Alonso defends decision not to change broken wing

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Sepang, 2013Fernando Alonso defended the decision not to change his damaged front wing which led to his retirement from the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Alonso broke his front wing on the first lap of the race by hitting Sebastian Vettel’s car: “We were very unlucky,” he said. “After making a good start, I touched with Vettel at the second corner. It was a surprise to find him there, almost stopped and I don?t know what speed he was doing.”

He admitted the decision not to change the front wing was taken as he and the team wanted to wait until the track had begun to dry and he could use the pit stop to change to slick tyres as well:

“Despite the fact the car was damaged, it didn?t seem to be too bad and, together with the team, we decided to keep going, because if we?d stopped immediately and then again on lap three or four to fit dry tyres, we would have dropped too far back and definitely lost the chance to finish up the front.”

But the wing failed almost immediately after he passed the pit entrance, sending him skidding into a gravel trap. “It?s easy to criticise this decision, but at the time it seemed like the right one,” said Alonso.

“It was certainly a shame, because here we could have fought with the Red Bulls, but circumstances didn?t help and apart from the wisdom of the decisions we took, bad luck really played its part, when you think how many off-track excursions there were in Australia without any consequence and even here when the cars first went out on track.

“Now we are already focusing on the coming races in China and Bahrain, where we hope to do better than last year, so that we arrive in Europe with as many points as possible.”

Team mate Felipe Massa was held up behind Alonso in the first corners and finished fifth. Team principal Stefano Domenicali said the result left a “bitter taste” after his cars lined up second and third on the grid.

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104 comments on Alonso defends decision not to change broken wing

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  1. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 24th March 2013, 13:41

    I always thought it was dangerous to continue racing with a front wing that is hanging off? It was a no-brainer. He had to come in.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th March 2013, 15:01

      Indeed, I think it was telling that Button got warned by his team that Alonso’s FW would fail soon before that straight while Ferrari thought they could pull off another lap of driving in anger @craig-o.

      • Shreyas Mohanty (@) said on 24th March 2013, 16:13

        @craig-o : Exactly, as an Alonso fan, I almost hanged myself when I saw that Alonso didn’t pit at the end of the first lap. I was almost sure he wasn’t going to finish.

    • The decision not to pit Alonso was the right one,as risky as it was.It was too early for slicks,and it was pointless putting him on inters on a drying track,he would be running last,in the thick of it,it just wouldn’t work.His luck finally ran out,simple as that.

      • David (@neiana) said on 24th March 2013, 16:18

        By your logic, anybody with a broken car that is falling apart should not pit unless it is within strategy.

        No front wing? Don’t worry, keep driving. A box now does not fit with our strategy.
        Flat tire? Oh don’t worry, you can make it. A box now does not fit with our strategy.

        • Considering he managed to hold on to his position for most of the lap with a broken front wing, it does seem like a good idea at the time.
          Risky yes, but the payoff would’ve been worth it.

        • @fihar Hindsight is a wonderful thing,at the time he was doing quite well considering circumstances,but it didn’t hold,it broke off.It was a difficult situation,much more complicated than you make it out to be,and your examles are not comparable.Like i said it was complicated,sometimes you risk it and it doesn’t work for you,tough luck.

      • dragoll (@dragoll) said on 25th March 2013, 3:06

        @kimster381

        The decision not to pit Alonso was the right one,as risky as it was

        Except for fact that the front wing is supported by 2 uprights, which one had broken and the other was now taking the load of the entire wing. Add to that, the instability of a flapping wing dragging on the road, which put additional lateral motion, which in most cases will result in a catastrophic failure at some point.

        Ferrari have been in this caper too long to hope for the best.

    • panache (@panache) said on 26th March 2013, 2:21

      Yep. I am mainly critical of this decision to stay out from a safety standpoint. As I commented straight after the race, I shouted at the screen when Alonso didn’t pit at the end of lap 1 because even if his wing would stay fixed, surely he would have been given a black and orange flag and forced to pit for having a dangerous car.

      At least I hope he would have been flagged. This sort of thing is really dangerous in open cockpit racing. I think the stewards need to take action more quickly in these situations. When I watched Massa’s onboard of the start, following in the wake of Alonso with torrents of water coming off the back of Alonso’s car it sent shivers down my spine. Massa (or anyone else for that matter) probably wouldn’t have been able to react if the wing suddenly snapped off and flew straight for a drivers head. It would be a freak accident for the wing to come off and part/all of it to actually hit a driver in the helmet but I don’t think the risk is insignificant.

      Remember in Spa 2011 Senna broke his front wing at the start of the race and it came off under his car on the run down to Eau Rouge, part of it tearing off Button’s wing mirror at high speed and another piece tore off part of his front wing. In that instance nothing could be done as the wing failed so soon after initial contact but it goes to show that these failures can be very dangerous for the drivers behind.

  2. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 24th March 2013, 13:41

    It was an especially unwise decision seeing as the cars didn’t end up pitting the lap afterwards, but a few laps…

  3. Mads (@mads) said on 24th March 2013, 13:45

    It’s easy to criticise this decision, but at the time it seemed like the right one,

    Since when has it been recommended to drive around with a front wing which is halfway off the nose of the car?
    If it was just a bit of endplate etc. gone then I would agree, but the whole wing was barely hanging on to the car. How on earth they imagined that to hold up, I have no idea.

    • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 24th March 2013, 14:17

      Fair play to Alonso for sticking behind his team (Paul di Resta take note!), but it was one of the most perplexing decisions I’ve ever seen from a team to leave Alonso out instead of pitting him immediately.

      • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 24th March 2013, 21:59

        As soon as Alonso passed the pit entrance I thought that they would have to show him a black flag as it was clearly going to be dangerous if the wing dropped off. Webber was lucky that Alonso didn’t take him out after the wing failed too.

  4. pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 24th March 2013, 13:47

    I like to think the stewards were prepping a meatball anyway but the wing didn’t last long enough for it to be shown.

  5. Chad (@chaddy) said on 24th March 2013, 13:47

    It was insanely dangerous to keep him out. He deserves at least a 5 place grid penalty, probably 10, for the next race. That wing could have killed someone on the straight. It wasn’t even close.

    • Klaas (@klaas) said on 24th March 2013, 13:58

      I think the rules say somethig about parts that are waving/vibrating that should be imediately removed. Alonso’s wing was pretty stable until it fell off.

      • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 24th March 2013, 13:59

        Just like the Space Shuttle Challenger was flying until it blew up?

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 24th March 2013, 15:03

        It was not stable at all @klaas, as it was hanging only from one pillar with the left side scraping the ground. All the other teams noticed it would probably fall off, not sure why Ferrari took a far to risky gamble with it.

        • Klaas (@klaas) said on 24th March 2013, 15:46

          @bascb It moved together with the whole car not flapping relative to the car’s body.
          In hindsight it’s always easy to say what should have been done. If it resisted 2 laps more and they changed it together with the tires then people would have called it an inspired move. It’s true they took a huge gamble that unfortunately didn’t pay off.

          • Shreyas Mohanty (@) said on 24th March 2013, 16:16

            @klaas : Absolutely agree with you there! I have been tryin to explain exactly that to people, but you know, there are many of those anti-Alonso types. :p

          • LosD (@losd) said on 24th March 2013, 20:05

            Funny. I’m rather anti-Alonso, but I would never blame him for that stupid decision: He can’t see the wing at all, only feel it. It’s understandable that he wanted to continue, as the car certainly had speed.

            The team, OTOH, should have pulled him in immediately. There was no doubt that it was hanging on a thread.

            Actually, I think they should have been fined heavily for endangering Alonso and other drivers.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 25th March 2013, 8:29

            guys,&klaas, @shreyasf1fan come on, what is Anti Alonso in saying that the team should have called him in as it was pretty clear to the other team, and even the TV pundits, that the wing would not survive another lap or 2 from being dragged over the ground?

            One of the most dangerous situations is when the FW gets lodged under the front wheels because a driver then cannot do anything to either stop the car, nor turn it.

            Alonso was fine, he would have told the team how drivable he felt the car still was, but its the teams job to decide on this as the driver cannot see the wing.

        • Shreyas Mohanty (@) said on 25th March 2013, 11:55

          @bascb : No I wasn’t talking about the wing matter. I was talking about how people are so sure Alonso won’t get the title.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 24th March 2013, 14:35

      Nah I think the driver shouldn’t be punished in such cases although part of the decision making it should be the pit wall who has the saying.
      It should be handled like unsafe releases with a fine for the team.

    • Ilanin (@ilanin) said on 24th March 2013, 16:50

      This would be extremely unfair given that Alonso wasn’t shown the black and orange flag; Ferrari’s defence of “race control clearly didn’t think it was dangerous” ought to be unassailable.

      • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 24th March 2013, 17:13

        Race control had around 30 seconds to make a decision, notify the trackside stewards and then lift their flags. Alonso crashed out well before the process could be completed.

  6. Klaas (@klaas) said on 24th March 2013, 14:00

    Tough luck for Alonso. It’s in these kind of races when Championships are lost.

  7. Paul 2013 said on 24th March 2013, 14:26

    It is very easy to take the right decision knowing the outcome. during the race Alonso took the risk and unfortunately for the competition it was not work… That was all.

  8. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 24th March 2013, 14:27

    It was pretty obvious that the wing was potentially dangerous. He should have been called in.

    More impressive though was how Alonso defended and held on to his position despite not having a functioning wing. It was likely this that made Ferrari decide to keep him out, thinking it was ok. A short, but seriously impressive piece of driving.

  9. tmax (@tmax) said on 24th March 2013, 14:28

    It was a smart gamble which did not pay off. Obviously no one knew it was this risky that the wing will explode. Even though the wing was sparking a lill bit, It was obvious Alonso wanted to have track little more dried up before doing a full service at the pit stop to gain maximum advantage. if the strategy worked then it would have been the smartest move around. So can’t blame him for that. It is what it is.

    • LosD (@losd) said on 24th March 2013, 20:07

      It was a moronic gamble.

    • Loko said on 25th March 2013, 13:27

      It was a smart gamble which did not pay off. Obviously no one knew it was this risky that the wing will explode.

      We have seen that “explosion” hundreds of times… It wasnt surprise. I though Alonso was very lucky to survive throught lap 1. I dont understand Ferrari´s decision at all. High risk, low reward… Alonso managed to keep the position just because Webber was careful: Wet conditions, lap 1 and broken car ahead. Most likely Alonso would have been out of top10 after 1-2 laps.

  10. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 24th March 2013, 14:31

    I don’t understand why he wasn’t given a black-and-orange flag for it. It was clear that it was in a dangerous state.

    I presume that they would’ve given him a warning during that second lap.

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 24th March 2013, 14:59

      I think that your third sentence answers the first!

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 25th March 2013, 6:36

      @Magnificent-Geoffrey I don’t think the wing lasted long enough. As soon as he passed pit-in, on NBC Steve Matchett instantly said “I can imagine Charlie Whiting is going to take a very dim view of this” and suggested a black & orange flag would be forthcoming shortly. Will Buxton also metioned during the broadcast that the team were in the pit lane ready for him to come in, so it seems it wasn’t necessarily the team’s decision for him to stay out, but Alonso’s own poor decision.

      • depends. If they have said to him

        Ferrari: you have a bit of damage, we have a wing ready if you need it. how does it feel?
        Alonso: ok im still reasonably quick
        Ferrari: ok keep going

        Then there isnt much to be said, alonso cant see the extent of the damage from where he is.

  11. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 24th March 2013, 15:15

    Still a brilliant piece of motor racing, he was able to defend Webber for the whole lap, “a la Villeneuve”
    Ferrari were amazed that the wing didn’t held , i was actually amazed that the wing held for 1 lap
    It was too risky not to bring at that point,

  12. Difufna said on 24th March 2013, 15:19

    Had a hard LOL at this bit: “It was a surprise to find him there, almost stopped and I don’t know what speed he was doing.”
    For sure, not fair to Olympic Samurai, no?

  13. Timo (@timo) said on 24th March 2013, 15:43

    I guess everyone is a lotto winner in hindsight. Alonso was able to keep it on the track in wet conditions with the wing the way it was and able to fight off Webber. With the track drying, you could see what they were trying to do. I think Ferrari took a risk which if it came off, Alonso could’ve been on the podium and everyone would be hailing Ferrari’s clever call. If they pitted him immeditely he would’ve been plum last and with maybe a chance of finishing in the bottom end of the top 10 at the very best.

  14. Nomore (@nomore) said on 24th March 2013, 15:50

    It was the right decision, if he had pitted for wing change he would have lost several seconds (more than a normal pit stop), he would have been 22 in the grid and very distant from 21. The plan before the start was that at lap 3,4,5 to pit for dry tyres, and in his first lap Alonso feels that the car was ok…. he was still 2nd. Raikkonen showed today that if you get stacked behind slower cars: you run out your tyres and lose too many time…in small words Alonso would had finished with 0 points with or without the wing change.
    The only thing that could have saved his race in case of pit was a “chaotic race” but this didn’t happen the race was dry and without any safety car. We also save one engine, and we have a +fresh engine for the 17 remain races. I don’t blame the team, it wasn’t an error…it was the right decision.

    Just it didn’t work out, Alonso was very unlucky…there are small differences sometimes, Vettel had a broken wing in Abu Dhabi and everything was ok even the safety car comes out so he could have changed the wing…in Brasil he was involved in a collision and still was able to finished the race, while Alonso was involved in two collision last year and in both 0 points.

    Luck or Unluck is part of formula 1 and sometimes can decide also Championships.

    Anyway i don’t believe that this incident will affect Alonso championship because is different to last year, this year he have a car capable to fight the Red Bull in every race while last year he didn’t have and should have to finish any race too had a chance. This year Ferrari seems to be in the same level if not better (which i believe it is) than Red Bull…so this can be as a Boost for Alonso and the team for next races.

    The funny part for the end…as there are people that claims that it was dangerous and ALSO a penalty for Alonso… i can’t deny that these conclusions put a smile in my face.
    I dont remember people claiming the same thing for Vettel in Abu dhabi, or for Raikkonen in this race when he lost part of his wing…or for any driver when he lose some part of the car but still race…strange…
    As normal everything get exaggerate when it’s Ferrari and Alonso in the middle…same as with team orders…i can’t even imagine if it was Ferrari in place of Red bull or Mercedes today…it would have been the apocalypse day…

    • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 24th March 2013, 15:59

      BOTTAS picked his way from 21st to 11th, so with a better car it should have been possible for Alonso to get a decent haul of points even if he’d dropped right to the back of the field at the end of the first lap.

      But Captain Hindsight was never my favourite superhero. Ferrari felt it was the right call at the time, we’ve seen drivers carrying on in much more heavily damaged cars without penalty, so there isn’t really a case to answer here.

    • hobo (@hobo) said on 25th March 2013, 15:25

      @nomore – Disagree. How many points did ALO lose the championship by last year? Three. The idea that someone of his talent, in what is a very solid car couldn’t get up to 8th from a first lap debacle is a bit of a stretch. It is very possible he may have ended up outside the points, but that happened anyway. I think the debate centers around the assumptions that would have to be made to prompt ALO to stay out.

      Broken front wing mount, to stay out another 2 or 3 laps everything would have to go perfectly. The wing was scraping on every right hand turn, and not just a little bit, a lot. It was scraping under braking and on some straights. So every time it scrapes and flexes under pressure you have to hope it doesn’t catch or scrape or torque enough to break the other strut/mount. Only if all that happens does he have a shot at staying up front. And even that is debatable as he was losing so much downforce. If something goes wrong he is at best going to be at the back (which he would have been if he had pitted) or at worst, out of the race.

      It’s not a question of race talent, it was out of his hands. I would rather make sure the car was sound and leave the risk in ALO’s hands, i.e. make up the lost time, than to leave him in a broken car where he has no control over material failure.

  15. “After making a good start, I touched with Vettel at the second corner. It was a surprise to find him there, almost stopped and I don’t know what speed he was doing.”

    Yes yes Alonso, you keep telling yourself that.

    On topic though, I don’t see how you can defend that decision at all – a front wing hanging off is inevitably going to fall off when the high levels of downforce push on it at high speed, so that was a mistake from his team which probably cost him good points. It was a no brainer to bring him in as far as I’m concerned – he was going to lose a heap of time anyway, not to mention the fact he was a danger on the track.

    • Joshua Mesh (@joshua-mesh) said on 24th March 2013, 15:54

      He is defending the teams decision because he’s trying to be a team player. There really is no point in blaming the team for something that will probably never happen again.

      In his mind, he probably does blame the pitwall. I’m sure if he could have seen the damage he would have chosen to pit.

    • @Vettel1

      While watching the race even I thought Vettel looked very slow just before Alonso made contact with him… Having said that it was more of Alonso’s miss judgement to run into the back of Vettel’s car… But the damage was very big considering the impact was nt that huge…

      It was probably a bad decision by Ferrari to keep him on the track..but at least he is not blaming his team..

      And Boy ohh boy.. he did drive brilliantly before crashing out…

      I’ve seen cars driving around with lot more damage with out any penalty .. and to be frank if Vettel was the one driving with a damaged front wing.. I dont think you would be complaining…

      • @puneethvb

        Having said that it was more of Alonso’s miss judgement to run into the back of Vettel’s car

        Exactly – I was half-joking with my comment though! ;)

        if Vettel was the one driving with a damaged front wing.. I dont think you would be complaining…

        You must be joking, right? I’d be complaining far more if it was Vettel because he’d have been out of the race! The danger is still the same regardless of who the driver is though so I don’t accept that if indeed you were implying such.

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