Alonso Steals the Show at the Saudi GP
If you missed the F1 race this weekend, and only caught the results on the CP24 news ticker, you would not be surprised to find out a Red Bull won from pole. The news that Verstappen started 15th (car broke in quali) but still made it to P2 would be no surprise. Checo winning from pole is a great story, but the Red Bull team is so far ahead of the pack, there’s no drama in this year’s races…except for Fernando Alonso.
Two race weekends in a row, the No. 14 has been the big story before, during and after the grand prix. He qualified P3, but a grid penalty for Leclerc’s Ferrari elevated Alonso to the front row. In pre-race interviews, Fernando forecast that Verstappen would catch and pass him on Lap 25…and the prediction proved precise.
When the green flag dropped, Alonso added excitement to the event by stealing the lead from Perez at Turn 1, and held P1 during the opening laps. The AMR23 may be a quick car, and Aston Martin is beating the factory Silver Arrows with the same Mercedes power plant, but unless an anvil fell from the sky (like in a Road Runner cartoons) nothing would stop Perez from re-taking the lead.
During the race, the FIA announced Alonso had been slapped with a 5-second penalty for having his car out of position on the starting grid (too far to the left). Fernando focused on increasing the gap behind him, and made a fortuitous pit stop during a safety car period (due to his teammate Lance Stroll stopping on track) to serve his penalty and return to the track in a competitive P3, and took the final podium position behind the Red Bulls. This was Alonso’s 100th career podium, an accomplishment only achieved by Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.
During the podium ceremony, the FIA announced that Alonso was being dealt another 10-second penalty for an incident which occurred 35 laps earlier, while serving his 5-second penalty. Fernando would have to give his trophy to Mercedes’ George Russel, who finished the race in 4th place.
Many viewers, including race fans at Demaras Racing, turned off the broadcast in disgust. Race officials observed the Aston Martin pit stop when Alonso served his penalty, and found nothing wrong. Then, as the cars crossed the finish line, the powers-that-be changed their minds, and noted the rear jack contacted the race car; automatic 10 second penalty.
The issue at hand isn’t whether a crew member made incidental contact with the AMR23 while it was serving its penalty. Aston Martin successfully appealed the ruling. This is a sporting issue, where a driver wasn’t even given a chance to overcome a penalty during the race. Alonso is one of the greatest drivers of all time, and could have opened up a 10 second gap to the trailing Mercedes to negate the penalty. He wasn’t even given a chance. And as race fans, we weren’t given the opportunity to see the No. 14 lay down fast laps in a desperate bid to outrun the time penalty.
The whole sorry incident makes F1 look like a joke.