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Debate: did Fernando Alonso deserve a penalty for US Grand Prix clash with Felipe Massa?
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Fernando Alonso
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  25 Oct 2016   |  11:25 am GMT  |  108 comments

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso escaped punishment for colliding with Felipe Massa during the closing stages of the US Grand Prix, but the move has reignited the debate about the consistency of Formula 1’s stewarding decisions.

Alonso and Massa were battling over fifth, sixth and seventh places with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz during the closing stages of the race, when they came together at the apex of the Circuit of the America’s Turn 12. The double world champion opportunistically lunged down the inside of his former Ferrari teammate, who shut the door and was forced off the track as a result of the clash.

Massa later picked up a puncture and was fortunate to have enough time in hand to avoiding losing any more positions when he came in to get it changed, while Alonso charged after and passed Sainz to claim fifth place with just one lap remaining.

Felipe Massa

The stewards decided to investigate the collision after the race had ended but ultimately decided against awarding a penalty as they felt, “no driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the collision,” according to an official statement.

Massa was not impressed by Alonso’s move as he felt it cost him any chance of finishing fifth, a result that would have closed his Williams team to within four points of Force India in the battle over fourth place in the constructors’ championship.

“At the end, Fernando dived into the corner I was taking, hit my car and I got a puncture because of it,” he said.

Felipe Massa

“It destroyed every opportunity I had to finish the race in sixth, and potentially fifth.”

Alonso defended his robust move and felt the contact was unfortunate, but not the result of a “crazy” overtake.

He said: “It is difficult to overtake on the straight so we try to on the inside which was very aggressive. Unfortunately we touch. Luckily we continue on both cars.

Fernando Alonso

“When I did the manoeuvre, I was side-by-side, I was not one quarter ahead or something like that. It’s not like I was coming from behind or it was any crazy thing, so it was not the space for him to turn in.”

While the stewards opted not to penalise Alonso in Austin, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was hit with a 10-second penalty for colliding with Kimi Raikkonen during a similar lunge at the Malaysian Grand Prix two races ago.

Like Alonso, Rosberg dived down the inside of the Sepang circuit’s second corner with Raikkonen unaware he would be at the apex. The pair collided and Raikkonen sustained damage while Rosberg was immediately investigated and handed the penalty.

Kimi Raikkonen Nico Rosberg

Both instances are similar as Alonso and Rosberg attempted passes using unusual lines at corners that do not normally feature overtaking (although both turns have in the past). In the two cases, Massa and Raikkonen also shut the door on their rivals and came of worst.

So why did one driver get a penalty and two races later another did not? Or was it simply that Rosberg was hard done by the stewards in Malaysia? On that day it ultimately counted for little as the world championship leader had enough pace in hand to pull out enough of a gap over Raikkonen to hold onto his third place.

With all of that in mind, we’ve set up polls for JAonF1 readers to debate the Austin and Malaysia incidents.



After you’ve taken the polls, leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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108comments

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1

In fact, up to my knowledgement (paddock commentaries), Massa was the one being considered for penalty for not avoiding contact but closing the door instead.

2

Even though Alonso probably managed to somehow prove he was within the letter of the law (or else how did he escape a penalty?) surely many of us who play “playstation” racing games like Alonso does, know that this is a common style of overtaking in video games, by going in too fast (which makes the angle odd) in a corner and using the Next AI car as a energy buster/ external brake – to slow down if hit at a safe angle, and then make the turn while gaining a place 😀

Im glad he did it, it was too cheeky and too much fun to watch. But he deserved a penalty for consistency of rules sake. Also it interferes with the Force India Williams battle. At the end of the year.. that move may cost Williams MILLIONS.

Force India team boss says they got a ‘Get out of Jail free’ card.. I think they got a JOKER card to save themselves in the form of ALONSO.

The move on Carlos was strange as he was allowed to go off track to complete the move it seemed? (video links anyone?). Its odd to get away with two such off track overtakes. (Its like Martin Brundle wrote somewhere, being allowed to move the boundary ropes in cricket – If you see him, please give him a pat on his back James, – for the analogy 🙂

But I’m glad they banned Max/Carlos style dodgy Defense, its boring to watch. Its better if they don’t move under braking and instead re attack once overtaken fair and square (i.e. if they really have the skills they are claimed to have) Nico, Ham 2014 Bahrain should be the Text book lesson for these young drivers.

Ending on a Alonso note, I wonder if this is part of Alonso’s homework activity he does at the Factory. Show up for extra time at the Mclaren Front Suspension department and run personal experiments as to how much lateral suspension shock his Mclaren can take before breaking, then keys that into his sim and practices Playstation overtakes using Bumper car style !! 😛

3

Perhaps Alonso should take a lesson or two in overtaking from Verstappen?

4

Aggressive racing is great, but;the passing car diving up the inside needs to be alongside entering the corner, the passing car needs to make the corner without pushing the passed car off track.
Rosberg’s move was questionable.
Alonso had no hope of making the corner, Even after pinballing off Massa he still could not get turned inside track limits.
If Rosberg’s move was a penalty Alonso’s definitely was. Uneven application of the rules is grossly unfair, especially with millions of dollars on the line.
How was Alonso’s pass of Sainz allowed to stand. He made that pass by exceeding track limits.

5
Torchwood Mobile

Much as I dislike Massa’s attitude of collisions always being other’s fault, this time Alonso deserved a sanction of some sort; no attempt was made to make that corner, and Felipe’s car was damaged as a result.

Also, passing Sainz (my DOTD) far off the track, was unfair too.

Kimi needs to stop handing places back to people, no other [mid] is doing it. (Self midded).

6

What the cars need in 2017 is to have mirrors AT LEAST TWICE AS BIG. No more excuses.

7

It is called racing and it is considered risky for good reason. It is simple competition, and when one blocks as the other tries to pass, the ‘other’ will try something else. When you consider the money and pride at stake, and compare that to what goes on at amateur levels, it’s a wonder anybody finishes a Formula 1 race!

8

Fernando always gets a free pass from the stewards because he’s [Mod].

9

Alonso’s move was definitely a penalty for me. Not a “throw the book at him” penalty but a 5/10-second time penalty, which would have demoted him behind Sainz. Key issue for me was that he didn’t even make the corner himself, let alone driving Felipe off it. Also felt the comparison with Rosberg-v-Raikkonen was appropriate; in fact, in that case Kimi didn’t even leave the circuit.

I appreciate the stewards don’t want to enforce rules too rigidly because it leads to cases like Romain Grosjean being 2 inches off the track and getting a penalty in Hungary (2013) for a great move (also on Massa, coincidentally!). But the current approach is too far the other way; makes it look as though they’re “making it up as they go along”.

Having said that, in terms of overall performance (and ignoring the manoeuvre), Alonso and Carlos Sainz were the stars of the race (Sainz probably edges it for me), along with Hamilton. Yes, they were helped by the VSC but they still drove really well.

10

No, Alonso didn’t deserve a penalty, but neither did Rosberg on Raikkonen.

Thankfully, your poll shows that your readers have more common sense than the stewards.

11

I think the contact was unnecessary. However, I don’t think it warranted a penalty – here’s why.
– Mas
A cannier racer, or one who was looking in his mirrors would have come to the conclusion that Alo was probably overcommitted, and would either go wide or make the pass. Massa should have taken a wider line, and gone for the switch back.

– Alo
He is right up the inside, even ahead before the apex. Yes his apex speed will be massively compromised. However, i think he would have made the corner, had his steering not been compromised by the contact. But if he wants to have a go, get to the corner first i say…

12

Bernie says Rosberg would be the worst champion for earning money with F1 and the stewards want to keep their payment as a steward….

13

The drivers who normally get away from punishments for such shenanigans because stewards say so:
1. Verstappen
2. Alonso
3. Hamilton
4. Button

Drivers who are unfairly penalized over and over again for similar incidents:
1. Grosjean
2. Raikkonen
3. Rosberg
4. Vettel

14

This is actually pretty accurate.

15

a BIG LOL
ALO has 2 WDC (instead of 3) thanks to FIA penalties and some “active machinery” to provoque them when he raced against some driver. The GRO clash in SPA on ALO in 2012 meant one WDC. Small unimportant details missed by “Last race is everything syndrome”

16

You can see how MAS tried to steer away from ALO, he may have been caught napping but there can be no doubt that ALO forced MAS and himself off track. He should have received a penalty when similar incidents have been awarded with penalties in the past eg. ROS

17

As I see it, during Massa’s overtake, both Sainz and Massa made the exact mistake of locking up wide, given the experienced driver Alonso is he saw very clear opportunity to overtake, very opportunist but of their mistakes. I wonder if Massa really had a puncture ? Could it be Williams already trying to shout out points for penalty against Alonso ? Even Mclaren did same thing by making Alonso clarify the move. If it was a puncture arent there chances of tyre wearout being the cause of puncture ? Thats why Vettel switched tyres for the last 3 laps isnt it ?
Regarding Sainz’s move not any of them had any grip left in the tyres, Alonso took the risk of running wide Sainz didnt, he tried making ground but on that straight it was not possible for a Toro Rosso.
At the end we saw some great racing as opposed to the top 4 positions.

18

Pure English Media in action with some drivers

19

Massa should have risked a move on sainz.worst that could happen was he went wide and ended up where he was .team should have told him that but I guess they were playing it safe.Alonso move looked worse than it was but maybe would have been penalised a few raced ago

20

Penalties should only be applied for reckless endangerment when attempting an overtake. Everything else should be fair game. It’s time to stop the over-officiating of the sport, particularly if it’s to satisfy someone having a whinge.

21

So contact at the other driver’s expense is fair game? Overtaking off the track fair game? Why?

F1 has some drivers good enough that can overtake cleanly without dive-bombing and barging their way through, but admittedly there aren’t many of them left.

22

I’d considered the track limits aspect a separate argument, but if the defending driver forces them out there without leaving a gap then game on! 😈 I’d rather watch racing than a procession, and people might like the sport more if we weren’t so constantly outraged over stewarding decisions.

23

I would say he didn’t deserve a penalty, but for consistency’s sake, when you look at what Rosberg has been penalised for this year, and the number of times, I would say yes.

24

Thanks for the article, as was wondering about it too. My Initial impressions were yes, Alonso should have got a penalty, exactly because of Rosberg/Raikonnen in Malaysia, if the steward’s decisions were to be consistent. Yup, the moves looked very similar, and I don’t think Alonso would have made the 2nd corner easily either without forcing Massa to take avoiding action. After watching the replays several times, I felt not so certain. And after this article, I’m left wondering if it was actually the nature of the tracks: in Malaysia, the two corners are immediately after one another, and switch back, in a figure ‘S”; in Austin the two corners are left and left, with the tiniest of ‘straights’ inbetween. Raikonnen had far less time – practically zero – to comprehend Rosberg’s opportunistic/aggressive overtake and react to avoid the collision, whereas Massa had more time – barely split-second stuff – to take avoiding action against Alonso’s opportunistic/aggressive overtake. So saying, I dunno! That’s why us armchair experts can enjoy and explore the debate, and often defer happily to the proper experts – such as your good self Mr James Allen, whom I’ve visited probably most races this last few seasons and really rate your work – and eventually have no choice but to accept the stewards decisions.

25

Look I’m all for hard contact racing as long as there’s no reason to head back to the pits. But I understand that’s a utopian dream since these aren’t “robust” NASCAR race cars.
I do like push and shove moves though. It keeps us at the edge of our seats on the TV.

26

Yeeeha! Brilliant move

27

poor Felipe ever since his accident in Hungary. . . Fernando has been terrorizing him on the left-side. Others have noticed that too. Perez in Montreal comes to mind, where they both collided. any others? the first time was Fernando at China, in the pitlane – no less. When F1 drivers smell a weakness, look out!

28

Absolutely shocked to see no penalty whatsoever for Alonso..i would have understood if Massa hadnt suffered any damage..someone said Alonso used Massa as a ‘brake’..ridiculous decision..starting to see how harsh and unfair stewards are to back markers..

29

Is there going to be another entry comparing the Austin 2015 start, when Hamilton pushed Rosberg out and didn’t fully turn the steering wheel until his team mate was off track to the Canada 2016, Austria 2016, Germany 2016 and other clashes the couple have sustained recently?

It could also be of interest the opinions about the different criteria taken by marshals…

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