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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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