Formula One: FIA needs to use common sense in handing out penalties, says Russell

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso celebrating after placing third in the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS – Mercedes driver George Russell said that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) needs to apply common sense in handing out penalties for infringements where visibility is a real problem for drivers.

Formula One’s governing body said on Monday that it intends to “address” the problems at last weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, where Fernando Alonso was handed a punishment at the end of the race that was later overturned.

The Spaniard crossed the line third in his Aston Martin on Sunday, but was then handed a 10-second punishment that dropped him to fourth before a late-night appeal reinstated him.

Formula One posted a message from a spokesman for the FIA, who said the stewards had been caught out by “conflicting precedents” on what constituted “working on the car” before it finished serving a penalty in the pits.

The message said the topic would be addressed at an FIA committee meeting on Thursday and promised “a clarification will be issued ahead of the April 2 Australian Grand Prix” in Melbourne.

Alonso was handed the initial five-second penalty for lining up slightly out of position on the starting grid.

“I feel like some of these penalties have been a little bit too extreme,” said Russell.

“I think he (Alonso) was a bit to the left (at the start)... but he gained nothing from this. Perhaps a five-second (penalty) is too much.

“And then with regard to his pitstop, a 10-second (penalty) is too extreme in that case again.

“We’re sat so low and we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre – so you can’t actually see the ground.

“I can’t even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines determining your lateral position, so that’s why I think we need to show a little bit more common sense.”

Alonso tried to serve his five-second penalty at the start of a pit stop, but a mechanic allowed a jack to touch the car.

After the race finished and Alonso had stood on the podium and had later done his interviews, the stewards, who are nominated by the FIA, finally decided that the team had been working on his car during the penalty.

They hit Alonso with a 10-second penalty, dropping him to fourth behind Russell.

But Aston Martin appealed and produced videos showing that other competitors had done the same in the past without being sanctioned.

The decision then overturned and “was the result of new evidence regarding the definition of ‘working on the car’, for which there were conflicting precedents, and this has been exposed by this specific circumstance”, said the FIA spokesman. AFP, REUTERS

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