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Formula 1 comment on the withdrawal of the Alonso penalty

GP Mexico 2022

The FIA ​​has to put up with questions: How can it be that a protest is only permissible and is rejected days later? Although the race director contributes to the original decision making. Why are rules so often interpreted differently? What is she learning to finally create rules that treat everyone equally?

Formula 1 is an insanely complex sport. Wrong decisions can sometimes occur. After all, there are people involved who practice this sport. Whether they drive, whether they assemble wheels, whether they monitor what is happening on the race track. Dozens of cameras around the slopes, onboard recordings, fans with cell phones in the grandstands: what may have been hidden in the past is now being revealed. This makes everyone's job more complicated - and that of race control in particular.

I recently watched an old race: the 2001 Hungarian GP. Jenson Button spun away in the middle of the race at the finish corner and couldn't move anymore. The marshals waved the yellow flags in a blind spot while colleagues pushed the Benetton-Renault away. In the past it wasn't a problem, by today's standards I would say that there was a scold for the race director. Without a safety car, the marshals were exposed to an unnecessary danger.

FIA misses comprehensive restructuring

Back then, Charlie Whiting was the top guard of Formula 1. A giant who certainly made mistakes. Like every human. His successor, Michael Masi, went berserk when he misapplied the safety car in the Abu Dhabi season finale. The Australian wanted to give the sport a green flag World Cup final. It cost him his job - under pressure from Mercedes, as has been heard. It's understandable that they were angry, after all, that's how Lewis Hamilton lost the title.

Unfortunately, the FIA ​​gave in in this case. Because Masi's successors don't do a better job. From my point of view nothing has improved. The team managers are not happy. It's not the drivers. Masi had listened and tried to get everyone on board. It is said that his successors should know everything better. At least they mean it. One gets the impression that either the communication between the race directors and the teams/drivers is disrupted or there is no communication at all.

One of the two is already gone. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, who were joined by the experienced Herbie Blash as an advisor, shared the task until the Japanese GP. Since Pierre Gasly almost had an accident with a recovery crane, Freitas has been recalled and Wittich is the sole race manager. That doesn't make it any better either.

More reforms needed

The FIA ​​restructured over the winter. Unfortunately, she only stuck a few patches here and there instead of comprehensively realigning the race management. They didn't have anyone better than Masi and they removed him anyway.The race director has been decoupled from communicating with the teams during the race. There is a middleman for that. At least that. The teams can no longer have a direct influence and the race director can concentrate.

But more reforms would have been needed. A large and well-rehearsed team is needed that shares the many tasks and supports each other in order to avoid wrong decisions. And one that ensures the same mistakes don't happen twice or three times. You obviously missed that too.

The program with 22 races has become too much. Next year it will be 24. The workload is too high. That's exactly why it takes more than just a supervisor. In a Formula 1 team, the team boss is not also the chief strategist, team manager and performance engineer at the same time. Masi also stumbled because, like Whiting, he did everything, taking on new courses and organizing every race weekend.

Rules chaos over broken parts

The GP USA merged wrong storylines of the season - and almost makes the FIA ​​look ridiculous. Kevin Magnussen was flagged into the pits in three different races because a front wing end plate on his car was crooked. Sergio Perez and George Russell, on the other hand, were allowed to continue in Austin with a damaged wing. At some point, the end plate on Perez's Red Bull flew away. To prevent that from happening, Magnussen was ordered into the pits three times to stop repairs.

Why is a Red Bull allowed to continue driving? Why can't a Haas do it? On top of that, Haas had alerted the race organizers twice that the end plate on the Red Bull wobbled. Still no reaction. Either the race management is overwhelmed or they forget how they interpreted the rules in the previous races. You also have to ask yourself what the FIA ​​is actually doing in the newly built "Remote Operations Center", the VAR of Formula 1.

Alonso was allowed to drive to the finish with a torn side mirror. The race organizers had nothing to complain about, although everyone saw that the mirror first dangled and then flew away. Why is a defective end plate sometimes dangerous (but only on the Haas), sometimes not (on the Red Bull) and why is a loose side mirror not dangerous at first while driving and suddenly it is after the end of the race? Alpine couldn't react anymore.

Not a word from Wittich

The back and forth after the GP USA and before the GP Mexico is bad enough. The sports commissioners allowed Haas to protest, even though the team was 24 minutes late. They conceded their decision only at the second attempt, when Alpine sought the "Right of Review". And there brought out that one was only informed of the late protest when the verdict of the sports commissioners appeared.

It was only on the Thursday before the Mexican GP that Alpine found out that the late Haas appeal had also been allowed (by the stewards) because race officials had told Haas that the team had a full hour to file the appeal. According to the regulations, you only have half a game after the preliminary result is public.

In this case, the US racing team should have known the rules better - one can argue. Nevertheless: FIA officials must not give false information at all. And: Representatives of the race management were present at the stewards' hearing in Austin on the Sunday of the race. You could have said there what Haas was told. Then the sports commissioners could have made a final decision immediately.

It's good that Alonso is back in seventh place. It's bad that the FIA ​​is now in an even worse light. The damage is done. Nobody knows what will happen next time a car is damaged. Will it be pulled straight out of circulation or waved through? Can you cross the finish line like Alonso with just one mirror? Does an opponent then protest after the race?

The FIA ​​must act urgently over the winter. The world association must ensure clear rules. He must clarify when a car is to be classified as unsafe. Patching up is not enough. The regulations should be cleared out and clarified in many places. So that everyone can understand and use it correctly.

The (changing) sports commissioners also cut an unhappy figure. Guanyu Zhou was handed a drive-through penalty in Saudi Arabia after Alfa Romeo failed to correctly serve a five-second pit stop penalty. Alpha Tauri blundered in Austin and Pierre Gasly was given a ten-second penalty. The organization of the FIA ​​urgently needs a clear signature. And better communication.


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