

      ….do you like your hats with or without brown sauce?….The poll should really be about the installation of a team of full-time stewards, whose qualifications should include several generations of people, with a strong link to motorsport.

  5. Jonesracing82 said on 17th August 2009, 3:29

    with raikkonen at France last year, he may not have initially been sent out with the exhaust like that, he did however have a pitstop and the mechanics checked it, left it and then sent him out! it’s on the season review DVD!

    • Stubie said on 17th August 2009, 13:32

      Spot-on recollection of the event.

      That was the most infuriating thing about this event. We watched as the team brought him in for refuelling, looked at the exhaust piece hanging (by this time it was hanging and flailing) and then shrug and step back from it.

      Thanks for continuing to fly this flag Keith.

      The issue at hand here should not be about Ferrari favoritism but more about steward inconsistency with safety issues. I don’t mind the judgment calls on the race incidents, or chicane cutting etc, but safety jeopardizes the entire sport.

      In the world today, we cannot come back from killing drivers, officials or spectators with preventable incidents.

  6. William Wilgus said on 17th August 2009, 3:29

    What I find most interesting is that apparently, there are no specified penalties for rule infractions. That said, in this case I think that since only one renault car was involved, only one renault car should be banned for one race. Since Alonso is apparently blameless in this incident, I guess the choice of which driver would get to race would have to be decided by the toss of a coin—heads Alonso drives, tails Alonso drives ;^)~

    • Yeah that is a good point. Also are the stewards the same people for the whole year, or does it vary from grand prix to grand prix?

      Specified penalties would certainly make everything more transparent.

  7. Gman said on 17th August 2009, 4:23

    I agree that there should be some sort of administrative punishment- the no constructors points idea is a good one.

  8. Hell$torm. said on 17th August 2009, 4:35

    who is going to replace piquet? havnt heard anything about it yet, its been almost 3 weeks since piquet got the boot and not a word from renault,

    i think that renault should take thier punishment like men, and just because its fernando’s home race does that mean that he gats a get out of jail free card? although he did nothing wrong.

    the FIA needs to stick to thier own rules, once they can do that then they can start dishing out fair punishmants, french gp with ferrari, is just another problem with the fia. If there is a good reason why ferrari didnt et the same penalty as renault have now i would like to hear it.

    It seems that when ever ferrari are involed in an investigation or incident the fia always looks the other way, it would be interesting to know the ratio of penaltes that ferrari have been given to the incidents they have been involed in

  9. mp4-19b said on 17th August 2009, 4:45

    I have a very strong feeling that renault ban will not be overturned, is that is the case, i see them pulling out immediately.

    • Achilles said on 17th August 2009, 7:51

      Think about it…they have just signed the concorde agreement, and a quarter of a billion dollars is being shared out between the teams, that eases the pressure on Renault, also, why would they set themselves up for punitive damages for rescinding on a freshly signed deal?

  10. Brian said on 17th August 2009, 5:02

    “Manuel!!!” (followed by slap in back of head.) that is what I wish I could do to the people responsible for banning Renault if they don’t get to race.

  11. Rob R. said on 17th August 2009, 7:23

    They should have been given a suspended race ban.

    After the two incidents, it was unacceptable for Renault to make such a cavalier pit stop. It would’ve been good for the Valencia ticket sales to let them race, but also to have something hovering over them to keep the teams honest.

  12. Patrickl said on 17th August 2009, 8:18

    Renault should be punished harshly.

    The problem is not just that “after the team knowingly allowed Fernando Alonso to leave the pits with a loose wheel during the race”. Those things happen more often. The verdict was much deeper than simply that.

    In this case. The mechanics put up their hands before they are done. The guy sits there with one hand up and the other fumbling around still putting the fairing on.

    They knowingly messed up their procedure to gain time while neglecting safety issues.

    If they disqualify a team for lying (while the stewards shouldn’t even need to hear the team to reach the correct conclusion) then surely they should disqualify a team for knowingly disregarding safety rules and sending out an illegal car.

    Of course in this case the punishment looks more severe since Renault get disqualified for the next race while McLaren where disqualified for the actual race.

    That seems a bit strange, but of course that depends on the result that “the car that infringed the rules” got. Besides this offense is much more severe than what McLaren did at the first race.

    So disqualification of the team really isn’t that unreasonable or illogical or random.

    • honestly, the part where you say -“knowingly disregarding safety rules and sending out an illegal car”
      makes no sense to me at all. unless i just interpreted it incorrectly. i read it as saying that renault deliberatly ignored safety procedures which simply doesn’t happen. sure, they made a mistake and knew once alonso was driving around the track that the wheel hadn’t been fitted, but they wouldn’t do that deliberatly. the more i type this, the more i think i miss interpreted it.

      • Patrickl said on 17th August 2009, 11:34

        Did you even bother reading the verdict?

        They send the car out without installing a MANDATORY safety device. ie illegal car.

        Indeed it’s mindboggling how they could send out a car that doesn’t comply. Even worse that they obviously don’t care at all and simply instruct their mechanics to raise their hands (signalling the car is ready) BEFORE this device is installed.

        • TommyB said on 17th August 2009, 15:47

          It was a bit of backlash from the Massa and Surtess incident. I don’t remember any other teams getting DQed for the same insident.

          I agree though the Renault team were stupid for letting Alonso out in the first place and then not telling him to retire straight away once they knew the wheel wasn’t on properly.

          • Patrickl said on 17th August 2009, 16:28

            My point is more that we have never seen a similar incident.

            They probably will review all pit Renault stops, but if the mechanic simply puts his hand up signalling that the wheel is done,when in fact after that the retainer still needs to be put in place, they are banking on the fact that refuelling will always take long enough. With Alonso’s ridiculous short stop it wasn’t long enough, but a problem with the wheel might also have made it too short.

            I don’t think any team has knowingly gambled on luck over safety (enforced by rules) like that before.

            McLaren was investigated too when they had a wheel come off. Turned out it was a mechanical failure and the wheel nut retainer actually was installed. I would assume they would have been punished too if they simply sent the car out without installing it.

            Imagine sending a driver out with no seat belts or no helmet. That’s not allowed either. Obviously a “wheel nut retainer” is less obvious, it’s still a safety device.

          • TommyB said on 17th August 2009, 16:49

            Good point.

            Was that Silverstone where Hakkinens tyre came off you were talking about?

  13. DGR-F1 said on 17th August 2009, 8:33

    Now, aren’t the FIA getting themselves in a pickle! If they allow Renault to race, and even reduce the penalty to a fine, then it proves they have no backbone. On the other hand, if they go ahead and refuse to allow Renault to race, then they are seen as power-mad idiots.
    I am all for more transparent and immediate penalties in all cases. As far as I am concerned Alonso ought to have been black-flagged and not allowed to finish the last race and so have nil points. Wouldn’t that have been enough to make them pay attention next time?
    As it is, will Renault have to take the whole team to Valencia this week, only to go home again if they aren’t allowed to race? Or will they be allowed to practice, but not race? What on earth is the ruling?

  14. John H said on 17th August 2009, 8:54

    The mistake has been made already, and hence, I voted no although I thought the initial penalty was a knee-jerk one (like DGR-F1 says, why didn’t they use the black or the black and red flag… and as previously discussed, what’s the difference to Kimi at Magny-Cours…etc…).

    However, no driver should be re-installed because it’s his home GP, and I’m sure Alonso would agree with that.

  15. The sri lankan said on 17th August 2009, 8:55

    as a Toyota fan i want to see Alonso filling in for one of the Panasonic teams or the WIlliams. especially the Nakajima’s seat. but thats just pure Daydreaming on my part

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