Fernando Alonso is left without a podium 100 due to an error in the 'pit-stop'

Fernando Alonso was left without his long-awaited podium number 100 in Formula 1 due to a post-race sanction.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
19 March 2023 Sunday 12:24
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Fernando Alonso is left without a podium 100 due to an error in the 'pit-stop'

Fernando Alonso was left without his long-awaited podium number 100 in Formula 1 due to a post-race sanction. The Asturian driver, who had finished third in the Arabian Grand Prix behind Max Verstappen, was penalized with an extra 10 seconds for not correctly complying with the previous 5-second penalty at the stop. The Aston Martin mechanic who operated the hydraulic jack raised the car before the time expired without being able to touch the car.

It was the final epilogue of a race in which Alonso had achieved his second podium finish with Aston Martin in a row and had even allowed himself to lead the Saudi race the first four laps by stealing the first position from Checo Pérez at the start.

The Mexican Red Bull driver was intractable to secure his first win of the course -the fifth of his career-, ahead of a brutal Max Verstappen, who climbed 13 positions, from 15th to 2nd.

The start offered the most anticipated image of the past: Alonso leading a race. The Asturian started faster and with better traction than Checo Pérez and snatched the first position he had from pole position to start leading the race. Behind him, Sainz lost his fourth place to Stroll, who fell behind Russell in third.

However, Alonso's joy was short-lived, as the race management observed that he had started incorrectly, slightly shifted to the left at the starting position of the grid. For this reason, they would receive a 5-second penalty at the first pit-stop.

In addition, the lead did not last long, only four laps, which it took Pérez to recover his position at the chicane with wild braking. The Mexican began to impose his superior rhythm to open a gap and get away from the Asturian.

Alonso did not break down, who began to build a good cushion of time on Russell, of 4.3 seconds on lap 10, which would allow him to take the lead when he stopped. Behind, the tension grew with the brutal climb of the greats: Verstappen in 10 laps had gone from 15th to 9th, and Leclerc, from 12th to 7th after passing Hamilton (8th). The big three huddled together. The Red Bull of the champion and the Ferrari of the Monegasque would surely arrive at the top.

Verstappen and Hamilton met again on the track, the Dutchman in 9th pressing the Englishman, whom he fiercely overtook by opening the DRS at the end of the straight on lap 12, to go after Leclerc, whom he was 2 seconds behind. .

Only four laps later, another expected and dreamed match: Verstappen against Leclerc. The Dutchman, who arrived very excited, got on top of the Ferrari, but did not get to overtake it because the Monegasque went to the pit-stop earlier to change tires. Leclerc joined the track ahead of Stroll, thus gaining position.

The script was disrupted with Stroll's breakdown on lap 18, stopped at turn 13. The safety car inevitably appeared and the entire grid took the opportunity to make the stop and change tires. Alonso took advantage of it to serve his 5-second penalty. He appeared on the track in the same second position (thanks to the time that Russell had accumulated). The pack was packed behind, with Verstappen already up to fourth, behind Russell. Sainz was fifth, Hamilton sixth (with a medium tire, faster) and Leclerc, seventh.

The race restarted at 30 laps, once the safety car withdrew. Russell attacked Alonso, but the Asturian safeguarded second position. In turn, Pérez soon opened a gap with the Spaniard, while Verstappen stuck to the ass of Russell's Mercedes, as Hamilton squeezed Sainz even without DRS. With better, more grippy tires, Lewis easily overtook Sainz (5th) and chased Verstappen, 9 seconds behind. The first 7 positions were very tight.

Verstappen was unstoppable in his crazy climb. He devoured Russell with a single bite (lap 24) to be third, and put Fernando Alonso in his sights. The Asturian did not put up any resistance, who once surpassed (v. 25) tried to stick to the Red Bull wing to open up more space with Russell (he had it 1 second away). Thus, taking the slipstream, he moved away 2 seconds from the English in one lap. Old fox practice.

With half the race to go (24 laps), with the two Red Bulls already in the lead, the excitement was focused on whether Verstappen would respect Pérez's lead (he was 5 seconds ahead), on whether Alonso, well installed in third place, would maintain the podium of the harassment of the two Mercedes (Russell at 2s and Hamilton at 2.8s), and if the Ferraris could get into the battle (Sainz, 6th and Leclerc, 7th).

The laps were falling, the race was entering its final stretch (last 15 laps) and Pérez kept his lead with a similar distance (4.5 to 5s) over Verstappen with a devilish pace, while Alonso definitively dropped from the Red Bull, but He opened his gap over Russell at more than 3 seconds. In turn, the young Englishman distanced himself from Hamilton (2.8s). Sainz and Leclerc were getting further and further away from the ointment.

With 12 laps to go, Verstappen started reporting mechanical problems with his car over the radio. "Something is wrong, it makes a lot of noise," complained the Dutchman, who was worried, even though he had a 14-second margin over Alonso.

It was a false alarm, because he did not lose distance with the Asturian's Aston Martin and also came within 4 seconds of his neighbor in the box, with whom he shared the lead (by sharing the same results, 1st-2nd).

Only the best lap of the race would decide who would be first overall. On the last lap, the Dutchman pushed hard and took the extra point for the fastest lap. Max's ambition and instinct have no limits. He remains the World Cup leader by one point.

Once the race was over, the FIA ​​stewards opened an investigation into Fernando Alonso's pit-stop for a possible violation when serving the 5-second penalty. As can be seen in the images of the stop on lap 18, the mechanic who operates the hydraulic jack lifts the rear of the car slightly, when it is forbidden to touch the car during the penalty time. The FIA ​​ratified the infraction with another 10-second penalty, which meant the loss of third position, and therefore, of the 100th podium.