Fernando Alonso lost his hard-fought Saudi Arabian Grand Prix podium after the stewards hit the Aston Martin charger with a post-race 10-second penalty.
Alonso was handed a 5-second sanction for lining up incorrectly on his grid box at the start of the race – a plight that befell Esteban Ocon in Bahrain. And like his former Alpine teammate at Sakhir, the Spaniard was investigated again by the stewards for serving his penalty incorrectly.
The stewards concluded that one of Alonso’s mechanics had made contact with Aston Martin’s car before the 5-second penalty had been fully served.
The decision and the subsequent sanction – a 10-second post-race penalty – was communicated just minutes after the podium ceremony, and elevated Mercedes’ George Russell from fourth in the final standings to third.
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The delayed decision obviously prevented Alonso from reacting on the track to the decision, and attempting to claw back the time difference.
Revisiting his initial transgression, Alonso wasn’t sure why he had lined up slightly to the left of his grid slot.
“I need to review obviously; I made a mistake” he explained before his second penalty was confirmed.
“When they told me five seconds penalty, I said okay, I need to drive a little bit faster to make [up] those five seconds. But I need to review.”
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In the closing stages of the race, given the pending investigation into Aston’s pit stop procedure, Mercedes had ordered Russell to press on and attempt to reduce the gap to Alonso to less than 5 seconds.
But there was no stealing Alonso’s thunder – out least out on the track – as he charged towards his 100th career podium in F1, although the stewards would eventually rain on the Spaniard’s party.
“It is hard a grand prix but, those guys [in the team] they gave me power and I push all the way through, like qualifying laps,” said Alonso.
“Red Bull’s maybe a little bit out of reach, but the rest were behind so I’m happy for that.”
In the end, Alonso wasn’t overly frustrated by events, preferring to look at the glass as half full in light of Aston’s continued strength. But the two-time world champion deplored that Russell had not been given an opportunity to celebrate.
“It doesn’t hurt much, to be honest,” he said. “It’s more an FIA poor show today, [than] disappointment ourselves.
“Today is not good for the fans when you have 35 laps to apply the penalty and inform about the penalty and you wait after the podium.
“There is something really wrong in the system, it’s the way it is, I feel sorry for the fans, but I really enjoyed the podium, I took the trophy, I have the pictures, I celebrate with the champagne and now 15 or 12 points doesn’t change much for me.
“It’s not fair for George as I guess the Mercedes sponsors will love to be on the podium, for us it’s good, we have [title partner] Aramco, we have the pictures.
“It’s not fair for George as if he really was third in the race he should enjoy the podium and not me, I feel sorry for George, for Mercedes sponsors, for George fans.”
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